Blog

Crafting Variety

A Multifaceted Creative Approach

One of the biggest things I wrestle with as a creative person is the sheer amount of varying things I want to do. Frankly, I am also tired of trying to pick a focus. I love all the different parts of my creative life. If I had my way I would do even more. There are many craft skills I have yet to learn. and yes, I want to do them all. I love learning new versions of the old ways. and if you haven’t heard me refer to necessary skills for the apocalypse (ooh, now I might have to do a post…) then wait about five minutes. I’m sure it will be referenced somewhere in my social media feeds.

Journal Covers
Journal Covers awaiting new homes at a craft show

So back to this here blog. I have wavered for a long time, probably since starting Heart of Autumn, on what focus the blog should have. Should it be for my crafts or my writing? Perhaps include the rest of my life, which encompasses horses, dance, cats, being pagan, survival skills (there it is! 15 seconds), my hubby (ahhh, put him as #1 on the list), living in Maine, and every other aspect of my life I find fascinating? Both more and less than I think it’s going to be at the same time. I’m sure that made a hell of a lot of sense. Did I mention the day job? Eh, that is what it is. It pays the bills and lets me do all these neat hobbies. Have I mentioned them? Oh, right. 

Who let me get off track again? It was you in the back. I knew it. If that’s chocolate you best be sharing. 

I’ve never had a purpose for the blog, other than connecting with other creatives and finding audiences that are interested in my crafts and writing.

Hey, dumbass, you gotta write and share in order to connect with others. 

Who was that? We’re upgrading from chocolate to booze here. Mead or craft beer, please. 

This share thing. I’m trying . It’s the hardest part for me about being creative. Yeah, yeah, self esteem and all that jazz. I still don’t wanna share, but, I’m going to anyway. Pretty much at the ‘I DON’T GIVE A FUCK’ stage. Which if you’re riding around in a carousel brings me to – 

I’m gonna write about it all. ALL THE THINGS.

Pictures, songs, poetry, my work and others, some stuff you might be interested in, some stuff you might not. But, hey. Don’t like my posts about animals or the environment, then don’t read them. Might not want to follow me either because what the fuck is wrong with you if you don’t have a soft spot for cute critters and oh, the air we breathe. I know, not everyone cares. I do. 

What else? I love to make things out of fabric. Yes, I’m gonna post about those creations and yes, I do hope you wander over to my Etsy shop. Money from there is what makes it possible for me to ride horses and take dance classes, and since you want me to be happy and in a good mood when I write posts then buy my stuff once in a while, eh?

Or not. Honestly, IDGAF. New slogan that I’m trying out. I think I’m gonna embroider that on a pillow or something. Quite serious here. That’s a kick ass idea.

Then there’s the mountain of I keep trying to climb. Encased in fog, barely a third of the way, and I keep going back down. Looking for that great climb where you push hard still manage to sing as you’re nearly dying from muscle fatigue. That’s when magic happens, right? When the skies part and the sun comes out? Reality is, that’s not gonna happen. Instead of turning back around this time , I’m gonna take some steps. Small steps. Stop and rest, when trail snacks are welcome. A couple more steps at whatever pace I can manage. Maybe I can get halfway up this time. The fog might clear. I might have to fight off some zombie squirrels. Can you imagine them? Spastic critters now in slow motion, but will appear out of nowhere when you least expect it. 

Extra trail snacks welcome, so I can toss the GORP as a distraction. Yes, I’ll sacrifice food to combat zombies. That’s how dedicated I am to survival.

Craft Show Items
A sampling of crafts from the days of showing.

What’s this post all been about, anyway? Letting you know that you get to follow my brain as it shoots off into different tangents, and getting to see all that I love, hate, and how you can bribe me to be more entertaining. Food, alcohol, and…COFFEE. I might have a slight dependency on coffee.

Thanks for reading this far, and stay tuned. In the meantime, I’ve gotta try out a couple of sign offs for the blog. My usual – In Light and Magic. Hmmm. Is that the right one? Readers, give me a shout if you have other ideas, or if you want me to keep that one. 

For now,

Amy

Crafting Variety

Crafting Process

Gram's Quilt Teapot Block
Teapot Block in Gram’s Quilt

There’s been some mention among my kind friends asking about my crafting  process. At the risk of boring everyone to death, well, pull up a chair or cushion and gather round for a story. We have to start at the beginning. Need some incentive to stay? I have cookies…

I come from a family of women who craft – embroidery, quilting, sewing. Well, except my mother, somehow the traditional crafting bug didn’t grab her at all. She’s creative in other ways, but picking up a needle and thread? Nope. However, my Gram and my great aunts and my aunt Kathy were constantly doing something with thread and fabric.

Gram's Quilt House Block
House block in Gram’s Quilt

I loved being around the yarns and threads and buttons. These were frugal crafters, born from an era of conservation and need. These ladies didn’t buy the designer materials. No, they were true bargain hounds, and those that used up what they had available. Perhaps that’s why I have the equivalent of a craft store worth of supplies in my craft room. It’s been the most difficult part of the house to clean out as I recently moved. 

It took awhile before I picked up crafting though. My Gram tried to teach me to crochet, since that was her favorite, but it was too frustrating for both of us. I am left handed and she was right. Reversing stitches didn’t work so well. I’ve picked up crocheting recently thanks to the wonders of  the internet and online tutorials. Left handed tutorials for the win!

Log Cabin Quilt
First Quilt – Log Cabin

What set me on the crafty path was home economics class in high school. Do they even teach that anymore? I hope so, even though I doubt it. Within a year I had made a pair of pants – ‘hammer pants’, and no I don’t have a pic and wouldn’t post it even if I did. Some things are better left to the memory. I also made a seal stuffie, and my first two quilts, a lap throw and a queen size log cabin. I remember one of my friends asking me how I got the lines in my log cabin blocks so straight. Alas, an outlet for my perfection was established. Hey, it’s better than a lot of things I could have done about it.

Gram's Quilt
Gram’s Quilt

From that point on, I was hooked on sewing. I made other quilts, including branching out into wallhangings. This quilt that I made for my grandmother, who got to enjoy it a couple of years before she passed, then it came back to me. It is certainly a bad example of quilting, but it’s where I started from and each block represents a fond memory of time my Gram and I spent together. It hangs proudly in my craft room.

I’m going to fast forward to one of my more current art quilts, and the one I consider my signature quilt. This tree combines all I am, my love of nature in the applique tree, to the free motion stitching, the precision edge satin stitching, and the bias strip Celtic braid woven through the branches. And hand beaded, of course. You might have noticed I have a difficult time with simple. But, hey, sometimes complexity is worth it as in this example. Other times it merely adds frustration and procrastination. Which I might be speaking from experience here…

Guardian tree art quilt

My style, like much of my life, is modern with a traditional base. I love layering applique shapes and embellishments over traditional blocks. Adding the techniques to jazz up the quilt top is so much fun.

But I never forget where I came from.

In light, magic, and with a few cookies,
Amy

Questions about my crafting process? Reach out on social media – links in the right hand navigation. Be the first to know about upcoming works and works in progress by signing up for my mailing list. I’ll throw in a few discounts here and there too. Thanks for stopping by my Etsy shop!

Gram's Quilt North Star Block
North Star Block in Gram’s Quilt


Crafting Variety

Embracing Slow Art Production

There’s a constant anxiety that races through my body whenever I think about my crafting and artwork. I produce work far, far slower than I want to. My constant reply to people inquiring about my work is – I don’t have a lot on Etsy right now, but I’m working on more. I’ve been saying that for a long time. Trouble is, that seems almost apologetic. Like it’s taking quality away from the items I do have listed. The pressure to list comes from my own expectations and the numerous suggestions that live online about how to have, or grow, a successful Etsy shop. That’s kind of sticking in my side like a stitch you get when running. It’s there, it’s annoying, but most times the best option is to keep moving with the ache. So I have figured it’s time to embrace slow art production. How? Good question. 

Clarify Expectations

What level do I want my work to be at? I would prefer to focus on quality instead of production. My art is what’s important, not just making something for tossing up for sale.

What is a reasonable expectation for listing? I don’t want to let my shop languish by the wayside so I do need to keep products in the shop and regularly add new work. Defining my expectations gives me guidance without the excess pressure. Realizing that they’re my goals and no one else’s lets me focus on creation and keeps production moving forward so I have something to work towards.

Add Perspective

I work full time, I dance and go to the gym. I cuddle with my cats and my hubby. I read a lot. I write novels on the side. I just moved, which is it’s own version of hell. And, I certainly like my sleep. Writing all this helps to keep in perspective that I handle a high volume of activities. I know I need to give myself a break. Easier said than done.

Slay the Perfection Demon

Like most artist types, if you could hear the number of times I’ve scrunched up my face when looking at something I’m doing and think, wow, this really sucks, you’d think I was the meanest person on earth. Perhaps I am, only to me however. And those that deserve it. (slightly evil grin here) Ahem. Back to the perfection issue. I’ll be honest, I don’t want to be a perfectionist. I’ve lived with it for so long that it’s actually tiresome. Not so easy to shrug off though, these habits of old. 

Send Work Out Into the World

I have these ideas that filter though the back of my mind. Say, sending out work and writing to magazines and publications. Building up a shop that has more than fifteen items at a time. Develop a shop that is branded well, cohesive, and feels authentic. I had plans this year to follow Nicola Taylor’s makers yearbook (thanks to H.N. James) and that fell by the wayside once I focused on selling the house. Can I catch up? Not fully, but I plan to jump in with both feet and gear up for the holiday season. 

So how can I jump in and remain committed to my turtle pace at the same time? By working on my art whenever I’m able to, without trying to go into machine mode. Keeping the fun and the experimentation at the forefront of my time. Embrace the artist that I am at this point in time, and not worrying about what I have yet to do. 

Speaking of slow art, I’ve been incorporating hand embroidery into my work. I love embellishments and the hand stitching. I think it’s worth the time and the wait. 

quilted log cabin applique embroidery
Log Cabin Wallhanging work in progress

 

In light and magic,
Amy

Like what you see? Sign up for previews of upcoming work on the right hand navigation. Stop by my Etsy shop. Like and share this post on your social media feeds. Or send me a note, I’d love to hear from you! 

Crafting Variety

Creative Improvement Through Practice

I’ll admit that creative improvement has not been high on my priority list. 

A tote bag from my Etsy shop
These tote bags keep getting better the more I make.

Whenever I sit down to sew, there’s the voice that reminds me that I need to get more done for my Etsy site. I don’t have nearly enough products up. My pictures need improvement. Have I looked over my descriptions? What about tags? What about engaging in social media? The list is endless.

So every chance I get, I construct a tote bag, stitch a quilt together, or design journal covers. I have limited time, and I need to use every moment I can to make my Etsy shop better.

However, by skipping the practice, even with the quilting and sewing experience I have, I am doing myself a disservice. I do spend a lot of time watching videos and taking classes to learn new techniques. What I don’t do is set aside time to practice them.

‘But you don’t have time.’ I hear that inner voice whine.

Perhaps not. I need to make time. To achieve that creative improvement goal I have a few ideas…

Schedule time. This is a counter intuitive option for me. As soon as I declare I’m going to sew at a specific time, I don’t. I think my mind rebels at the thought of being restricted, and I will find anything else to do but what I had intended to. Laundry, cleaning, reading…doesn’t matter what the distraction is, I find it. When I say schedule, what I prefer to do is fit in a couple half hour blocks dedicated to practice. Sometimes fifteen minutes. Sometimes five. Depending on how crazy life is that week. By being flexible, I am free to practice more. Instead of saying ‘I must’, change the view ‘I get to’.

Prep ahead of time. This is even more important than scheduling. If I make it easy, I’ll do it. Setting up a practice quilt sandwich (top, batting, backing) to try out a free motion quilt design works well. I’ll tell myself just to do a corner or a line and usually end up finishing the entire piece.

Remember it’s just practice. I have a challenging time when things aren’t just so, especially with my quilting. Which is why it’s even more important to practice. I have to remember that the more I practice, the better my Etsy items are going to be. It’s worth the time.

Immediately try new techniques. I’m great at needing to replay things in my head to get them right before I do them. Which means I don’t do them because I end up psyching myself out before I even start. My new attempt will be watching a new skill and trying it out shortly thereafter.

Will these new techniques assist me with creative improvement and becoming a better artist? I have no idea, but I hope so. I’ll certainly report back. What about you? Are there techniques you use to practice your art? Tell me about them by commenting below or posting on social media. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

New to Heart of Autumn? Sign up for my email newsletter (right hand navigation) where you can get discounts, previews of Etsy products, and sneak peeks of works in progress.

Crafting Variety

Cupcake in Memory

Trigger warning for those sensitive to suicide topics.

Just for the record, I love cupcakes. Moist, delectable cupcakes with frosting. Lots of frosting.

And I can’t eat them now without a physical reaction. My gut clenches and tears find their way to my eyes. Oh, I still eat them and enjoy them, but I can’t have one without remembering that day. The day my friend took his life.

I walked into the student center where I work after calling Mark to find out where he was. No answer. Not unusual, he often didn’t hear his phone or got tied up with work. He’d meet me in the pub later like he always did, I assumed.

Down the stairs into the main corridor, and met one of the dining employees. She had a tray of cupcakes in her hands.

“Those look scrumptious.” And knowing the college’s dining service, I knew they would be.

“Want one? They are leftover from a meeting. We were trying them out.”

Tell me, who passes up a free cupcake that looked like chocolate heaven? Not I. So I walked into the pub, cupcake in hand, and filtered lots of greedy looks and comments to abscond with the treasure in my hands. I ordered food, then found a table and texted Mark. Hey, Mark, just checking on you to make sure you are alive. The amount of horror I feel at that choice of words now is superseded only by the fucking cupcake.

I ate my lunch, chatting with coworkers that stopped by, inquiring why I was dining alone. We joked that I got stood up by my work spouse.

And then I ate that cupcake. It was delicious. Everything perfect a cupcake could be. I was close to licking the frosting off of the paper, it was that good.

All the while my dear friend’s body was getting colder. All the while a small amount of blood dripped down from where the bullet had entered his skull. All the while the gun had dropped to the floor after the shot rang out.

My friend was dead. And I was indulging. The two items are not related, I know this. Yet they will be forever linked in my mind.

The kind, sweet soul that he was would tell me that of course I should eat the cupcake. That I should always eat the cupcake.

I will, Mark. I promise. I just wish you were here to share it with me.

Crafting Variety

Pathways

http://nature.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/1650423/

I walk a different path
Always have
My steps converging with others
Once in a while
When the water drifts close
And my spirit vessel recognizes kindred hearts

They sync for a time
Joyous song
Dancing in harmony together

Until there is a tug inside
A whisper
The current changes, and I must go

Not a goodbye, not an ending
A course alteration
There is no need to follow
I revel in the solitary
I am here with you, always
Wishing you well

As we travel our destined star pathways
Guided by inner light
Seeking our own travel to the source.

For the Sisters of the Sacred Circle, I love you.
Amy Dionne, 2016

Crafting Variety

Starlight

I finally switched over the calendar in my loft to December. Yes, I realize it’s the end of the month and the new year is close upon us. I haven’t spent much time in my loft, which I use for writing, yoga, and where most of my books are, for quite a while. Life, work, busy, busy, busy…you know how it is.

Now that I have a couple days of reprieve, I am picking away at the clutter and clearing space for peace and creativity. Finally, I flipped the calendar to December, already wondering which of the lovely calendars I received for Yule and Christmas will take its place.starlight

I stopped all movement when I saw this calendar page. I think my heart and my breath both caught and remained suspended for a long, long moment. This page is a gift, a message, from Tanya, my beloved friend who passed two and a half years ago.

She called me Starlight in every email, her name for me. The artwork I know she would have adored. Every part of this picture represents our friendship, well, more than that. She was the sister of my heart, and always will be.

This page was a reminder. To clear out the clutter, physical and emotional, to focus on what matters, and settle into my core being. To write. To dance. To laugh. To revel in beauty and magic.

I may have pushed that sign away, caught up in the spin of life, but the universe waited until I was ready to listen. So with gratitude for my beautiful friend, I smile and breathe deeply. I settle in to the core of my being, ready to move forward. Knowing she is always looking out for me.

Perhaps I’ll change the calendar pages promptly this year.

Crafting Variety

A Yule Blessing and Solstice Wish

in the woods

In a shadowed time as the dark seeps in
May the flame find its spark
As the days are short and fleeting
May the inner compass guide true
When the cold permeates the stillness
May the flame find its spark
If the soul is worn and heart-weary
May the comfort of friends ease the hurt
To find the way through winter’s chill
Gather heart and light and warmth within

Amy Dionne, 2015