Follow your nectar

Arriving 

It was a dark morning and the roads were bare. Snaking through the backstreets to go way out west the sky was starting to glow in strips between the streets empty of people and cars.

At the boom gates the shock of traffic told me that I’d arrived. The Sydney Flower Markets! A long held dream of mine, which due to a chance meeting with a fellow flower lover at a workshop on the weekend, was finally happening.

A non-priority that felt like a priority

Sure, it could be said that flowers weren’t a priority compared to my pre-Christmas to do list. That lethargy was pulling me towards holidays while my tasks nagged at me to stay in the here and now. But here I was. Stepping sideways, into an alternate universe. A universe of indulgence and leisure for me, and hard work and early starts for others.

First impressions

Forklifts circling, backwards, forwards, choreographed in a Summer morning markets dance. People in high vis vests striding, arms empty to the shed, arms full on the way back out. Quickly. Quickly before the colours you need go. Quickly before the sun rises higher and heats vans and wilts fragile petals. Quickly before the dreaded public arrive and slow things down at every counter and every walkway.

And here I was, beaming in my alternate universe, enjoying a quick coffee and soaking up the atmosphere before launching into the fray. Feeling like part of something old.

Sensory overload

Once inside my guide swung me up and down aisles, arms pointing, quick descriptions of people and flower farms, and imports, and species names, jumbled and mixed as we walked swiftly, her words like a tumbled bunch of flowers themselves.

The stall with buckets and buckets of flowering gums, Christmas Bush, stout yellow banksia. People walking through with just one gnarled perfect woody stalk ready to add to an arrangement.

The stalls that go down half a length of the market, a one stop shop, all the popular flowers, with a special emphasis of reds and greens this festive season. The stallholder a king sat low behind a vast counter top. Peonies, roses, November lilies, Lisianthus, assorted greenery spread out before him.

The tiny one-man show, with a single type of bloom that he grows, picks and transports and now sits behind, smiling. He has carefully arranged snapdragons and gerberas.

The vast stall with a sea of dahlias that leaves me overwhelmed and feeling giddy.

The plump, short bunches of waterlillies that have me feeling longing and wistful and wondering how they will handle the trip home out of water.

The boxes and boxes of imported roses, causing a stir, causing eyebrows to raise amongst those stallholders who proudly proclaim ‘locally grown’ on large hand written signs.

And amongst the blooms are trolleys being wheeled and me getting in the way, and slightly bawdy staff banter, and brides to be with armfuls, and florists with carefully chosen colours.

So many, so much. I drink in my fill, I drown in flowers and possibilities.

What I leave with

Two hours later I leave with an odd assortment of tall and short bunches, deep red, rust orange, buttercup yellow and white. I have three spools of ribbon which are almost 100m long combined. Maybe a plant pot or two. I have new sharp flower snippers which I never knew I needed. I have beads of sweat now rolling down the centre of my back. I have a whole heap less money then when I went in. I have an awkward gait of someone who didn’t quite think through how to carry all these.

Most importantly I have that kind of sweet sticky golden joy that glides down your core like honey along the inside of a glass.

It makes me wonder about why we wait so long to do the things we most want to do. As I leave I notice how the end of the year feels more glorious, beautiful and abundant than it did yesterday. This simple early morning visit to a place open all year round, less than an hour from home, makes me feel like I have stepped through into a new version of myself. Stepped back into the here and now energized, refreshed, and full of possibilities. This reminds me of the Artists Dates that Julia Cameron prescribes, and I realize I’ve been a bit lacking in these lately.

Why don’t we do what we really enjoy more often?

It humbles me as a coach to be reminded of how powerful it feels to do what we really love, and how complex the inner barriers can be to doing just this. It reminds me that I am just as susceptible to resistance and fear as my clients.

As an artist and someone who facilitates creative space for others I can feel how I am filled up and inspired with this experience of the wild abundance of beauty in so many different forms. It reminds me loudly that self-care can be about relaxation and rest but also about inspiration and the uplift of excitement blowing gently into our sails.

I know that time of year can be exhausting. We are often juggling family responsibilities, Christmas parties, work deadlines, and feeling our energy flag from a busy year. It can feel like we are limping to the finish line. At my visit to the flower markets I am reminded that connecting with what fascinates and inspires us is always worth the time.

(Image is one of mine)

Does your inner child need some play time?

What do you do that is playful, open ended and full of joy?

In my experience, connecting with the inner child needs a few foundation- conditions to be in place…. For me these are:

  • Feeling safe – no one is criticising or judging me, I can’t ‘fail’, I’m not scared of making a mess or getting something wrong
  • It’s ok to be me – there is room for diverse outcomes, I know my unique expression is welcome, I’m not having to work to a detailed map, I’m not forcing my outputs to match someone else’s
  • Other people are playing too – it’s not a competitive environment, people are relaxed and seeing what emerges, I can concentrate on me because everyone is engrossed and taking care of themselves
  • There is a sense of wonder and awe – maybe the space feels like a place out of time, or the materials are delighting me, or the depth of connection with others is making me feel like anything is possible.
  • My senses and imagination is engaged – I feel lit up and enthusiasm is driving what I do

Connecting with that inner sense of joyful exploration might feel different for each of us.

No matter how we do it, it is wonderful to put down the weighty responsibilities of adulthood and deep dive into playfulness from time to time. Let’s schedule it in!

If you are in Sydney and would like some time to play, perhaps with a young person in your life, check out my ‘yarn dolls’ workshop. This Saturday Mixed Media Mini Masterclass is in Glebe on Saturday September the 23rd at 1-4pm. Places are strictly limited so please reserve your spot while there are still some available. Book now.

An afternoon of play – no homework, no prep, nothing you need to bring. Just come along and enjoy.

 

Reader question: making a “safe” place at home to create

Nona Makes asks: “How to deal with negativity or making a “safe” place at home to create when those around you are not as encouraging and nurturing as your workshops?”

I think this is a really important question.

If those who share your home don’t encourage you or at least accept you expressing yourself creatively it can be hard to find the courage to begin.

Creativity can’t flourish when every step feels criticised, or even worse shamed, or ridiculed.

It is really important that you make a mental/ physical space that feels safe when you sit down to write/ draw/ make music etc. If you don’t have that at home I would suggest seeing if you can find it somewhere else, or focus on creating that within yourself:

  • Find a way to create without scrutiny – do it when people aren’t home, do it in your bedroom, do it while watching tv and they aren’t paying attention to you, set up a painting corner in the laundry.
  • Create a beautiful box or folder and keep your works in there out of public view while you build your confidence
  • Head to a nice public library and do your thing there on a comfie couch with a view out the window.
  • Find a group of absolute beginners who do the thing you do and go meet with them, work together at a cafe or somewhere else that feels low stakes and fun (try Meetup as a great resource to find like minded groups).
  • Watch you tube videos of encouraging and enthusiastic people who love the thing you love, it will remind you that you are not the only one who loves this thing and remind you that you have a tribe out there somewhere
  • Find an online space where you can share what you make and have it kindly received (search Facebook for art groups and see what you find! If you are shy you might prefer a ‘closed’ group to a ‘public’ group, and a group with fewer members rather than more).
  • If you are constantly being told that what you make is worthless or a waste of time, you might need to spend time with people who are kinder and more encouraging! See if you can make some friends who share your interests – they aren’t likely to see it as a waste of time when you weave/ knit/ sing/ write etc. Going to a class/ fair/ expo / conference/ retreat on the thing you love might be one way to meet people who also love your creative pursuit.
  •  Practice some polite but assertive answers to the criticisms you hear (or maybe don’t hear but do fear).
  • Write a list of the common criticisms and then respond to each of them one by one in your journal. Imagine this is criticism a beloved friend of yours has just received, what would you say to make them feel better? How would you remind them that they are OK, or what they are doing is OK?

Remember that standing up for unique selves – doing what we love even if those around us don’t value it – is part of truly being authentic in this world. And if what you are doing is legal and not hurting anyone else it’s really no-one else’s business what you do for fun.


 

Making something new

This week I was introduced to the ‘Dotee Doll’. So named apparently after the woman that invented the pattern. I came across her in an art swap group that I am in and an online art friend Roz called the swap.

I made one on Wednesday night and found it very do-able even in front of the tellie and while chatting with my family. I used a fat quarter that I had bought just because I loved the patterns and colours, even though I don’t quilt. I stuffed it with normal cushion stuffing, and used a vintage button, some fluffy wool and some beads as her accessories.

You can also see the picture below of one half way through (before being stuffed and before her face is stitched on), and afterwards, with her hair sewed down and little pom poms along the hem.

they are quick to make, simple, and deliciously fun.

Have a go! Share what you make!

 

Some links here for more info and videos:

Cloth Doll Makers Diary 

Video by Shauna Altman 

Wendy Ramos 

Tips for doing your creative thang in the New Year

Do you plan to start doing more of something creative next year?

Here are 7 simple tips that I find help me keep my own creative practice front and centre in my life:

1. Get your tools ready. This doesn’t mean putting off your project until you’ve bought five million new pens or a new violin. Nope, just make a pragmatic decision to use the tools you have, and go find them, and put them somewhere you can get at them easily. I have a tray on a sideboard in my kitchen where I keep pens, glue sticks and paper to work on mixed media projects so they are ALWAYS easy to find, and I can even do a bit while the kettle boils.

2. Choose the smallest step. As Barbara Sher says, aiming high can debilitate us when we are starting out. Instead choose a super small step that you will commit too – it’s less likely to fire up your resistance. Eg. play one scale each day on the piano. Write one verse for a song. Spend 3 minutes drawing. Once you start you will probably go longer, but the important thing is to not be daunted by the task, while you build up your confidence.

3. As well as a time or effort limit, try choosing a narrow project to get you started. ‘I will be more creative’ is a terrible goal – it’s woolly and huge and feels daunting and kind of never-ending. So for example rather than ‘do more photography’ (how much is more? when will you start? what will you photograph?) try instead ‘I’ll take one photo a day this week’ or ‘I’ll take one photo a day of a flower while on my morning walk, for 10 days’, or ‘this week I’ll pick up my camera once a day before 9am and take a photo of the most interesting thing I can find around the house’. It almost doesn’t matter what it is, just start something, and make it something specific. This will get you moving.

4. Know that you are learning. Treat yourself kindly and with encouragement like you would treat a small child trying something new. No one leaps out of the womb playing symphonies. Everyone – now matter prodigious – starts somewhere. Everyone is a beginner when they start. The only way to get more technical skills is to do more of the thing you want to do – and be ok with the stumbling beginners’ lines, or screechy notes.

5. Find a tribe. It might be a group of musicians who jam in the park, a choir, a class, a meetup group, a dance circle, a Facebook group of beginner sketch artists. Find people who seem kind, open to beginners, helpful and encouraging. DO NOT go find the technical experts who despite their great accomplishments are highly critical, competitive or judgemental of beginners. You deserve kindness and support. Fine people who will cheer you on and accept you where you are.

6. Practice being your inner cheer squad. Now this is a bit dorky to admit but I have come to develop, over many years, some almost automatic encouraging phrases that pipe up now when I try something new or hard. I say to myself ‘well done’ or ‘nice work’ or ‘good try’. These come up as a way to comfort myself when I am out of my comfort zone and encourage myself to take the next step. If you grew up with more fearful or anxious voices around you the chances are you have internalised them. You might need to practice saying these kinds of encouraging phrases to yourself as you work, and they might feel very odd at first. Stick with it because it is an investment in your creative future. And the flip side is…

7. Know that your inner critic might pipe up and tell you mean and fearful things about how awful and incompetent, how pretensious, how unskilled or cruddy you are inside your own head. Know that this is normal, common, and doesn’t mean you should stop. It means you are stepping out into brave new territory, you are stretching, you are growing. The more you can quietly ignore those voices and keep doing your creative thing, the more you will connect with the absorption, joy and focus, perhaps the playfulness and even sense of accomplishment that you get from making something yourself.

May the coming year be a fabulously creative year for you!

What it feels like to be a scanner

Just before I start, let me clarify that I’m not talking about a heart wrenching look at a day in the life of my HP colour multi-copy device.  Although now I’ve thought of that it does sound kind of fun. No, I mean what it feels like to be a person who identifies as a ‘scanner’, a term coined by coach, author and speaker Barbara Sher to describe certain personality traits that are highly stimulated, motivated by a love of learning and seek novelty… and what that feels like.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
Walt Whitman

For me:

  • EVERYTHING* is interesting. Not an object in my already cluttered room does not hold a multitude of ideas pinned to it. I look around to tidy up and a simple thing – hand carved stamp of a sunshine face – needs to be put away but as I look at it it reminds me of the project to make more stamps, the project to photograph the artworks I made using stamps in different combinations to show how easy they are to make and use creatively, and that reminds me also of the idea of making an online course to show how I use the stamps.   I deflate a little. I’ll never get all that done today. Not as well as all look at all the other lively objects in my room and the invisible plume of ideas and projects they trail around behind them. This one brochure that I collected from an art museum, it lists places to go in my town. I could put it in the recycling bin but now I want to go to those places, and also send the brochure to my friend who is getting to know this city after being away a while. Or wait, I could make a list and then send it to him. But wait, a few of the phrases and pictures would be great for collage. Oh, best not do anything with it I’ll just leave it here on this pile on my desk.
  • I have incredible concentration once I get started on something. I dive in so deep to this creative task that you wont see me for days… well hours at least. I forget to drink water. I forget to go to the toilet. I forget to do whatever else I had planned for today. I am engrossed and transfixed and this blog post/ collage/ list/ brochure design etc has me now and I will be glued to it for the next 2 or 3 or 4 hours in my happy place. I come out slightly dazed – huh? what time is it? where am I?
  • There is a sense of possibility and beauty and interest almost everywhere. I am constantly getting inspired – thwack – another project idea, thwack another idea for art making, oh gosh look at that amazing beautiful something with lovely shadows that just needs its picture taken, oh wow look at that book that I definitely need to read and learn all about and maybe later also study and maybe get a PhD in or maybe interview people about or maybe go on a field trip for. I catch the updraft of excitement more readily than some people.
  • My ‘materials’ collections (for art and craft) are wide ranging and grand in scale, my book shelf has some funny combinations (from textbooks to hand made zines, from trashy crime fiction to fabulous literature, from books about systems thinking and sustainability policy and psychopathology to books on goddess archetypes, and printmaking, and vegetable growing and cake decorating).
  • My career… well, let’s just say I have squeezed in as many disparate topics and projects and experiences as I possibly could under my last ‘umbrella career’ (of environmental / sustainability management-policy- education and research) that lasted 15 years and intend to do the same thing in my current one (art therapy and coaching).
  • There is a funny dance with time taking place – when I am interested and focused on something I am turbo charged, I can get a whole lot done in just a day, time expands. The rest of the time I am panicked that everything has to happen today and that I am falling terribly behind. I forget tomorrow or next week or next year. I underestimate tasks so that I find I have put a whole week’s worth of activities onto my plan for a day. I get caught up in my projects and find myself running late to meet people because I now just want to finish what I’m working on and feel desperate like if I don’t finish it now I will never ever get the chance to work on it again.  I sometimes feel hampered by being in a physical body like I am slowed down more than I want to be, like I want everything to happen just as quickly as I can imagine it. You wouldn’t always guess this is going on above the surface, I can appear calm and even slow on the outside.

When I am happiest I am unstructured, emergent, led by delight, messy, productive and generous.  I like structure around me to allow a safe haven for the wild, expansive dance inside my own mind.

Under stress I become despairing and the light of hope gets buried. If life gets too busy and I don’t get time to play with my projects and express myself creatively I feel despondent like all the juice has gone and I’m left with a withered dusty fruit to eat.

How about you? Do you relate? Do you have a zillion creative projects on the go? Are you sick of people telling you that you ‘just need to pick one thing and settle down’?

Unlike those people who seem to find and be satisfied with one area of interest, you’re genetically wired to be interested in many things, and that’s exactly what you’ve been trying to do. – Quote from ‘Are you a scanner?’ by Barbara Sher 

For more information on being multi passionate/ a renaissance soul/ jack and jill of all trades / polymath or SCANNER please do check out the work of Barbara Sher, especially her great book ‘Refuse to Choose’. You might also like the various Facebook groups for scanners including ‘Scanners Look What I just Made!’, ‘Scanners – check out what I just learnt!’, ‘Scanner Tribe’ and ‘Scanners and Renaissance Souls’. Might see you there!

To work with me to uncover your dreams and bring them gently into the light – no matter how quirky you think they are or how diverse and numerous they are – just drop me a line to arrange a free 30 minute introduction session, and check out my coaching packages for some options going forward.

* Ok not everything. Trains, and accounting and how to hook up the TV and many many other things are on my ‘not interesting’ list. Barbara Sher makes this point in her book ‘Refuse to Choose’ – that we often say or feel we are interested in everything (and therefore can’t possibly get around to doing all of them), but if we begin to really list our interests there are great big areas we usually AREN’T interested in – so this narrows things down, and reduces the feeling of overwhelm.

Taking time out for creativity is a gift to ourselves

I am busy planning and preparing for my latest 6 week Women’s Wellbeing Groups here in Sydney. I love to run groups that go beyond a single workshop because it really feels like a journey – participants journey deeper into themselves, they journey into a shared space with trust and they journey in relation to their own creative expression: trusting that, enjoying that, seeking wisdom in that.

I think people are often surprised at just how connected they can become to their own art making and also each other within a few short hours each week.

I see this as a beautiful circle – when we make art we set down our defences and become a little bit more vulnerable. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable around others opens us up for connection with others. As we begin to connect with others in a safe and respectful setting we feel less alone and more comfortable expressing our feelings and experiences. As we feel more comfortable expressing our feelings and experiences we are willing to go deeper into the art making as a tool for expression and making meaning. And so it goes, deepening connection with our art making and with each other.

Safety is paramount for art therapy – not in terms of physical safety (although of course we offer that!) but emotional, interpersonal, psychological safety. To create a safe feeling space we need to offer some stability, some predictability and structure. Making sure we have clear ground rules, that we have some consistency of process, that people feel welcomed and seen, accepted without judgement is a big part of laying the foundations for the work we do.

People often find that in a well facilitated group they feel safer to try art making than they do at home. Less distractions likely plays a part in this, but it’s something more than that. It’s the safety of exploring new materials when we have a trusted guide. It’s the feeling of companionship when others are trying new things as well, working alongside us. It’s the guilt-free dedication of time (“I have to go…after all, I’ve committed to it” you might tell yourself).

It’s a gift to ourselves, to make time for creativity.

We give ourselves permission to emerge refreshed, challenged, changed.

We give ourselves the chance to experience whimsy, joy, surprise.

We give ourselves trust, that we can handle an unfamiliar situation, and hope, that we will benefit from it.

When we do this in group we also give ourselves companionship, honouring and connection.

And as women, to give to ourselves this time, for no other reason than the fact that we would like to experience it, is a wonderful, wild, investment in self care and kindness to our creative selves.

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Interested in joining us?

Join us to relax, restore and reflect – take some time for your wellbeing. This 6 week women’s group meets weekly in face to face mode in Sydney and is DELICIOUS!

It has been described as like attending a mini retreat every week.

If ‘art’, ‘art therapy or even ‘creativity’ are words you have mixed feelings about – don’t worry, you are still welcome here:
– all processes are simple and suitable for beginners
– all art materials are provided
– the space is calm and beautiful, the discussion is frank and deep
– I will explain and demonstrate how to use any new materials that you might not be familiar with
– unlike an art class the focus is not on ‘pretty’ outcomes, but on raw, authentic expression – whatever you do will be the right thing for the moment and there is no competition or need for comparisons

We have a Friday morning option and a Wednesday evening option – book into whichever suits your schedule best.

‘Finally found a space that made me feel like I was truly doing something for myself. The art therapy group with Jade was inspiring, creative, liberating and nourishing. It was wonderful to share feelings and experiences with other women through art, and I enjoyed experimenting with every technique we used week after week.’ – Valentina

Book or more info 

Dealing with blah

When everything feels flat and pointless, follow your whim.

Sometimes our goals can feel like they are suffocating us, or we can temporarily stop feeling connected to the goals we have been working to.

What to do? How to bounce back?

I put in a vote for some unstructured wandering and musing. Give yourself the morning off – walk down your favourite street. Sit in your favourite forest. Visit your favourite garden. Stroll idly through your favourite museum or shop.

Let random things catch your attention. Take a few photos. Let buried ideas gently surface. Allow your sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing to gently fire up as you walk new paths and see new things.

Wander.

Wonder.

Notice.

Adore.

Muse.

Sip tea.

Allow space for the new.

 

On retreat we come out of our shells

So excited to be facilitating a day long workshop at this great event in North Sydney later this month!

I attended my first ‘Australian Mixed Media Roadshow’ in Sydney two years ago. It was actually the first time Art is You had come to Australia after many years running similar events in the US.

I was nervous and excited.

I didn’t think I could really afford it (it seemed like such an indulgence!) but I was drawn to it, I felt a pull. To be outrageous. To give myself time. To learn. To play. Finally I committed and pressed ‘register’.

Getting there was a pain in the neck – I caught a bus and then a train and then a taxi to get to the venue, which was in a remote part of Lake Macquarie. It was getting dark when I arrived and the taxi went round and around the park trying to find my accommodation.

I went alone and was a bit nervous. Who would the other people be? What was happening?

As I signed up on the first morning I wondered, ‘why is everyone wearing decorated aprons?’

I felt a little bit like Alice down the rabbit hole. But little by little, just like Alice, I felt more at home and started to enjoy the people, activities, place, conversation and atmosphere that was there.

I got to spend full days with people who live and breathe paint, mixed media, collage. I learnt about new materials. I was shown techniques. But more importantly I felt the benefit of role modelling – those who stand proudly in their quirks, those who embrace their love of creativity – no matter how niche, or wacky, no matter how simple or complex, no matter how low or high brow.. these people loved what they did and they were unapologetic about it. And I LOVED that, and wanted it to soak in to my skin and leave me feeling the same way.

I made friends there and have stayed in touch to this day with some participants from Sydney and New Zealand. What I love about how Salliane (the organiser) approaches the retreats is that EVERYONE is welcome – exactly where they are. Welcome with their talents, their fears, their family dramas, their wacky wild or ordinary outfits, their physical or mobility challenges, their mental health challenges, their confidence or fear, their history with art or their newness to making,

It’s hard to invest in ourselves and take time out for something that seems as ‘frivolous’ as making art just for fun. But in my experience what we are actually investing in is our courage, our passion, our whims and our sense of possibility.

Committing to retreat we actually find ourselves stepping up for what we care about, and allowing ourselves to be seen by a community of like minded people.

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The event:

Thursday 21 – Sunday 24, July, North Sydney.

Register HERE for my workshop.

See the full program and choose from all workshops HERE. You can attend for a day or several days. Each day there are a number of workshops to choose between – you choose at the time of registration which full day workshops you wish to attend.

For reflections from the organisers on the retreat experience and some photos see HERE.

Art is You Educator thumb