Sunday, June 22, 2014

What's Blogging Got to Do with it?

Well, blogging brings me back to my creative self. Last Saturday I did go to a cool fabric dyeing workshop. There was just one teeny problem--literally three minutes after arrival at the mountainside home of the teacher, I promptly threw out my back and was only able to move at a snail's pace. I couldn't help but be disappointed that I wasn't as prolific as the other students (or that I didn't have 7 yards of dyed fabric to take home as the class description promised; all I had was 8 or 9 fat quarters). Silver lining: low expectations! I was pleased at what I did create.

Other highlights of the day:
- Learning shibori dyeing techniques (and about snow dyeing--can't wait to try that!)
- Being around creative quilters
- Realizing I had unrealistic expectations of the teacher--she was just human, was a generous teacher, and while I had wanted more fabric to take home, it was mostly because the class was a bit pricey for me. And in turn, realizing that should I ever attempt to lead a workshop, it (and I), need not be perfect, either.

A week on, my back is still getting 'back' to normal, but I am grateful for not having to ice it all the time, and for being able to once again walk around the nearby lakes.

Lower back pain, someone reminded me lately, means you're not getting enough support in your life. So it's been a time of remembering to stop, breathe, (support me), and envision good things to come.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Dreaming is about waking up." - Callings by Gregg Levoy

"Please make of my life what you would have it to be...Dear God, may I begin again."--
Marianne Williamson, Illuminated Prayers.

     Hello, blog. I know it's been a while. Last we spoke I was heading to Florida with a chuppah stuffed into a carry-on for a possible marketing connection. It turned out that I didn't get to share it with the person I expected to, but, I did finally get to show a chuppah in person to my family. I had it spread out on a bed when my nephew walked by and said with a shy smile, "You know, if you ever want to bring us a present...." It was nice to know he appreciated it!
    I've continued to be more in my mind than at my sewing machine lately, and when this happens, it feels like the two are worlds apart from each other.
     Lately, though, reading Deepak Chopra's "The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire," which is about tapping into the synchronicities of the universe, I have been reminded of how important it is to meditate and how it helps to 'ground' me in the physical world as part of its many benefits.
     Once you can get yourself to do that, you do start to see how all the brain/busy work you are doing could be simplified by just stopping, sitting, and breathing.
     You can read all the books you want to help you grow, learn, or focus--but if the answers to your questions lie within, then it seems to me you're going to have to look in there at some point.
     So, as I find that fabric I bought a year ago, for a wall hanging inspired by a Snatum Kaur song (not a chuppah project, but one of those is usually simmering), I am grateful to have taken a small step back to myself, and what inspires me.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Chuppahs on My Mind

This is what happens when you blink—nearly a month gallops by and you still haven’t put pen to blog (so to speak.) As it turns out, chuppahs have been on my mind the past few weeks. Recently I had a phone session with a career counselor at my alma mater. I expected us to focus on my interest in a new career path, but instead, when she asked me to tell her about myself, I mentioned my love of creating art and particularly, chuppahs. She listened and then suggested that I give myself some time to focus on chuppah making and marketing—while simultaneously gathering information on the other career path if I so desired.

I realized that her words, “Decide a time frame in order to see whether there’s a market for this (or similar phrase), and then reassess,” stirred an inner resistance: I don’t want to do that, because what if I might fail? And furthermore, even if I can’t make money doing this, I want to do it anyway! I realized the layers of thoughts percolating about making and selling quilts are ever-present and I need to deal with them in order to move forward.

A few weeks earlier, my sister had put me in touch w
ith a lovely friend of hers whom she thought might have some ideas for spreading the word about handmade chuppahs in South Florida where they live. I touched base with her friend, but then we were out of touch for several weeks. One night I thought, I really need to talk to her and find out more about her ideas for networking. I sent a ‘mental message’ and within a minute she had emailed me! She offered to put me in contact via email with a few people she knows, and asked me to send some information about myself. Of course, procrastination tiptoed in in its trademark way. Days went by and this to-do item was not getting done. Were my images good enough, would my description really capture what my chuppahs look like? I finally gathered up some favorite photos, wrote from the heart, and decided to bring a chuppah (or two) on my next visit to Florida, even if that means folding them up inside my carry-on because I don’t want to let them out of my sight!

Which brings me to tonight. I’m listening to cars driving on the wet roads, as another band of wintry weather slips into Colorado. Winter’s persistent, and as it is nature, it knows what it’s doing. I once read somewhere that when we feel confusion, it’s really just our way of not wanting to choose a way…in other words, chuppahs have been on my lips lately, but I haven’t yet really tended to them. Chuppahs also came up in a conversation I had with the head of an Expressive Arts program—he asked me about myself and I mentioned my fascination with chuppahs as an art form. So, it’s time to follow this passion further. Next time…find out what it’s like to take chuppahs on a road (or plane) trip to Florida!


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Home for the Chuppahs

"It is my belief that we make great strides in our creativity by taking little steps."
   - Julia Cameron, The Sound of Paper

Well, life is interesting. In my experience, it zigs, it zags, it goes backward and forward even when you’re focused on the present. Although I started this blog in an attempt to kick-start my chuppah making, I've also come to see it as a liberating place to explore creativity ( this the most ingenious procrastination technique ever?!)

So as I feed this blog, I find I'm also feeding my creative life. This weekend, after months of brainstorming a name for my etsy shop (that's right, a shop for selling crafts I mostly, technically haven't made yet)...I finally took the plunge.

While I could write a whole blog post alone on searching for an etsy shop name (that someone on earth already hadn't taken), I finally decided on one that seemed to fit: Maison Craft. "Maison," the French word for home, is a nod to my mother's French-speaking heritage. And 'craft' leaves room for anything I might create.

Then came the making of the shop banner to go atop my etsy page. The evolution of this little piece of art was very, very interesting.

I spent a bunch of time creating a banner in Powerpoint, then reluctantly went back to the drawing board after reading online that clipart wasn’t recommended due to trademark issues. Now what? All I had was text on a plain background. But I soon discovered that I could use an image, in this case one of my spiral chuppah, for the background. I was astounded to see that the spiral turned out to be perfectly centered, and at an interesting angle that I couldn’t have even imagined. It also infused the banner with my energy. Next, I fiddled with the color of the text. At the last minute before uploading the banner, inspiration struck (I know not from where)—why not make the word 'craft' multicolored? All along I'd wanted to capture that sense of play I feel when I look at a box of crayons.

As I clicked through the shop set-up process, the next thing I knew the shop was 'live' and open online—for the whole world to see! I wasn't ready for it—but when would I be, really. It's just a little step, as now the real work begins. Although nothing is on the shelves yet, the shop is just the container I have needed in order for my creative projects to flourish.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Taking a Closer Look

Getting outside for some fresh air/exercise never fails to lift me out of whatever mindset I’m in, and into a new one. I often jog around a lake near my house where there are glimpses of nature just waiting to surprise me. From the hoots of invisible owls, to the ducks (geese?) that communicate to one another before taking off from the frozen ice in squadrons, I can’t help but notice the levels of the natural world that are hidden in plain view.

Today I bundled up and headed out into the gently falling snow. Sure enough I warmed up after a few laps, and encountered a few other strollers despite the 18 degree weather (after all, this is Boulder.)

As I squatted down to stretch before heading back into my car, I came face to face with a pile of newly fallen snowflakes. I took a closer look, and to my amazement, I could make out the exquisite classic snowflake shapes in all their tiny perfection.

Not too long ago I saw a series of photos online, that a Russian photographer had taken. He had captured snowflakes landing on glass, and magnified them to reveal dozens of extraordinary shapes. And right in front of me, I could see the same thing—the beauty of a miniature paper-cut snowflake—when I took the time to really look.

Had I ever stopped to take a really good look at a snowflake? (And snow happens to be one of my favorite things.) How often do I really stop and just Be. I smiled down at the snowflakes and did what any good blogger would do in 2014—got out my camera phone. (Click on the photo above to take a closer look.)

Having a chance to appreciate the artful snowflake made me think about how this is often what life, and creativity/making art (quilted chuppahs or otherwise), asks of us. Pausing to examine what is before you, and within you. Being willing to trust in the vision you see in your mind’s eye, and gently coax it into the physical world. Creating anything, like planting seeds in a garden, is an act of faith. Know that taking a closer look will always be worth it.






Sunday, January 26, 2014

Everyone Loves a Chuppah

Last night I had the pleasure of having coffee with a friend I haven’t seen in a while, and as we got talking we bounced ideas around creativity that spark excitement and passion for us. I told her how interesting it is to me that people tend to respond positively to the sheer idea of creative and personalized chuppah (not to mention the reaction when they’ve seen a handmade chuppah in person.) Why, I asked my friend, is this particular ritual so enduring and endearing to Jews of the diaspora? I have wondered about chuppah customs around the world and also, the historical aspect of chuppahs—i.e. in the shtetls, did they use a tallis (prayer shawl) as a chuppah—or could it be that women known for their handiwork helped to create chuppahs? I told my friend that I didn’t have many answers to my questions at this point, and we wondered aloud at the wonderment of chuppahs. While any couple of any religion can get married/united under a canopy, when guests at a Jewish wedding catch sight of a canopy they instantly connect with the magic of the occasion. This special ritual provides a sense of place and home, much like the chuppah itself. I think this topic is worthy of more research. What do you think; do you know more about who made chuppahs in generations past?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Handmade Business Cards

I thought I'd show you the business cards I made for the festival last summer. It was a good excuse to have some.
     I've purchased business cards in the past, but since these cards were for a more artsy endeavor, I spent a little time looking online for ideas. I found some helpful advice: If your business is handmade art, don't settle for cookie-cutter business cards (well, maybe unless you need thousands...but let's cross that bridge when we come to it.)
     After all, your business card is like a first impression--and if your creations are unique, why shouldn't your calling card be the same? I found inspiration from crafty people who incorporated fabric and/or stitching here and here.
     I made my cards from the following materials:
  • card stock
  • fabric (an assortment)
  • big glue stick
  • printable fabric paper (or plain old printer paper)
  • tulle
  • thread

     I used a ready-made business card as a template, and traced it onto the card stock and fabric. I glued the fabric onto each business card and then machine stitched around the card; for some, I also machine stitched a second time after adding the paper that contained the text. (I had some concerns about the ink not being water proof but the results were so pretty I didn't worry much about it.)
    At some point I got the idea to add a layer of tulle (seemed very wedding appropriate), and added that on top of the background fabric before the first round of stitching. If you click on the image above you can take a closer look at the tulle.
     Everyone seems to love the cards. The only thing is, they are a *little* specific ("Chuppah Artist" rather than, for example, "Custom Quilts"), so next time, I would probably create a few different versions depending on my audience. Also, in the future I'll add a website where people can see images of my work. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Something Blue" Chuppah

     It wouldn't be a chuppah adventure without some unanticipated twists and turns, and so it was with my Something Blue Chuppah, which I created in time for the Boulder Jewish Festival. Inspired by a Marge Piercy poem and some beautiful silk fabric, it features an original design of a mini tulle- and floral-adorned chuppah among the poetry.
    The original design was actually quite different; I'd envisioned waves of text flowing horizontally across the chuppah, when I realized that I could have the words under the chuppah, literally. Then, another bump in the road--I found that I needed more blue silk and went to the store. When I brought the fabric home, I realized that the grain of the dupioni silk ran in a different direction than I had thought. So a little brainstorming was required to enlarge the blue background in as subtle a way as possible.
     The purple silk dupioni lettering has been hand cut, fused, and machine appliqued onto the light blue batik background fabric.
     Here are some images of the chuppah as it progressed...

Step 1: I made the white chuppah from silk and fused it to the background.

Step 2: Then I added tulle...

...and after a lot of fussing, hand stitched it down.

Step 3: The finishing touch--a delicate vine with rosebuds made using batik fabric. I loved it!

What's next? I'm planning on an etsy shop but couldn't decide if it should sell chuppahs only, or be more of an 'umbrella' for other judaica/additional creations. I think it will be the latter and will keep you posted.

Chuppah Revival

Ok, it's been a 'while' since I posted. Fast forward to now. I'd like to tell you that I completed 18 chuppahs by now but, it's more like two.

However, the big chuppah news of 2013 was that I designed a new chuppah for a very auspicious deadline (I mean, occasion)--my first booth at the 19th annual Boulder Jewish Festival (and did I mention my first booth, ever?)
     That's right, as many may not know (including pedestrians that happened upon the fresh-air festival by accident), Boulder, CO has an annual Jewish Festival that takes place on the famed, pedestrian-only Pearl Street Mall--the very heart of downtown. And on that day, culture, music, falafel, community, members of the Tribe and the Boulder public wonderfully collide.
     Full disclosure: This was not the first time I vowed to have a table at the fest (it was the second), but it was the first time I actually made it there with chuppahs in tow.
     I was so nervous. Would I  be able to hang the chuppahs up by myself, and would they stay clean all day? (Yes, with a little help from a great festival volunteer, and yes.) It really was a great experience with so many friendly people wandering into my tent for a closer look at these one-of-a-kind chuppahs. It was just as wonderful introducing chuppahs to those who had never even heard of them before.

Many people gravitated towards the Spiral Chuppah...

Here is the completed, quilted Lavender Chai Chuppah I had mentioned in a prior post.

Here's a close-up of a coordinating purple break-the-glass bag I made utilizing machine embroidery. I almost sold a few but had no credit card machine. My sister mentioned that the bride and groom can also use these to collect gifts at the wedding, too. Great idea!

One of my favorite things was a miniature chuppah stand I made for the fest...I can't take complete credit as I got the cute idea from another quilter :)

And here is the newest chuppah. Inspiration struck for this 'under the chuppah' chuppah when I found the royal blue silk at a local fabric shop, Elfriede's. I'll tell you all about it in the next post.