For all the prescribed methods aimed at maintaining youth, one that is NOT found in the skin care aisle, is the act of learning something new. This results in Neuroplasticity (the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life - allowing neurons in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.)
I did that yesterday, and fully expect to begin feeling younger, thank you. It was a small task, really: Wire Wrapping. It's not Rocket Science, surely, but a skill that I had attempted once, and rejected when the result was imperfect.
What helped me to persevere this time, was a big, gorgeous Magnesite teardrop that I VERY much wanted to use. I didn't have a large enough bail to make the pendant, and the top-drilled hole was from front-to-back rather than side-to-side. Curses.
With new-found determination, I Google-ed "Wire Wrapping" and came up with TONS of step-by-step instructions. (Funny thing about asking for help and following directions - it actually WORKS!) The Perfectionist Bug still stung me, and I twisted and mangled through several feet of wire before getting it "Just So." But get it, I DID! And now I have a new skill, have opened the door to unlimited shapes of fabulous stones that I will know how to work with, AND have this gorgeous turquoise blue necklace to show for it.
As it often does, one thing lead to another, and today, while en route to the newly re-opened Rodin Museum, I was drawn to the display stand of a local designer near the Farmer's Market in Rittenhouse Square. I've passed by her often, but never stopped, thinking that I since make jewelry myself, why would I bother?
Well, Michelle Judge (click here for her website) studied sculpture and creates incredible pieces with (guess what?) WIRE. I was utterly impressed with her designs, and happily bought a fantastic pair of fluorite earrings.
What didn't cost anything, and really made my day, was the nice chat we had about stones and creating. AND being inspired from having found...Something New!
Several weeks ago, a good portion of the Nation held their collective breaths watching Nik Wallenda traverse Niagara Falls and, aside from the sheer spectacle of the event, I was struck by several things.
First of all, being born into the famous Wallenda family made this man genetically predisposed to make this kind of feat his life’s work. Like law enforcement, the military, and mortuary services, this daredevil career choice is definitely a legacy one. And because it was what he was born and raised in, what we see as being outrageous and unattainable is more-or-less commonplace to him. He eats it; breathes it; sleeps it.
The network showed footage of his practice sessions that imagined and re-created the exact conditions he would experience as we all watched live. This didn’t involve just positive thinking or hoping for favorable conditions – it meant full-on water hoses dousing him with gushes of spray that were just as turbulent as the unique micro weather pattern that the falls themselves create. As we gasped and squinched our eyes shut while glued to the TV screen, watching as the wind gusted and the balance pole swayed, this man had ALREADY experienced these conditions again and again and again. It was only US that were experiencing it for the first time.
What spoke to me most – and what applies to Creative Endeavorists, I think – were long segments over the course of the crossing when the network announcers, in their best High Drama Voices regaled us with the seemingly endless list of risk factors, alarming depths of the Falls, and the fact that no one had EVER successfully attempted the feat. It was Ambulance Chasing at its best. Interspersed between these raucous blasts of doom, were brief glimpses of the sure and steady voice of Nik’s father speaking to him from a control booth where he watched every moment, and each of his son’s exacting movements to guide him, assure him, and encourage him along his way, one step at a time.
That was the takeaway from this for me, that no matter what the attempt du jour is, there will ALWAYS be a voice of doom/doubt/nay-saying. In fact, there may be MANY.
But there is also ALWAYS a voice that says “Yes!”/”Why not try?”/”If not you, who?”
It may end up being a bit of a shouting match, and you just KNOW which will be louder. But, given the options, which voice would you rather listen to?
It would seem that most of my ramblings, despite the intended subject matter, end up being about control...or the lack thereof.
This week as been an exercise in, and wake-up call to, just how little control I actually have. When I think of how many things I've tried exerting control over - people, situations, money, people (deserves to be mentioned twice, if not more), the creative spirit, discipline, my voice, what food I put in my mouth, what thoughts whirl around in my bean - I can see the folly of my repeated efforts.
Mother Nature has proven this week, with two blazing examples of her might - an earthquake on Tuesday, and now hurricane Irene, whose effects will be felt even here on Spruce Street tonight and tomorrow - that I actually hold little, or (gasp!) no, control over w-a-a-a-a-y more than I'd care to admit. So, the lesson from Irene is this - preparation is key.
Standing in line at Trader Joe's and CVS, stocking up on non-perishable foods, batteries and water (and, yes, a bottle of wine, too) I was feeling like an alarmist, since the day was so sunny and nice. I couldn't help thinking that it seemed like just another significant forecast that wouldn't end up being what had been anticipated as The Storm of the Century.
But the thing is, you just never know. So I lugged home my booty, and now I'm hunkered down, and prepared for a power outage and flooding.
On the 4th floor.
So how, then, does preparation play a part in giving up control?
It's being prepared, doing all that's possible, and then letting go to let the Fates step in...whether it's nature, an agent I'm auditioning for, a potential buyer for my jewelry, or a situation that I'm invested in working out in a particular way. I can really only do my best to be as prepared as possible.
So, I have potable water and batteries, and will be comfy here at home come what may. For the agent, staying in good vocal shape and knowing my repertoire cold allows me freedom to express and (dare I say it?) enjoy an audition. Having gorgeous new pieces of jewelry ready to show at my retail outlets, or on hand when a new client wants to see my work, gives me freedom from having to create on the fly.
It's one of those ironic things of opposition, I guess. Trying to control can only bring frustration, and giving up control can only bring freedom.
But only with preparation!
Inspired by a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art yesterday, I sat down this morning to create something, Belle Pietre-wise.
I put on some “noodle-y music “ – meaning background-y, unobtrusive, uplifting. Then, for something new, the kitchen timer was set for one hour, and I looked for a plausible reason as to why this was an auspicious day to work.
Numerology -wise, it was good. I added up the numbers of the date today, 8/8/2011, got 18, and then added those two numbers: 1+8=9, which was the square root of My Number: 3! (A little "out there," I know, but I’m alternately superstitious and fascinated by such things…)
I also vowed to myself that today was NOT going to be about completion, but rather playing around with the components to see what works, what doesn’t, what’s possible, or not.
As I put together, took apart, put together, and took back apart many combinations of beads, findings and spacers with the square Mother-of-Pearl pieces I was focused on using, I felt the all-too-familiar nudge-iness build. I wanted it done.
I let my mind drift, though, and it floated back to yesterday and the museum, and the story behind of one of the many famous Renoirs.
He had, apparently, labored over this painting for three years.
"The Large Bathers" 1884-87, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 46 3/8 x 67 1/4"
Granted, one Belle Pietre piece is barely equivalent to half a dewdrop on a single blade of Impressionist grass in the vast landscape of Renoir’s oeuvre, but I have to believe that the process itself is the same. Pierre-Auguste MUST have whined and wanted to chuck the whole thing countless times!
Long story short – just as the timer “booped” the allotted hour, I’d come upon a combination that made me happy, that worked in terms of scale and just-so-ness, and (how I best judge my work) it was something that I would be proud to wear.
With the Pressure to Complete off, the piece was...
Medea ~ Iridescent Mother-of-Pearl squares swing from sterling silver ovals and narrow rings, along curved tubes and a decorative toggle clasp
So what's the most fearsome thing about doing something new? Well, uh, actually DOING it. Figuring out what needs to get done, how to do that, and well, just doing it.
That happened recently at my first public showing at the Philadelphia Designer's Market. There's a bit of back story (isn't there always?) that started right after Easter when I was rehearsing at First Baptist Church for a large work we (Alan & I) were to perform in the service the next day.
Upon finishing, we were drawn from the sanctuary to the brightly-lit Education Hall which was ABUZZ with people and display tables of handmade items, mostly wearable things in the way of designer tee's, accessories, clothing and jewelry.
Well, my Jeweldar (radar which will "beep" out significant jewelry within a certain radius) went wild, and I had the thought that I should do the next event with Belle Pietre!
I went home, put a note in a book I keep for such inspirations and promptly forgot about it. Fortunately, Danelle, the awesome creatoress of this event, had taken my email address and, long after I'd given it it's last thought, an announcement popped into my Inbox for the next event, being held mid September.
In a flurry of reckless optimism, I payed my registration fee then and there through PayPal. My work was accepted - and good thing, too, for if I hadn't acted on impluse, I most likely would have been turned away since they can only accept so many jewelry designers!
As with most things, rather than working calmly and methodically all summer leading up to the event, I did most of the work in the last two weeks. For me, I suppose it's the thrill of drama and potential creative peril that keeps me doing things that way. Or maybe it's the age-old Rescue Fantasy we all have, the idea that someone might save us from this New Thing I Don't Know How To Do.
However, with necessity being the mother of invention, and time getting REALLY short (as was my sleep), an excitement - alternating with thoughts of "OMG, what am I doing???" - took form, and ideas began to come unbidden!
I could begin to see what I wanted the display table to look like, and then thought of who I could ask for props, and help with visual design. And with that framework in place, things and people and ideas all started to appear in my path
It was extraordinary, really, how inspired the process got when I realized that I really wasn't doing, and didn't HAVE to do, it myself. Of course, my stubborn, self-sufficient Only Childness had to put a sock in it, but the result of letting go of even a snitch of control was beyond my wildest imaginings!
Out of this experience, and talking about the doing of it, other inspired ideas have come, as have offers of encouragement and help. And isn't that the best stuff of the Creative Life?
As a result of this "first" and sharing the story of it - and honestly admitting the accompanying creative angst - I was offered a gratis session with professional Creative Consultant, Maryann Devine this week. She will, in turn, use the transcript of our session as the basis for one of her incredible blog entries.
(Do have a gander at what Maryann's work is all about at:
I suppose then, that just proves the point of the foolhardiness of trying, or even thinking of trying, to do this Creative Thing alone! I don't think we were meant to, and those who do are missing out on the sweet reward of being encouraged by others and then passing along at least a bit of what's been received to another.
I know for sure that it's sweeter to share what I've learned and have been given, than to try to keep it all for myself!
With special thanks to AVA Dean of Students Val Starr; David Tinsch, Friend & Visual Design Consultant Extraordinaire; each customer and EVERYONE who came by and gave such positive feedback for my creations!
Above, the finished display the day of the show.
Below, senior partner of the Belle Pietre Design Team hard at work the day before.
Above, beautiful Jennifer, who - just like I used to do with new Buster Brown shoes as a kid - wore her "Vitellia" necklace out of the show.
Below, Judy was thrilled with the TWO pieces she purchased, including the 4-strand amethyst "Lucia" that she put on immediately!
Several years ago, I had an epiphany when, outside an audition downstairs at Riverside Church, a fellow soprano turned to me, rolled her eyes, and said, "Ugh, I hate this." For all the auditions I've done, and the countless times I'd actually screamed those words to myself in my head, I had always thought it was only ME! No one had ever let me in on their little secret. (I'm forever grateful to Iris Fairfax for that!)
And that's the thing that's so hard about creative endeavors, and the things in life that require us to show ourselves and our creations and work that is so precious because it is birthed from the deepest places within us. It's hard enough alone to let it all hang out. But then when we've screwed up the courage required to do that, we then risk judgement and anothers' measurement of our creative worth.
And THAT'S why the adage, "It's not my business what other people think of me" rings so absurd in an audition, or when certain pieces of my jewelry are swooped up at the local gallery within days, and others sit mournfully on their little black velvet stands, quietly tarnishing, like the oompy kid who's last to be chosen in gym class.
So then, the question begs to be answered, am I less of a singer if I don't get the job? Is my jewelry design not good if it doesn't sell?
No, no, a million times NO!
And this is what is so important to get, is that THIS is just another thing that can stop me from starting.
But "What if it doesn't sell?" "What if I can't recoup the investment I made in these supplies?" "What if people think I'm silly for doing this?" "What if, what if, what if???"
...and what if I DON'T?
So, there it is - I have oodles of supplies in my super-organized slant top desk (see previous post). There are strings of gorgeous ice quartz chunks in aqua blue, champagne, and root beer colors, natural citrine, amethyst , lime green mother-of-pearl teardrops, funky pointy shells, amazonite rondelles and carnelian rounds - a rainbow of Mother Nature's myriad colors and textures and shapes!
I have all the silver findings I need, and yard upon yard of beading wire. And, from a burst of inspiration that, thankfully, lasted long enough for me to order them, there are watch faces, darling prayer charms, and book marks just begging to be made into something gorgeous!!!
What a waste all this will have been if, out of caring what others think (or don't) I allow myself to be stopped before starting! The thing is, I always thought it was just ME that worried about such things. It turns out, though, that it's a common human experience - for all 6.7 billion of us.
"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." ~ Goethe
I watched the movie "Julie & Julia" recently, and was inspired to create a blog of my own, and to see what it might bring about in my life!
I asked for suggestions of topics from friends,and Mary Elizabeth shall be declared the winner for suggesting one centered around my jewelry. (My humble thanks to you, M.E., dear friend who always seems to actually DO the things that I only ever journal about...xoxo) Here goes ~
This, my first post - "Too Much of a Good Thing" - refers to one of the larger and more-encompassing of my fatal flaws. It has to do with a perfectionistic bent that serves me less and less well over time, and that drives my more spontaneously-minded friends bananas!
In general (and, of course, specifically) I LOVE to have all my ducks in a row, all the players on the field, everything in neat little rows, divided into color-coordinated organizing devices, with everything tied up neatly in a bow (neatly, that is, with wired ribbon that affords the opportunity to form and KEEP perfect, equal-sized and -shaped loops). I take great pride in my Just-this-side-of-OCD Organizational Abilities. In fact, I have at least one friendship with this firmly at it's foundation. (That's you, Alan!)
The thing is, is that once the Organizational Extravaganza has taken place, all the plastic boxes, bags, and trays are sorted, filled and filed, then I find it hard to dig in and make the mess that is actually REQUIRED to achieve completion of a new piece of jewelry, let alone BEGIN it!
Truth be told, I couldn't stand not having a place to create my jewelry. So I bought a sweet little slant-topped desk, with a cabinet, drawer, shelves (oh, the organizational possibilities!!!) along with a front panel that closes it all neatly away.
...except I've not made a single piece of jewelry since I bought it!
So here's what I've gotten from writing this first post: maybe the thing about making jewelry (or just about ANYTHING in life that is the least bit creative) CANNOT happen if I'm unwilling, or afraid, to make a mess.
By it's nature, creativity is ALL about the blip of an idea, the thrill of putting something together, and taking it back apart, and dropping $%&*'ing things, and cursing, and doubting, and wondering why I started any of this in the first place, and getting annoyed that it's taking SO much longer that I thought, dammit.
All that, then, makes the sweetness of completion even sweeter - when it's just the way I envisioned it, or even better, and I'm happy and proud of what I made, and then wear it all night, even with my pajama's because I'm so tickled with it!
The thing is, is that I can sit across the room and look at my pretty little desk with the lid shut, but that's NOT going to pop out new pieces of jewelry like an Easy-Bake Oven. And if it did, it would defeat the purpose of why I began doing this to begin with - which was to enlarge and nurture my urge to create beautiful things. And to inspire others to find the things that make them feel that urge as well...
...and to flounce around in pretty jewels in my jammies!