Happy Smonderday everyone. Sixth months ago quarantine was an abstract concept to me, something reserved for people with severe infectious diseases or to be read about in history books. Now that we are in week whatever of lockdown, life is so much different that we could have ever imagined. My usual pre-pandemic routine consisted of my husband leaving for work, walking my son to school, coming home and working on my printing or sewing, or perhaps booking workshops or demonstrations, applying to in-person shows, then picking my son up, making dinner or possibly working a serving shift at the restaurant. Most of those parts of my day have evaporated overnight. Most notably, my block of uninterrupted time during the weekdays in my studio. I now am homeschooling my son, something I had always joked would be an unmitigated disaster (and kind of is), my husband has set up a makeshift office in our master suite where my studio is so that he can work from home and since we are in one of the top four zip codes in Boston for coronavirus (winning!) we are taking the stay at home order quite seriously.
These circumstances have had a big impact on my creativity and have also caused me, like everyone else, to have to devote a lot of energy to pivoting and keeping my business on the same forward trajectory it was on when the pandemic hit. Then there are all the crazy thoughts that run through your head: when is the next time my only child will play with another kid? What if I never see X person again? Will the restaurant ever open back up? And then there are the dreams….and I know you are all in the same boat with me. So I am adjusting, just like everyone else and I employ some creative coping strategies that I use in my regular life and have continued to use as the circumstances of this pandemic unfold. Creativity is a funny thing, while sometimes artist's block can be absolutely punishing, other times you have an idea that you are so excited about that you can barely contain yourself from making it. Thomas Edison said the latter accounts for about one percent of genius, or in his words “inspiration” and I would concur. The rest of it is “perspiration”. Sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other is all it takes to get the creativity flowing. I try to be kind to myself and listen to what my body and mind are feeling up for when I am beginning this pursuit.
When I am Physically Tired, but Want to Create:
I draw. Sometimes I sit at my desk or the dining room table and sometimes I even curl up in bed with all of my drawing tools and junky tv on my iPad. Sometimes I have an idea in mind and sometimes I have no idea. When I have no idea I start by drawing an XY axis which is the basis for all of my geometric designs, next I think about what shape I want my block to be and then I decide if I want to use a specific ratio or if I just want to improvise. I have made many great designs using that method.
When I Have Physical Energy, but No Specific Idea in Mind
I print. Tea towels, t-shirts, hoodies, yardage to use later or anything that needs to get done. I allow my fabrics to inspire me, to help me decide on my pattern and color scheme. Just working through those thoughts and artistic questions gives me invaluable creative answers.
When I Want to Relax
I carve. Carving is an incredibly soothing and satisfying aspect of relief printing, a total "easy like Sunday morning" vibe or late-night Law & Order SVU feeling. I can get in the zone and imagine how my block will print and just get lost in it. Carving is not as “creative”, but it paves the way to create in the future.
When I Have Limited Time or Energy, Just Feel Like Watching TV or a Have Had Couple Too Many Glasses of Wine
I do grunt work. There are 10 bandanas in my washing machine right now that need to be ironed. I cut zipper pouch pieces, assemble and pin them. I brand and put tags on items. I am not “being creative” in these moments, but making room for being creative later, which leads me to…
Mis en Place
The French culinary term for “putting in place”. Chefs painstakingly spend the day creating their mis en place so that when the dinner rush comes, they have everything that they need on their station to fulfill dinner orders quickly. Sometimes I don’t have time or space to be creative, so what I do is set up my station. I pin the fabric item to my padded table that I want to print next and set up my brayers and ink so that when the moment strikes, I can just dive right into printing without setting up first.
You may not be a printmaker, but creating art usually has multiple aspects, so hopefully these tips can translate into your practice and help you continue to be creative while stuck at home. I also have a couple of tech items (Amazon affiliate links included) that enhance my creativity and overall well-being. I love my iPad Pro and watching shows on that is what I mean when I say “watching tv”. I bring my iPad with me and watch in bed, as I sew or serge, while printing or even prepping dinner. I follow the Frugalwoods personal finance blog and credit Mrs. Frugalwoods for inspiring me to save a sufficient emergency fund, which I am very thankful exists right now. She has been creating pandemic-related financial strategies and when she mentioned a frivolous pandemic-related purchase my ears perked up, and boy, was she right about it! My AirPods Pro just came earlier this week and boy, am I loving them (and my awesome husband for giving me a bunch of iTunes gift cards he had to offset the cost). In addition to being able to watch “Hoarders: Buried Alive” in my studio/my husband’s makeshift office without him having to hear, “but that’s covered in rat poop!” multiple times, I can also listen to my Instagram obsession @dnice DJ the nights away on IG live or watch David Lebovitz’s “Apero Hour” on his IG Live from Paris while I prepare lunch for my family without disturbing anyone. Blogging does not come naturally to me, but since I am listening to a @dnice set from a few weeks ago I am quite content to write this blog post to completion. Stay safe everyone.