ends and beginnings

I was thinking about the end of the 100 Day project that turned into a daily project. I made object 366 yesterday and posted the picture to Instagram. I wasn’t sure then what I’d do today.

After I got started with my morning today – I have a whole routine, as you do, with coffee and some writing and some introspection – I did not pick up the materials to make a daily thing. It felt really strange. I went on to the next thing, a little inspirational reading (comics. It’s the funnies, except online.) and finished with Oblique Strategies, Brian Eno’s collection of actions to take when you’re stuck. Because I am definitely at loose ends, if not stuck. And it said:

Make an exhaustive list of everything you might do & do the last thing on the list.

So I’m working now on an exhaustive list of things.

#DailyFeb2021

Hey Friends! We are half way thought January 2021 (I know, it feels like another damn decade, but no, it is just that full of incident) and it is time to think about, and make your plans for, doing something daily in Feb 2021. I have posted these “rules” before, for Feb 2020, and Feb 2019. I’ve been recruiting friends for almost as long; from Clevermanka.net, and Jenny Crusie’s Argh people, as well as anyone else who is inspired by seeing it here or on Instagram.

Below are some images from #dailyFeb2018, #dailyFeb2019 and #dailyFeb2020:

February, as we all well know, is the longest month. The Romans did us a favor by chopping days off it until it felt as long as July, but since it has only 28 days this year, it is technically shorter by two or three days than any other month we have.

Since we are going to do something daily, picking Feb to start seems like a good plan. And yes, we are going for daily, which is why we have The Rules, outlined and explained below.

In order to keep from being overwhelmed, we have Rules, and the Rules are what we must have:

  1. we must have A Very Low Bar
  2. we must have Very Clear Boundaries and
  3. and we should aim for Quantity Not Quality

Let me explain.

A Very Low Bar: The purpose of an absurdly low bar is to invite anyone and everyone to step over it, to prove, in fact, that anyone and everyone can step over it. Having stepped over it gives you a little jolt of accomplishment, which is a good thing, and encourages you to do it again. We are after that tiny jolt of encouragement that comes from doing the thing. That will propel you to do it again, and again, and again, which is practice. So choose something you have tools for. Choose something that you can set up quickly and clean up easily (or set up in a corner somewhere that won’t be disturbed). Lower the threshold for doing the thing as much as you possibly can. To that end, it is perfectly legit to lay in a stock of things before Feb 1 – like pre-cut paper, sharpened pencils, the paints for this February’s palette, or all the ends of sock yarn you have on hand. Get a little excited about this process!

Very Clear Boundaries: This is a lesson from Twyla Tharpe’s book The Creative Habit , reinforced by personal experience, and even Orson Welles (“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” ) To this end, 1) you must put some lines around what you want to practice, and B) make that measurable. So choose a size, limit your palette, limit number of stitches you are knitting, limit yarn size, commit to buying nothing new, or using up all of a resource, do whatever you need to make the box you are creating around your project small enough to be a little constrictive, so that you can experiment with pushing at the edges without having to spend too much time finding the edges first.

Quantity Not Quality: To make that measurable, choose metrics you can see, and count, things that are strictly mathematical or true/false. Your metrics matter, a lot. “Make one nice picture” is useless because who says it is nice? “Use up all the paint I have” is a very good metric because you can tell when you’ve achieved it and also it is pushing you towards more using and making.

I will posting my work on my Instagram account, using the #dailyFeb2021 tag. Post your work too! Use the tag to boast about your own work, and see what other people are doing. Everyone’s friendly!

ending 2020

This has been a decade of a year. I don’t even know what to say about it, that other people haven’t already said, and said better. It has, like most years, both crawled and flown. It has definitely had some comedically awful parts, as well as heartbreakingly awful, and plain boring and awful, and glimmers of the completely ridiculous.

I started 2020 as oblivious as anyone. I started the 100 Day Project on Jan 22, 2020, slated to end April 30. By the time the time April 30 happened, we were in the middle of lockdown for the pandemic, and it seemed silly to stop. So I kept going. I kept going past 200 pieces, and past 300 pieces, and through the election, and the subjective month it took to count and recount the votes, and here I am closing on a full year.

Oddly for me, I am not sure how to stop. I could keep going – I’d have to stop labeling each day as N of 100, because working on the second year is just a complete failure to comprehend the idea of a limited project. I could stop with Inauguration Day. I could stop at a full year, on Jan 22. (Your comments are welcome on this topic!)

I leave you with some retrospective pictures of the tiny finished things, massed together.

Notes: Pieces are glued to tie-tack pins and stuck into twelve inch square cork tiles. The first 100 were in varied frames, with double-size frames every Sunday. For 1-50 and 51-100 the taller frames meant it was easier to fit 50 pieces/cork tile. Continuing the project, I chose uniform size frames to fit better on the display tiles. Numbers 101 – present fit sixty-four to a tile.

thought processes

I collect strategies for creating without over-thinking process or materials. It is pretty clear to people who make things for a living (Brian Eno, Twyla Tharp) that the physicality of the product has to be mirrored by the physicality of the process, and too much thinking tends to stilt both.

To that end, I have collected a pile of prompts and precepts that I use to poke myself out of a creative rut. The most recent is Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, which you can find online daily over here. Today’s missive said “What were you really thinking about just now? Incorporate.”

What I was really thinking about was time, and how to demonstrate in a small piece of work the passage of time. But I was also thinking about my father, who is lost in dementia and unsure about a lot of things. He asks me how old he is, and when I tell him (ninety-five) he looks at me aghast. “How did that happen??” he asks. The only answer that satisfies us both is Alice’s answer when I ask her the same kind of thing (“how did you get to be this old already?”). She rolls her eyes, and says in one breath “the relentless, unidirectional passage of time, Mom.” So that’s what I tell my father, and we are both amused until he needs to know that again. Or know something different.

So that’s what I was really thinking of. The relentless, unidirectional passage of time.

rivers for sale!

Three small rivers and a piece of beachfront are all for sale now at BigCartel – at bargain prices! Take one home today! This post brought to you by the Shameless Commerce Division of Lee Thomson art.

more rivers!

Three little ones – about 2×4″ – and one working on getting bigger – 4×8″

I’m figuring out how to draw the laser cutting lines right on the stitched material, so I am working in response to the stitching I have already done instead of carefully sewing the places I know will be cut out later. It is a small distinction, but it lets me work more fluidly in the early part of the process, with fabric and thread.

skills, materials, tools

I made this yesterday, and it took me two years, plus an afternoon.

It has been two years that I’ve been thinking about the ways I could make use of laser cutting in my work. It has been two years of getting a grip on the software and concepts, the capabilities and limitations of the tool and the materials it could cut. Each time I learned something, my vision of what I wanted to do got clearer.

And so I can make things like this now.

I feel like I am balanced at the top of whole new mountain – gathering my courage to descend into a valley full of ideas and projects.

Arabella

I distracted my father yesterday by taking him to find the people building a boat in Granby. It inspired some writing, that may or may not be poetry:

In the arch of the shed built for her
 ribs reach up, inverting and echoing the arch of the roof, 
built truth of the suggestions on paper
 each one a balance of ideal line 
 and the reality of the materials at hand
 balanced on her keel, propped by trees 
from the woodlot behind the house, 
 and more of these trees, neighborhoods felled for this 
 form the bellied center, the eager bow, the solid and comfortable stern

  planked only part way yet, the final outline is visible
 even to an untutored eye
 In answer to his questions, the man replies
 "38 feet, two masts, ketch, gaff rig"
 to my father who cannot remember if he asked, 
 or what the answer was

 From this I can sketch in the rest of this boat, 
 imagine her at sea, sails tall against the sky, 
 masthead pennant streaming
 and in one short leap I can helm her, 

 I stand there in my minds eye, confident, relaxed, delighted
 and feel some ease I had not before
 "38 feet, two masts, ketch, gaff rig" he says again, 
 a look askance at me, is this right? his eyebrows ask
 I nod, and answer in turn
 "38 feet, two masts, ketch, gaff rig"
 leaving him to return to work, to make this skeletal dream
 a floating surging reality

You can see their progress at Acorn to Arabella – they describe each step, and put out regular videos showing progress, and things they’ve learned. The person I spoke with was exquisitely kind, even though I was distracting him in the middle of something, and he was patient with my Da’s repeated questions. We admired the progress and slipped away again into the blustery day to find some lunch, but it made a huge impression on me.

over-dyed

I dip myself
  In seawater
Just like
  I dip fabric
Folded, stitched, bound
  In indigo
Over and over

things brought home home from a day at the beach: shells, sand in the car, poetry, a picture