preparations, long and short term

I am packing for a workshop today, and leaving tomorrow, and coming back on Sunday. The workshop is at Bennington College, in the lower left corner of Vermont. A bunch of different things are being taught, from glass and woodworking to embroidery. I signed up for Embroidery Expanded, which I am very much looking forward to.

I have a rudimentary knowledge of embroidery, and enough knowledge to look up stitches I do not remember. I signed up for this particular workshop to gain some ideas for how to embroider on non-traditional surfaces, and with unusual materials. I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of things we talk about, and the community of people who think this sounds like fun.

I’m also pulling together materials for the #DailyFeb2020 challenge that starts this Saturday on February 1st. The plan (subject to change) is to embroider something every day, honing my newly acquired skills, and post the results on Instagram. I have a bunch of tiny laser cut frames for that project, although I have also been thinking very hard about three dimensional shapes and how to form and embroider them. Plans are allowed to change – that’s how I learn things!

The third thing I am working on is the 100 Day Project. I started that (stealthily) on Jan 22. It will run through the end of April. I seem to be able to think about 100 days more easily than a whole year. I’d like to try another daily for a year project, but my last couple of tries have not been successful, so I’m scaling back, and looking for a shorter horizon. You can see my progress with my 100 things on Instagram, with the tag #the100dayproject.


Hey people – remember last year, and the year before, when we made a bunch of things in February and learned some stuff and possibly used up some stuff and etc.? I’m doing it again!

There are only three rules: A Very Low Bar, Very Clear Boundaries, and Quantity Not Quality.

A Very Low Bar – An absurdly low bar invites anyone and everyone to step over it, to prove, in fact, that anyone and everyone can step over it. Having cleared it once gives you a little jolt of accomplishment, which is a good thing, and encourages you to do it again. We are chasing that tiny jolt of endorphins that come from doing the thing. The theory is, that will propel you to do it again, and again, and again, which is practice.

To assist in making the bar even lower, 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!

The 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 the number of stitches you are knitting, or the time spent, limit yarn size, commit to buying nothing new, or using up all of a resource. Basically think about what you need to do, to make the box you are creating around your project small enough to be a little constrictive. Those constraints let you can experiment with pushing at the edges, without having to spend too much time finding the edges first.

Quantity Not Quality: You want to make a LOT of something this month. 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? “I used up all the paint I had” 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.

My plan for February 2020: make something small that is out of my comfort zone every day. Since I am taking an embroidery workshop at the end of January, my plan is to make a tiny embroidery every day, and frame it up in a small laser cut frame. I’m working on making the frames this week, so they’ll be ready to go, and I have the floss and other materials on hand. I even wound all the floss onto bobbins, so I won’t get the appalling tangled disaster than I have encountered before!

If you’d like to join in, that would be great! I’ll be posting my work on Instagram, and tagging it #dailyFeb2020 – if you use the same tag, we’ll find everyone’s work!