Friday, March 30, 2012

Time for a Blog Post

I admit that lately my mental energy for certain things, including blog writing, has been at a low. So low I had to think about if I even wanted to continue.

I was talking to my mother about it yesterday. She gave blogging a try. She managed a grand total of 3 posts before she needed a break, a permanent break, that is. I thought it would be a no-brainer for her. She used to be editor of the lifestyles page of a newspaper. She wrote a column every week. No problem coming up with things to say, people to interview.

But then it occurred to me that she was approaching it all wrong. Too much journalist in her. Everything had to be a Blog Post, she couldn't just write about what interested her. I said, believe it or not there are plenty of people willing to come around and read about things that you think are "nothing". I read an article about journals in the paper. We are automatically interested in things that people write. If someone took the time to write it then there must be something there that is worth reading. (There are always exceptions to this, of course.) I've certainly spent more than my fair share of time reading blogs and articles that in the end did me little good.

Here in Sweden there is a little phenomenon with some young women bloggers that get an incredible amount of readers, and I have seen their blogs. They don't write about anything. Certainly nothing anyone "needs" to read. Yet the readers come in droves anyways.

Then I came to the next thing. That is people love to read about negative things. We are drawn to it like flies. Many very popular bloggers rely exclusively on negative comments in their writing. The more sarcastic, the better. Even better when the bloggers get in blog fights, then the readership goes through the roof. I used to follow a fiber blog, which has since closed. The blogger used to spend a great deal of her time making fun of her children and sometimes her husband. She even went so far to tell us all that she hated her little daughter's name and refused to use it, always a nickname instead. I never said anything, not my place to judge, but if that child had been a bit sensitive like me, she will be on a therapist's bed at 40 talking about the neurosis she got from this. She managed to collect whole pile of readers and comments in barely any time at all.

Or take politics for example, whatever "side" you find yourself on, who doesn't love to read or listen to people that basically spend all their time attacking the other side. It's safe, it's comfortable to be on the other side of the subject of the negativity. It does us no good as individuals or as a group, but we all (or most of us that aren't saints yet) love it anyways.

Anyways, back to me. I have been blogging for a good number of years now, and I feel that I still haven't managed to hit my stride. It's been very frustrating for me, but who knows maybe I am like my mother, always needing to write a Blog Post. But maybe the things I said to her, that were really just me saying a bunch of stuff that popped into my head without a lot of previous thought, were things I needed to hear too.

I've seen a lot of blogs, read a lot of articles. I enjoy the eye-candy. But the posts that really make me think and remember aren't the ones that have only beautiful pictures, but have something else, some deeper meaning or issue. In other words something I can ponder and find a way to use to help me understand myself and the world better. Negativity is a place I will never go, no matter what readership it costs me. But I do believe it is quite OK to express a negative opinion about something, but not to attack or dwell on it. When all is said and done, I really don't enjoy the superficial, for me it is all about going beyond the surface, layering on the meaning. That's the place that I want to be. If I can find my way there through blogging, then I will have accomplished my aim.

Now, if you have managed to make it this far, what is a blog post without pictures!!!
I'm nearing a finish with the dragonfly project, but I am being sneaky and only giving a little teaser. I want to save the full impact for the grand finish! I will say much more about this when the time comes.

Spring is early this year! Who isn't excited about that?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Embroidery Journal Project

I finished my project yesterday evening. It has some personal meaning which I will explain, but first the project:
The technical details. I painted the background fabric with watercolor. I wanted a rainbow of color to contrast with the instrument's black. I stitched the instrument next. I used silver beads and metallic threads for details. I made swirls with glass seed beads and made the border and the music with silver and gold metallic threads. There is a lot of shine and glitter. You pretty much see none of that in the photo.

Now about why I picked the clarinet for my project. I took up clarinet when I was 9. I knew right away when I saw it that it was the instrument for me. I played on until the end of high school. I gave it up my last year to take AP classes for college. I thought that was it for me. I was "good" enough, but no star, and I never thought of myself as especially musical.

Now back to the present, some 20 years later. Some members of Mr Floss Box's family play instruments and sing (guitars mostly). Anyways, Mr Floss Box's father in particular, heard I used to play and thought I should get an instrument and play with them. I just said maybe. Then one day in January we were at a flea market in town and I saw an old clarinet. I couldn't believe no one had already picked it up (flea markets are mega-popular here!), so I grabbed it and checked the price after. It was cheap, so it came home. It's a bit old and needs refurbishing, but the clarinet is definitely playable. I found a bunch of free music online, and now I practice everyday. It's opened a new world for me.

Music and making music is special. It is fabulous for the brain. So much is going on all at once, motor and sensory neurons are firing, the fine motor coordination from complicated movements, listening to the sound, reading the notes and anticipating what is ahead, keeping tempo. I do believe this is superior to brain games, and you have the potential to make something beautiful.

I've learned in the years not to give up so easily just because something is "hard". It's a useful lesson for everyone. I believe we are all capable of much more than we think we are if we just are willing to believe in ourselves and not give up when it feels difficult. (It's making our way through the difficulty that makes us grow) So, when I come to hard areas in the music, I practice the fingering over and over, gradually it comes. Day by day, I improve. And most importantly, I enjoy the music.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dragronfly Project

I've started a new project this week! I have been thinking about doing something with a dragonfly for awhile, and now I have come up with a design that I liked.
I am deliberately going a little slow. I want to think a little before I just start throwing stitches down. Texture and color are my focus. I even took the time to do sample stitches before I made the water. I haven't done that on many projects, but it's actually a really good idea. My grasses and cattails are not finished. I'm planning to do needle-weaving for added dimension. More about this project soon. I have to take a short break from it now to work on the embroidery journal project. March is passing quickly!!

In the meantime, I am working on bringing some of my tutorials back online. Also I have ideas for new content. The blog format never felt very right for permanent content, so it's going on my main site. This week they will start appearing.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Crewel Crazy

I can't help it, the wool is beautiful to feel and see. My "new" book came in the mail this week:
It's 50 years old, but it's easily the best book on crewel embroidery that I have seen so far. It's not a pattern book and only some of the pictures are color. But it doesn't matter, there is history, design ideas, stitch instructions, and lots of inspiration. She was a prolific embroiderer and designer. Her love of all things embroidery really shows through in both this book and her other Book of Embroidery. They are both worth owning. I found my copies on Amazon in the used books tab.

One thing I don't understand why she and her editor included in the book is a very strong attack on people encouraging embroiderers to learn to draw and design their own work. Learning to draw, anyone can do. I'll come back to this another time, but I taught myself to draw just last year with the help of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I have a lot to say about this - but it will wait a little. As for good design, it IS a matter of practice. Good designers are good because they put hour after hour in, and they go a step beyond just the time, they push themselves to do it better and differently every time they start a new design. However, she is absolutely correct that there is nothing wrong with being inspired by beautiful historic examples. I would go farther though and say all designers are influenced and inspired by others around them. All ideas come from somewhere, the good designer or artist will see something new in those ideas and take them farther, putting their individual interpretation and expression into their work. I also agree with that no matter the source of the design, each of us as an embroiderer has the opportunity to make our own  personal, artistic interpretation of the design through the use of color and stitch. (It's the main point of my embroidery book and I do plan to expand on this idea in the next book!)

I have been uncertain what to do with my small crewel projects. But her book gave me the thought to sew them together. Maybe a wall hanging or even a bed spread if I do enough of them. I laid them all out to see how they might look together:

The answer is they look great.  (Ooops, just noticed that the bee is upside down!!)  A little photo does not do them justice. They each have their own color and feeling but none of that is diminished when seen as a group. The wool makes it easy. Now I have a little birdie here sitting waiting to join the group. Better get busy!!