Creative Impulse

Often, we seem to think that creativity is an uncontrollable impulse. It seems that all kinds of creative endeavors, from photography to painting or fabric arts to sculpture or writing to metalwork, are dependent upon the fickle and capricious appearance of this impulse. It comes and goes as it will and we are at this muse’s whim.

However, this may not be exactly as full an understanding of creativity as we might think. I’m not convinced that we are utterly at the mercy of creativity’s impulsive nature. Ray Bradbury’s book, Zen In the Art of Writing,  gives many good ideas on how to tame the muse or, put another way, find ways to stimulate creativity and not be continually at the mercy of its appearance (or absence).

A recent post on a chainmailing blog I follow has some fantastic ideas as well. Actually, they are ideas that come from some seasoned artists. The post summarizes the various suggestions and recommends some good books to read. It’s an excellent post and well worth the read! And these are good ideas and suggestions whether your vocation includes a creative component or if you need creative sparks in any area of your life.

For me, the very best things that have helped me remain creative personally and professional are simple: write every day even if it is a seemingly uninspiring journal entry, read both fiction and non fiction as much as I can, put intentional focus on the details, patterns, colors, people, animals and natural elements of the world around me, and when I realize I am stuck with a project(which usually occurs about 3 hours into stuck-ness) I get up and do something completely different for a while.

Of course, sometimes creativity simply won’t flow. There’s a reason why people sometimes equate a time when they cannot get moving creatively as dry and desert like. It seems that these times are a little like the times when people come to see me for pastoral care. In a crisis, even a mild one, our vision becomes narrowed. We see fewer options, see less support, help, and connections to our world around us. It is as if we are seeing, thinking and feeling with blinders on.  We remove those, or at least shift them out a bit, when we move out of ourselves and broaden our vision. The same is true for creativity.

Got ways you spark your creativity? I’d love to hear about it!

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Chainmail

In April I finally got a chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do: learn how to make chainmail*.

For most all of my life I’ve had a fascination with warriors and particularly the warrior girl/ warrior woman archetype. Some day I will have my own suit of armor! Unfortunately, for all kinds of logical and rational reasons, that day is not today. However when that day comes, I can now make the chainmail portion myself if I wish!

Actually, chaimail is a bit more than just that. Historically, it played a significant role in warfare and the survival of battle participants including dogs and horses as well as humans. It’s also the grandfather of Kevlar and other kinds of modern day body armor used by military and police.

And it’s awesome.

Tiny rings of hard metal woven together into something fluid and as flexible as cloth. Little insignificant round bits that are worth next to nothing alone become strong and beautiful together. There is something a little magical about it. There are tons of different kinds of chainmail and all are based on the small jumpring; a little link of metal.

When people think of chaimail, they usually picture something they’ve seen in a movie. Think Lord of the Rings, Kingdom of Heaven, A Knight’s Tale, or even Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Usually (though not always) this is traditional European 4 in 1 mail. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg!

These are images of things I’ve made. On the whole, it’s jewelry and I’ve really enjoyed making it. There’s even a little bit of scale mail! By far my favorite piece is the dog collar! Doesn’t she look like a regal little warrior girl? I’ve even opened an etsy shop which can be found here.

The thing I like the best about the chaimail is it’s interdependence. That’s its strength. Remember that old saying about how a chain is only as strong as its weakest link? For the most part, that’s not true for chaimail. With so many rings linked, no single ring holds the piece together. There’s always a back up link. They always work as a team and so the strength of the piece is greater than the sum of its parts.

The guy who taught the class I took at the Jackson County Green Energy Park was Brock Martin. Brock is a blacksmith and all around awesome person with infinite patience even with people like me. He owns WarFire Forge and makes amazing things! If you’re interested, there are often chainmail classes at the larger craft stores like Michaels or A C Moore and a search on their sites will point you to classes in your area. Also CG Maille and Maille Artisans International League are both full of great information and The Ring Lord is the best place on earth to buy supplies.

*Or you could say chain mail or chainmaille. It’s all the same thing, just different spellings.

An Assortment of Items, Things and Stuff

Somehow or another I’ve managed to miss a bit of a milestone in this blog’s life. Two posts ago, the one called Art Artist Artsy Artisan, was in fact my 200th post. Not too bad if I say so myself!

Granted, in September of 2011 I merged my craft blog (Random Act of Grace) with this one which rocketed up the post total to 174 at that time. I started Life in a Mountain Town on August 8th, 2009 but it was definitely not my first blog. Random act of Grace was started as simply a crafty blog over at (shudder) blogger in 2006. I’ve got two others as well: Mental Scrapbook (May 2010, 262 posts) and The Shepherdess Writes (November 2005, 161 posts). If you add it all up, since 2005 I’ve posted just over 620 times on my personal blogs.

Some of my favorites on Mountain Town have been:

The DMV My first experience with one of the most fantastic things about small town life!

First Random Act of Grace This is the first box I made from an Altoid tin. And it’s still my favorite.

Handy Tips For The New In Town  Ok, I’ll admit it’s too snarky, but for some reason I love it.

ICU One of a few posts I did around the death of my mother in September of last year.

No Other Word But Halleluiah And there is no other word.

In other news, I opened my photography show on Friday and it went really really well! I was terribly nervous and so pleased at the turnout and support. Also, here is a great blog post from a friend about art in this area and noticing art around us. Ok, I’ll confess that I’m linking this because she mentions me, but how cool is that anyway? Additionally, it’s a fantastic blog written by a person who is full of joy–and I don’t mean that foolish kind of vapid nonsense joy but real, grounded, genuine joy at being alive–and well worth the read.

Shortly, I hope to post images from the chainmaille class I attended and the pieces I’ve been working on recently as well. In the mean time, I leave the blogging world with this little bit of halleluiah because really, there is no other word.

Christmas Roundup 2011

So it’s that time of year again. Time for the Christmas round up!

I’ve already posted photos of some of the gifts I made but here’s a pretty bowl that I finished in time for Christmas but not in time for that post.

Gave my aunt framed photos of lady-slippers in her yard. One of my

favorite gifts I gave this year!

As for gifts I’ve received, they were all awesome! One of the neatest gifts was from my friends in

Charlotte who sent me a box of tiny little spice boxes and two cook books one of which is cooking for one! And some really pretty snowflakes cut out of wood.

They weren’t the only ones who gave me books. I got two more, though they were officially Hanukkah presents.

Across the Universe

Hardcover and autographed which is awesome.

and this one, which is out of print.

Fifth Life of the Cat Woman

 Looking forward to reading both of them. And, while I’m at the Hanukkah giftlist, I also got a  beautiful locket. It’s copper on a pretty copper chain and there are bits of rosemary inside the locket.

Rosemary for remembrance…..

There were other gifts too, including some Creative Memories things, gift cards, cute note cards and a pretty carved cross. Everything was really great. I’m a lucky girl!

All the gifts I gave this year were either hand made by me, hand made by someone else or purchased locally. I don’t think I had to purchase a single thing outside of my county. So, the goal for the upcoming year will be to do the same thing for every other gift giving occasion in 2012.

Now, it’s time to watch all the Christmas specials I’ve DVRed including the Dr Who special: The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe. Wonder whose going to destroy the world this year.

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This Year’s Gifts

Last year I made all of my gifts for family and friends and this year I have made a good number of them. The rest I have purchased locally. Pretty proud of that, thank you very much!Today I baked cookies and small pound cakes for my favorite bookstore, cafe and a couple other retail places. I was also able to pick up the recently completed pieces of pottery! Only one more to go and it’s finished; just needs to be fired.

The teapot is covered in ladybugs. The lid says “ladybug  ladybug” and the handle says “fly away home”. The bottom is black to match the lid but I didn’t get a shot with that in it. When the lid is on, there are tiny little antenna from the little bug below that make the lid look like a giant bug. Pretty pleased with it!

The mug is for a friend whose nick name is painted on the mug. Actually, he’s not “no fun” at all, but the mug came out quite well. My favorite is the handle that says “Fun? No!” and the straight face smiley on one side.

Lastly is this scarf. Just finished the last bit this morning. It’s quite long and is doubled up in these photos. Two strands of yarn held together. Quite warm as well. I did it in a Farrow rib which, although the fiber lacks stitch definition, adds a bit of stretch width wise and also lays flat. I’ve got it packaged in a cool little 31 bags tote.

Final bowl to pick up this week before the end of the week and that’s the last of it! The last two photos here are of a bowl I finished some time ago that I have just not posted photos of as of yet. It was just for me.

Night Circus Ceramics

Not long ago I posted a review for the book Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and I loved that book! Around about the same time, I learned a new ceramics trick involving something we all probably learned in elementary school. Remember how you would take lots of pretty colored crayons and scribble all over a piece of paper, then color over that with black crayon really heavily and scratch off in places to show the colors underneath? Well, this is the same general idea only it’s ceramics and it’s paint. (I paint ceramics at Claymates in Dillsboro) Anyhow, I combined some of the images described in the Night Circus and–voila! We have the images below.

The cup was made as a gift for a friend who also loved the book. The teapot is the ice garden from the book and I have four additional cups on order to complete to make a set with the pot. My plan is that each of the cups will have some image from the book, such as the bonfire, the cards of the fortune teller, etc.

So far, I am really pleased with the out come!

Random Acts of Kindness

Take a look over at this blog:

yearofkindness

Really interesting! I believe she’s come to the end of the 100 days, but it’s still worth looking at and getting inspiration.

I am still making my prayer boxes, post-its and other such things but have chosen not to blog about them for a while for a whole plethora of reasons, mostly related to not wanting people to hunt for them but for whoever comes along to happen upon them. I may, however, do a  little round up of some thing just to show them.

Today is Crafty Pastor and we’re working on prayer boxes. It’s sometimes hard to get the concept across and I’m hoping I’ll have a little better luck this year.