Friday, 7 December 2012

Stuborn Sketchbook Resistance

Dear Diane,

Your last post made me laugh. You wrote:

"Or maybe I should speak for myself here – I am reassured by seeing a messy sketchbook because it reassures me that I can be messy too. I can get caught up in the belief that my sketchbook has to look nice and pretty. I’m getting a lot better about not worrying about that."

And then you have the temerity to show me a series of pristine neat pages with delicate drawings and neat doodles :) You must have meant that the thought in your head that it would be OK to be messy is enough to stop you producing anything near mess! Its enough to make me give up. Almost. I'm fine with a design book in which I might jot down ideas to keep me from forgetting them. Or for doodling as I think. I've always done that.

And because it is new to me and I cannot yet predict the results, I will play about with Photoshop filters and print out the results. These were both from a bird's eye view of a township in South Africa. So that storeage of ideas is helpful.


And I am fine with inspirational cuttings. I have done paper collages in preparation for fabric work even.

But at that stage I find the books/ pages whatever start to become a hinderance. First, if its down on paper in anything more formed than the doodle, its out of my head and it exists and I have no interest in it anymore. So that Maasi fence might have been fine in black and white lines but I look at the collage and think: yeah, I could make that but, why? Its already there. I prefer the colour and detail experiment to be with the actual quilt. The dynamism of the creation is somehow spent and I am not excited by the prospect of recreating it. its the working things out part of making that is fun and yu can only do that once. Secondly paper does not behave like fabric so a sketchbook page ( using any media other than fabric) as anything other than a memory jogger is not helpful to me.

I know some people like to sketch it out to see what the quilt will look like. Well, if I draw what is in my head its going to look like what is in my head! I think ( and there is no way to say this that does not make me sound arrogant and possibly self deluded so I will just say it and wait for the brickbats) that I am just blessed with a good vision that way.

It was illustrated when we auditioned two builders to build the studio in the then dark and unformed loft space. One company produced for us CAD assisted drawings and architectural plans. Very professional. The second builder came and waved his hands about at dark and inaccsessible corners and described what he would do in imprecise terms like : well we can push that back and put a thingy there to open it up.. I went with the second guy for the whole house because he could in his head exactly what I wanted and I could see in my head the proposed ammendments he suggested. Then we went ahead and had the joy of creating it making changes as we went as we got better ideas. That way was responsive. The company with the plans left me cold. All they did was draw what I had already told them I wanted and then wanted to replicate it. Where was the creativity in that?

That is not to say that we never used sketches. I did draw the tiling plan on the wall in pencil and taped samples of the sequence the coloured tiles should go onto a scrap piece of cardboard. Mostly because i didnt trust a tiler to disingush between slate grey and dove grey! And there were a couple of rough A3 plans I drew simply to confirm the conversations we had to avoid miscommunication in decision making. One copy got tossed in the builders van never to be seen again and the other the lawyer in me filed away in case of litigation. Otherwise? One whole house renovation. No designs. Works a treat!

This is not to say that I don't think I should spend time in the design process. Nor that it is important to see things well, which I understand to be the justification for people drawing a lot. But I am coming to the conclusion ( and this is a developing understanding of how I work best) that my main sketching is in my head. And that you can see and observe without necessarily recreating although no doubt thats one way to do it. I do spend a lot of time just staring at things and processing variations and options in my head. I am probably very irritating to live with as I will often stop participating in a conversation because something has caught my eye. I will stare at it for a while, with a few intakes of breath as if something is about to come out of my mouth, except it never does, my eyes narrow and then, eventually, I will say," Yes. That's it. Sorry? What?" in which time a new design has formed or a solution been found. And usually the end result that goes from head to fabric looks nothing like the item I actually saw, or at least only tangentally so, because it has been processed. Its the observing, thinking and mentally manipulating that produces a result for me.

Its just how I am. So I am not saying I cannot improve. I am saying that I am going to play up my strenghts in how I work rather than trying to be like other people just because it works for them. One thing I am going to do is try to find a little more time and allow a little more self indulgence to look at the things that I find inspiring and to try to play with how to achieve what is in my mind in fabric. So samples maybe more than sketches. Or fabric sketches if you like.

I bought this book recently. JR is an ' anonymous' artist who take photos of women and pastes them lage scale in shanty towns. In one project in Kibera the eyes of the women were pasted on a train that passed their homes .

His art is amazing and meaningful but I find myself drawn not to the faces of the women which is the whole point of the art, but to the corners of the pictures where distressed paint and scraped wood and combinations of planks make exciting combinations. I mean.. Look at the fantastic artyness of Kibera's patterns and textures from the air!

There is a new series on TV here called Spice Trip which is a combination of travelogue and cookery show. This first week they were in Zanzibar cooking cloves and learning their provenance and I was fascinated by the corrogated iron roofs in the background and wanted to find a way to replicate that effect in fabric. S much so that ai was even distracted from the orange clove syrup pancakes. And it takes something to distract me from pancakes! Maybe if I watched on ipad on playback I could take screenshot images for reference. There is a slight discomfort in finding such visual beauty in what are actually apalling living conditions, and yet, it is there.

So, my vague and visionary builder comes to start work on the wet studio in January and I hope that soon thereafter I will be set up to have everything easily on hand to do quick 'sketches' with wet media on/ with fabric. I will see if that, combined with my usual lines drawings for memory will work for me. Not least of all I have yet to play with the silk pen I bought months ago, the accessories for which you have recently kindly posted for me.

All that said, there is one area where I can see that maybe playing in a book in paper could work for me. I am excited to be doing a five day retreat class at Committed to Cloth in September. It is Clare Benn's class on Graphics and Graffiti. It is my first time at the C2C studio and it comes highly recommended so I want to be very prepared and ready to get the most out of it. We are encouraged to bring source material with us and so I will be building a collection of inspiration images and my own preparatory work. This was my excuse for buying this gorgeous ( in my view) scrapbook with pockets last week from Paperchase. Good stuff can get stuck in, bad attempts thrown out and hopefully I will have a lovely inspiring book to work with.

There are three books I have been eyeing to start me off and I think I will order one this afternoon. Or two :)

This one was produced casually at a recent meeting of my art quit group Eteceta by Magie of The African Fabric Shop and she nearly didnt get it back after I spotted it contained art by Wosene Worke Kosrof? Like this, isn't this wonderful? He talks about how in his art he takes the language of his home and transforms it into something new reflecting his experience as an immigrant, which is right up my street! Oooh! I see that if I am prepared to pay a fair bit I can get a old catalogue of his work. Tempting.

This one I think was also hers and I beleive that the author Denie Lachs is someone who has inspired Clare Benn. Certainly she teaches at C2C from time to time. The english version is expensive now so I think I shall get the German edition and practise my language skills. (Its mostly pictures!)

And I found this one by accident browsing the web after I stumbled on the review ( with lots of photos) here. These sketchbooks are very close to written journals which is much more in my comfort zone.

You may like to note that that reviewer has a long list of books about sketchbooks he has reviewed here. Lots of temptation there. Which brings me to a new point and something I constantly struggle with... Where lies the balance between focus and stimulation?

In the last three days alone I have been inspired by Omo Tribe body art, a set of map filofax dividers I saw here, Zanzibarian shacks on Spice Trip, and typography and african fabric design. (Where Magie goes, baskets of mouthwatering fabric follow!). There is so much possibilty, so much to learn how to do and work with and follow through... And so little time! Its a constant dilemma as to which to pick to work with. Do you have that problem? Actually I suppose it is the diametric opposite to the creative block issue you wrote about. I have no doubt whatsoever that focusing down and working in a series produces the best work and I do believe that you can ( maybe even should) work on more that one series at a time. But how many is too many?! And how to decide which to choose and how to know you made the best decison?

Sigh. I don't even have time really to read all the art books I want to. Although, maybe that's conncted the fact I have now been in this cafe for two and a half hours writing this. Probably time to go to the studio!



Friday, 30 November 2012

Meandering down a side street

 Dear Helen,

I really like your description of how working in a series is turning out to be for you – the analogy to meandering through a place as you explore sounds exactly right to me.  Adventure, your own pace, discoveries and surprises along the way, doubling back ... all sorts of wandering and travel metaphors apply, don’t they?  But however one describes it, it’s obvious from the work you’ve been doing that your adventure is doing you good and taking you to some wonderfully interesting places. 

As for your sketchbook experiments, well I have to say that I think you have proven my point as to their usefulness.  It looks like you started out thinking that a sketchbook had to be about SKETCHing, and that process – trying and changing and adapting and disguising – led you to a discovery that is useful to you.  Unless your goal is to make a pretty book with pretty pictures, then I think you’ve been extremely successful.  It wasn’t the pages themselves that were the art, it was the process of doing them that feeds your art.  That’s my thinking, anyway.  It’s about the process.

You know how fascinating it is to look at other people’s sketchbooks?  Even the doodly, scribbly ones?  One of the things that I love about that – aside from the endlessly fascinating details of how they keep their sketchbooks, what books they use, do they draw, write, etc – is that you get a glimpse of sorts into the artist’s thought process.  Remember when we went to the pottery festival when I visited you?  One of the many nice memories I have of that day is of standing at a potter’s booth and looking at the sketchbooks she had on display.  Her pots were decorated with these delightful simple yet evocative drawings ... and her sketchbooks were full of tiny pen and ink sketches and doodles that clearly showed her working out the designs for her pottery. 

But a messy book is as fascinating, if not more, than a tidy one, don’t you think?  It’s that sense of mystery and reality – because we know the creative process isn’t a linear, neat one. It’s a messy thing.  Or maybe I should speak for myself here – I am reassured by seeing a messy sketchbook because it reassures me that I can be messy too.  I can get caught up in the belief that my sketchbook has to look nice and pretty.  I’m getting a lot better about not worrying about that.

One of the books I like using the most is the plain old black Moleskine, one of those 5x7 ones with lighter weight smooth drawing paper inside.  You know the ones.  

 I actually think it's the first time I've ever let myself (well, MADE myself) not worry about how it looked.   I use a black ink pen with it, and I doodle or play with design ideas, or do a quick sketch, or play with letters, or take notes on something I've read, whatever strikes my fancy...

I think it's been good for me -- freeing -- to just NOT worry about how it looks.  And you know, when I pick it up after not using it for a bit, it always looks better than I think it will.

Would you like to see some of the others I have going?  Of course you would.  You and I both love this sort of thing.  Well, here's one of the painting-play books I have going. It's 8.5 by 11 inches, by Pentalic, in their "Nature Sketch" line.  It has good, heavy (130 lb) paper with good texture for drawing or watercolors. 

I'm currently using this for an online class I just started in watercolor lettering.  (Paints and typography!  A perfect combination!)   I like using it for the exercises because the paper doesn't feel precious -- it's just good drawing paper.  Here's an exercise we did for the first week -- the task was to modify block letters, and paint in the negative space by dropping in color and letting them blend.  Very fun.

I have another book I use for watercolor painting, a 7x10 Canson book filled with 140 lb watercolor paper.  I like its pretty linen cover and it's a good portable size. (It comes in various rainbow colors and yes, I bought several so I'd have an assortment of different colors!)

I use this book for drawing and painting basic things -- not so much exercises or doodles, just sketchbook journal sorts of pages for watercolor and drawing practice. Here's a recent page:

 And I have a large one of those Nature Sketchbooks (11x17 inches) which I had around and started using when I took an online class from Jane LaFazio a year ago.  You can see how big it it in relation to the others:

And if you'd asked me before I started using it, I would have said it was too big.  But I bought it for a class with Jane LaFazio a year ago, and I've found that I like working that big.  I've surprised myself at how easy it is to fill up that size of page, either with a big image or with several vignettes.  By the way, I don't think I showed you one of the pages I did when I was at the ranch retreat last October.  I actually did the two paintings when I was sitting in an adirondack chair out on the lawn near the chapel.  Plein Aire, as the painter types say. 

Because I'm pretty new to this painting thing, I'm trying to just relax and enjoy it, and to keep practicing without worrying what book it's in, will it be perfect, does the book have a pretty cover, etc.  Somehow each book has a purpose and it's working for me.

Which leads me to my portable art kit.  I really like your idea of the Art Filofax and am eager to give it a try one of these days.  But here's what I've been using so far.  

The plastic pouch is an 11x13 project bag from The Cotton Patch quilt shop in Lafayette (remember when we went there after that traffic-laden freeway drive, on the first day we met in person?)  I love those project bags, they are so useful.  It's perfect for throwing the whole kit into my basket when  I head out the door.  

Here's what's inside:

My Stillman & Birn painting/sketchbook (oops, there's another one -- it's 5x7 with 140 lb watercolor paper and I like it because it is bound, so you can paint one scene on a two-page spread); a small tin of Derwent watercolor pencils (from the Keswick Pencil Factory, of course); a small Koi watercolor kit; a small spray bottle of water for moistening the pan paints, and my pen roll.  By the way, it makes me very happy to carry that pencil tin and remember that very fun pencil factory visit.

I made the pen roll after seeing something similar and then modifying it to suit my needs. It holds a few mechanical pencils, some black Pitt artist pens with permanent ink, a white ink pen, and two water brushes which are the best invention ever.

Which leads me to what I've been doing.  No fiber art working going on here lately, but that's okay.  I've been taking snatches of time to play with the watercolor paints when I can. 

You know that I have that one worktable in my little studio/office, yes?  Here's what it looks like right this minute.  The paints are out, and you can see a page of painted borders I was working on yesterday for an exercise in the watercolor lettering class.

I said this last time, but I'm really struck by how peaceful this watercolor painting process is.  Not that fiber art isn't -- but this is different.  There is something so contemplative about this that is suiting my mood these days. I told you last time about a class I was doing that involved learning to be loose with the paints  -- which is where the color squares (experiments dropping one color into another) above comes from.  Here's the last thing I did in that:

When I started the class, I wouldn't have thought I could do that sort of thing.  So this drawing and painting process has been good for me in a lot of ways.  I didn't used to think I could draw, or paint.  And I'm learning, and now I realize that I can.  I've really come to realize that it's not about doing it perfectly, or like watercolors I see in books or galleries or online -- it's about ME doing it the way that feels good to me.  And that's enough.

We've talked here (and others have commented) about learning to draw.  And really, it's learning to SEE.  I know you weren't that thrilled with the drawings you did.  But my suggestion is to keep doing it anyway, a bit at a time.  Make yourself do one little thing a week, even.  You will get better.  You need not to be afraid of it, and to accept that your drawing is YOUR drawing and that's what's powerful about it, even as it is evolving. And I think it will end up informing the quilt art you do.  There's my two cents on that subject.

Here's what the sewing side of the room looks like, by the way --  no action, just a quilt in progress waiting for a bit of time.

So I guess all of this is to say that I've meandered down a side street and I'm still meandering.  I need to meander back to my sewing machine soon, though, as our 12x12 group's "sweet" challenge is due soon! 

Friday, 23 November 2012

My Love/hate sketchook relationship

Dear Diane,

Thank you for inviting me to be your live in life coach! Now what a great job that would be and I would love to live in California. Or most places that are not England come to that. I was thinking just the other day about how, when I was at the career choosing stage at school and we were given access to a special library of career books and leaflets, I discovered the possibilty of the consulate or diplomatic service, However,m when I mentioned the word 'diplomatic' at home my parents literally laughed out loud. So I didn't go that route and went into law instead. And I love my job and it suits me. But its one big drawback is that now, unless I give up all my seniority, I am stuck in England and Wales. Cannot even go to Scotland! And I could be in Hong Hong or Oman or Rio or somewhere exotic. Or San Fransisco eating sourdough and shopping at Williams-Sonoma. Sigh. how much are you paying?

I wonder if this wanderlust has anything to do with the fact that my current art work is all about maps and other cultures? I will answer your questions about sketching/ visual journals in a moment, but first do you remember that in your letter to me of the 7th October you wrote

" But I know, from our non TT4T conversations and from seeing your work, that the series courses you did have helped you grow. I see you doing things differently in your work, even approaching your work differently. It seems to me that you have an attitude that each piece is a learning opportunity and a step in your journey. Is that true? I've told you, as well, that I really like the pieces you did in your course, and looking over the blog I like them even more. I hope you'll write here soon about where they have led you since you posted."

I absolutley agree. I feel that I am now on a progressive journey rathen that flailing about waving my arms and grabbing any passing idea that comes. It is not necessarily that I am driving straight and fast down a main road though. Its more like walking through an old European city where you are generally moving say from main square back to your hotel but in doing so you explore some side streets, come back to the main route, go forward, explore some more side streets, realise that you regret not buying the puppet you saw in the first side street, go back to collect that then move a bit further forward down the main street and so on.

So, I started the working in a series doing a short course in which I made some Maasi quilts involving fences. I also had the 20/12 series which had me doing the stamped and scraped orange/ yellow surfaces. Then I came to maps via a 20/12 quilt I made of a map. I knew I could do the yellow surfaces so I stuck with that and began to explore the maps. One of London, one of Chester, then I went back to Africa with my latest, Joe Slovo Township. Which features a fence done exactly as I did them in the Maasi series. And shacks. Which I know is going to be something that crops up again.

So its a bit like I got back to the hotel and now I'm going back to the squaref or dinner but from a different direction looking at things in a different light and maybe taking a different side road to get there.. I definately feel like I have a destination even if I am not sure exactly what it will look like when I get there or how long it will take to get there.

So, its a bit like, I know I am going to a restaurant but all I know is that we will go to the eating quarter and mooch around to see which one we like. And maybe I'll eat at several, one course at each. That way, if I pick a bad restaurant it doesn't matter so much. Its only one course, maybe the next one will be better. And if its worse, well thats the risk I take. At least I know on my next trip to return to the good one and maybe try something from the same chef but a different recipe. So, when I make a quilt now I am working within a framework and everything I do educates me. If something is better or worse or just dfferent it just adds to my options for future works.

I used to wonder how you knew when a series was done and how you coped with the having to start again from scratch with new topic matter. But now I am expecting that things will just gradually evolve. So for example, I have two new projects I have committed to both of which need to be finished by the end of March.Gulp!

One is for a newly formed group I am in and we are working to a theme of Transitions and we will all incorporate the same 4x3 grid format of sixteen inch squares. When I thought about that I naturally thought about immigration and travel and maps. Probably because thats what I was thinking about anyway! So I looked for a place I could base my map on and came up with Brick Lane in London because the area itself has seen a lot of transition as waves of immigrants ( Hugenot, Irish, Jewish, Bengali, Somali) have passed through. and of course the immnigrants themslevs are transitioning So, I know that I will incorporate a map and the history of the area as I have been doing. But I also know that the wholecloth yellow orange thing is not right for this. So, I am both excited and scared. I have the saftey net of my map and handwriting to fallback on but I know I need to incorprate new design and new techniques and new colours. I am playing with creating images suitable thermofaxes from my own photos which is new for me.

The other work is for an outdoor show in Belgium. Having been working with shacks and having long been fascinated with informal housing, I came up with the idea of making an actual shack. Big enough to walk into. This is a stupidly ambitious idea but you know... Its exciting!!! And as you say, I tend to go full tilt! But I think I will add maps to the outisde of the shack. What of and how.. Who knows?! So its the same theme but worked out in very different ways. Sidestreets of the square.

One lesson I have learned from Joe Slovo and counting my time spent on it is that however I decide to construct it, it will not be hand quilted!! In fact, the invitation asks for textile art not necessarily quilts so in terms of time that may be my saving grace!

So, this sketchbook thing. I was willing to try. I really was. First, to get me over the 'oh, but my equipment is always somewhere else' excuse, I converted a filofax to a portable art station. I filled it with different kinds of non intimidating paper. And I drew my filofax full if art things. I did not impress myself.

So the next time I drew my hole punch. Still not impressed.

So I drew my filofax pile again.

The pile looked so much better with writing on. It kind of distracted from the patheticness of the uninspired drawing. Sigh. I decided, late a night to try again. I started to draw the pattern on my Crazy Daisy China. But because I was not looking properly I made a mess and in frustration I wrote all over my page how I felt about that. Then I got out my letter stencil and added some words. Which gave me some ideas for my transitions quilt.

So the next pages reverted to my usual form of 'sketchbook'. Totally nonvisual.

Then I remembered the washi tape I had you send from the US because the pictures of it had been inspiring in terms of the 'chopped up language' that immigrants experience and the colours. By the early hours I had a vision of where I was going with this piece.

So was the sketching sucessful or not? No, in that I have no interest in repoducing the Jane Le Fazio school of pretty bordered pages of Things I Saw Today. Its not me. Althought I love to see other people's books in that style. Yes, in that getting the materials out got me in the zone to design. So I learned something from that to work with.

Recently I was able to visit Jane Lloyd in her studio, which I discovered, after years of admiring her work, was at the bottom of my mother-in-law's road! She showed me how she had been working with collage to start her day off. Pages and pages of rough collage work in a sketchbook. I was sort of politely looking at them and smiling and, to be honest, thinking, 'Well,whatever turns you on, but thats just ripped up magazines glued down.I've seen kindergarteners do better. ' Then she showed me her new series based on that work that had evolved a long time after she started doing the collage books and I changed my mind. Even though I was struggling to see how she committed do much time to ripping up and glueing down paper and could not quite explain how the the leap from that to the work actually worked, I could see the clear connection. It was also interesting to note that this new work is very different from her established work which is on her website and to be able to talk with her about how she might draw the two together.

I wonder if, when my transitions quilt is finished how obvious the connection will be between Brick Lane and washi tape?!

After your challenge to me reminded me of that, I think I need to work on seeing time in a visual sketchbook as a sort of spectulative investment of time. Then I need to work on being the sort of person who makes a spectulative investment! And I need to work on finding my own way to do it. Then I have to work on being the sort of person who likes herself enough to acknowledge that her own way of doing it is worth investing time in.

This is a lot of work. I think I will need a cup of tea and a slice of tiffin to give me strength. Do I get tea breaks in my live in job?


Friday, 16 November 2012

Process, Results, and the Zen of Drawing

Dear Helen,

Thank goodness for your love of organization and planning.  One of the many benefits of our friendship is that as I watch the processes you use to organize all the things you do and want to do, I learn ways in which I can benefit by adding some of that into my own life. Should your various vocations and avocations bore you (or, more likely, exhaust you) at some point, you can always hire yourself out as a Life Coach and Organizer.  I will happily be your first test client, but I warn you that it will require live-in help and will probably take 6 months to a year.  So clear your schedule and prepare to move to California for a bit.  Shall I pencil you in for 2014? 

And speaking of organizing, congratulations on the brilliant launch of Plan • Create • Succeed.  You’ve done a great job of getting it all going and I enjoy reading it every day.  It’s a wonderful way to share what you love to help others.

Last time, I asked you about motivating yourself when you are not feeling creative, and I read your reply to demonstrate that you keep yourself on task by monitoring your steps toward a goal.  It sounds to me like the measuring of steps, and watching your progress toward the goal, is as satisfying to you as the creativity itself – which is quite clever, really – to merge two passions and use one to spur progress in the other.  It is the very essence of Plan • Create • Succeed.

I am of a different mind.  I admire your method, and can see it works quite well for you.  But maybe the difference is that we have different goals in mind.  That’s an important concept, isn’t it?  Identifying and naming one’s creative goals.  (Dear readers, please feel free to comment and talk about whether you have specific creative goals, and what they are! I will be interested to hear!)  At present, my creative goals are simple, and relatively general: 1. To do something creative every day; 2.  To let the creative piece of my day feel fun and happy; and 3.  To keep learning and trying new things. 

There have been times in my life where my creative goals have been very specific.  To make X number of pieces.  To submit work to a particular show.  To create something for a specific purpose.  And I’m sure there will be that time again.  Right now, though, I’m in the process of creating a new structure for my life. My family structure is changing, and I’m looking for a new place to live.  The goals at the forefront of my mind and heart have to do with creating a new home, shaping a new life grounded on peacefulness and contentment, and envisioning how all of that will happen.  The creative part of my life right now is a refuge, and taking on obligations and deadlines around it – even while at other times they’d be good motivators – just feels like too much to handle. So for now, creativity isn’t about goals.  It’s about a mental haven.

Maybe our different styles boil down to this simplistic description: I am more process-driven and you are more result-driven.  What do you think of that?  Either primary motivator requires the other to actually achieve anything – process is nothing if it never gets a result (hm, thinking about the UFOs in my closet) and result cannot be good if the process does not serve the result in terms of quality and technique and care.

Meanwhile, you know I share your love of Filofaxes and I am using them to organize other aspects of my life.  And you know, I’ve enjoyed using these great planning tools AND personalizing them with pretty dividers and art and words that motivate me.  I showed you the Fiber Art filofax I set up here.
 I agree with you that having a tool that is pretty and feels good, even luxurious, can make something ordinary into something almost celebratory.  It’s like using a favorite mug to drink tea – the feel of the mug, the memory of where you bought it or who gave it to you, the pleasant feel of the ceramic texture, etc – it all goes into making using it part of the enjoyable experience.  My Great Beast of a Bernina, as you call her, does in part do that for me.  But there’s something more – getting that machine was an investment in myself, in a way – recognizing how important the sewing I do is to me, letting myself have a tool that would do anything I could possibly every want to do (and then some) ... So it is both the tool itself and what it symbolizes to me. It is an investment akin to your investing in yourself and what you do by building your studios.

I love the idea of drawing the items of junk that come out of your soon-to-be wet studio.  I am finding that doing a bit of drawing and painting every day is becoming tremendously important to me.  I think it is the closest I have ever come to achieving the kind of “empty mind” one is supposed to have in meditation.  All thoughts and worries are let go, and I absorb myself in looking at the lines and shapes and shadows of what I am trying to draw.  I’ve found that it’s a way for me to instantly access a bit of serenity.

So I now carry around a plastic pouch that contains a 5x7 sketchbook filled with watercolor paper pages, a small watercolor kit, a few pencils and pens, and some waterbrushes (WHAT a great invention those are.)  And even if I’m having a busy day, I allow myself the pleasure of drawing something somewhere along the way.  It not only focuses my mind and gives me my own portable oasis; it also does make me see things differently.  The other day, for example, I had a series of appointments that took me to an area I didn't know well.  On the way, I drove down a street of charming houses, and after my appointment, I went back to the street, parked for 30 minutes, and did a quick sketch/painting of one of the front gardens. That's the drawing above.  It isn't great.  But the experience of doing it was lovely and now when I look at it, I remember that quiet, calm sense I felt while I was doing it.   Eventually, maybe this drawing and seeing will show up in my fabric art as Terry suggests.  But I’m getting a lot of satisfaction from seeing my drawing and painting improve.

Your mentioning my Bernina and your thinking about drawing that junk in your storage room makes me think of a different suggestion:  draw the tools that you use in your art.  Draw your filofax.  Draw your sewing machine.  Unless you are specifically wanting to memorialize the stuff coming out of the room (which seems like drawing for a backwards  reason, if you know what I mean), why not draw for a forwards reason?  Draw the things you use and intend to use.  As you see above, I've done my sewing machine (on a page that was collaged with old sewing pattern pieces).
I've drawn some of my sewing tools.

I've drawn my drawing tools.

and my paints.

There's something very satisfying about that.  I highly recommend it. After all, if you are going to spend time drawing, why not draw things that important to your present and future, as opposed to the junk you are pulling out of the room on the way to your new wet studio?

And I’ve been participating in some online classes (I do love which are exposing me to different ways of working with and understanding watercolor paints.  One class, from Sandy Holzman, has been about exploring magic of what watercolor paints will do and just using them “intuitively” to see what they do.  It’s a different approach than I’ve ever taken, and it’s been surprisingly difficult  – my biggest issue is how hard it is to just LET THINGS BE, let them dry, don't keep poking at them and trying to add more.  So there is a zen-like lesson here – be patient, let the paints do what they will.  Doing too much often makes things less clear. 

It is not the most comfortable process for me, and the results are iffy. But it's the trying that I'm loving.

Perhaps when I get through my family upheaval, I can write a book called “Everything I Needed to Know About Life I Learned from my Watercolors.”  But I have to finish learning it all first. 

Before I close, I want to comment on your wondering why cafes are special places for fostering creativity.  Maybe it's not the same for everyone, but you know I agree.  I think it might be that, in our respective day to day lives, other settings are imbued with different purposes, more mundane business, chores, and interruptions from well meaning family members who unerringly can interrupt at the worst possible times.  I think there's something about sitting in a corner of a cafe -- with nice food and beverage smells wafting about, a pleasant bustle of people, a sense of being alone but in a social setting, and a place where a glance in any direction doesn't conjure up "oh, there's dust there, I must clean that".  It's a place of relaxed well-being.  So there is room to let the right brain wander.

I love our virtual tea-and-talk cafe, though.  I'm going to go refresh my tea now.