Daily February 2022

It is two years into a global pandemic, but some traditions remain. It’s time for Daily Feb 2022. Make something every day, and post it to Instagram. Use the #dailyFeb2022 hashtag to see what others are doing. Comment on friends’ work, accept compliments on your own. It is a good time! I hope you will join me. Tell me you are participating! Friend me on Instagram (lee.thomson.art)! Hash-tag your work.

Past years have seen participants from Clever Manka and Jenny Crusie’s Argh people. People have done everything from finishing sewing projects to a daily painting (you can check the older hashtags on Instagram (#dailyFeb2021, #dailyFeb2020, etc.) to see what people have got up to.

Since we are doing something daily, picking February to start seems like a good plan since it is the shortest month. And when I say daily, I mean daily, no shirking (but also no beating yourself up) 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:

  1. A Very Low Bar
  2. Very Clear Boundaries and
  3. 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 and 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.

SO – What are you going to be working on, and showing the world? Brainstorm ideas here, and join us on Instagram Feb 1, 2022.

Update

Things I have done since January 23, 2021

  • got my COVID-19 vaccination shots! I can hug people again!
  • accepted a commission for a piece for a friend’s parents
  • found work as a teacher at a micro school, two days a week, maybe a dozen kids, ages 6-14
  • addressed 35 years of paint on the dinghy my father designed and built, as a start to refinishing it
  • reached the one year mark for playing my guitarlele, and celebrated with a concert for a dozen children, all waist high or shorter
  • taught two Making Tiny Art classes for the Northampton Center for the Arts one online, and one (loosening restrictions and vaccinations) in person!
  • worked on a class description and syllabus for a fabric coloring and collage class for Northampton Center for the Arts
  • cleared off my desk twice (but you couldn’t tell right now)
  • went to see my mother in another state for the first time in sixteen months, hugged her a lot
  • mounted an exhibit of my work at the TDBank lobby in Amherst, MA
  • had people over to dinner, gone out to dinner and had a pique-nique at a dear friend’s house (hugs all around)
  • mounted an exhibit of the Daily Project in my dining room
  • helped a friend with her father’s terminal illness
  • answered questions to for the Northampton Center for the Arts Featured Artist spotlight(!!)
  • reserved a dumpster so we can get things out of the cellar so the mason can fix the (non-weight bearing) wall that is composed of melting(?) bricks
  • applied for a mentorship (I would be the mentee)

It’s been a while – what have you been up to?

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.

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.

101-200/100

Those are the second 100. 135 is AWOL but I am certain it is on my table, but shuffled under something. I have not yet gotten the pin backs on 171-200, when I do they will go on the next cork board.

I’m not certain I ever talked much about why I am making these, or why I am still making these. I started the project January 22, 2020. I have, in the past, made a fabric postcard every day for a year (2007) and five years after that a circle every day for a year (2012). I was trying to do something like that for 2017, but I simply couldn’t. Too many things were wrong, with my own life and life in general.

I continued to make things, of course, because that is a huge part of how I define myself. I built a boat (! that still surprises me, and I still love it) and continued to make art, but I couldn’t muster enthusiasm for anything every single day. I know from experience, and from encouraging others to take a piece of time to make something daily, that there have to be rules, and doing it in some kind of community helps. I have been a vocal cheerleader for Daily February projects in the last several years, for exactly that reason.

This year I signed up for the Creative Project’s 100 Day challenge. It started January 22, and I began with 1. Between numbers 1 and 100, COVID-19 shut down most of the world. When 100 came, on the last day of April, it seemed that if the pandemic was not over yet, I maybe shouldn’t be either. So I kept going. My stated project; “one small embroidery, finished and framed in a 1.5″ square frame” was easy enough to keep exploring, and I have more than enough materials and time to continue. So I did. The numbering, N/100, helps me remember that I can stop at any time, because I have fulfilled my original pledge. It also continues to amuse me.

Having reached 200, exactly double the number I originally set out to do, I still feel like I am documenting something, or keeping track in some fashion. Counting up, I realized we have less than 100 more days til the US election. So my plan now it to keep going til then. That will be another 86 pieces. I’m not sure what will happen after that, although some additional counting provides the answer that Inauguration Day happens 164 days from now, and only two days short of a full year.

firsts

The first sip of coffee. The first swig of a cold Steel Rail Pale Ale. The first dip of toes in the ocean at the beach on the first day it is not quite warm enough to get really wet (this varies wildly for the people I know). There is a sort of shock of delight at the beginnings of things. The first spring peepers. The first frost in fall. It seems to be combined pleasure and relief, that the thing you’ve been feeling wistful for lives up to the moment you remembered.

I’d like to add to those; the first cut you make with a new X-acto blade. That precision, and ease – it doesn’t happen past the third or fourth cut, and replacing blades for every single cut feels unconscionably wasteful, but that first slice? Just delightful.

What provides that blip of delight for you?

last 50

All fifty are there – the gaps are because I was making double sized pieces on Sundays, so they do not fit together as well.

I am having a hard time stopping, and finished 103/100 today and posted it.

It’s good to have a hobby?

A newsletter of tiny things

I have started a new thing, as one does, particularly in times of uncertainty. If you would like to see a small artwork, or something else small and interesting, mostly daily, sign up using the form in the link. You can always unsubscribe if I talk too much, or you don’t like the pictures, or you have too many things in your inbox already. I sympathize. Nothing personal.

The first one is written, and I’m working on the next one!

progress

I have been keeping up with both the 100 Day Project and Daily Feb 2020, and the collection of tiny things looks like this:

I made some sampler pieces at the workshop – I never made it terribly far past running stitch. I got very interested in the weights of stitches I could achieve by varying thread weight and stitch length.