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I Can’t Because : Creative Blockage

The baby took an unexpected nap in her highchair. I had just finished wiping down the kitchen and realized my opportunity to get to redecorating was now. Since Christmas had been stripped, decorations remained un-replaced. I raced up the steep attic steps to fetch my decorative stuff from the various bins. The house desperately needs color and character. And as I shoved the carpet down into the stairwell hole, I heard “I can’t because” being disproved.

 macrame basket on table

I have been chanting “I can’t because” quite a lot since the baby arrived. Plenty of projects I say I’m unable to do because I can’t be hands free to do this or that. But then I managed to clean a bathroom while my son watched her. And balanced a checkbook while she was both awake and asleep. Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Sometimes I have back up, most of the time I don’t. Will I never? No, just not exactly right now unless it is right now.

 Crackers and the quilt top form the I Can't Because post on Shalavee.com

You can make whatever you want to happen if you are willing to come up with solutions to whatever keeps you from doing it. Childcare is a big one for me but I think I can steal time and energy and nap time here and there enough to get a multitude of tasks done. It seems only the creative tasks get the shaft. Hmm !?

 Bar top with Spring motif on I Can't Because post on Shalavee.com

I really truly want to condone the “I can’t because” statement. I want to be supportive of the road bumps that happen in people’s lives. I can’t agree to “I can’t because” but I can say, yes you can in a different way in a different time by a different method, encouraging someone’s will to push through. I’m inspired by the courage I see it take to make the impossible possible. I want my underdog to give me hope for delivery from my own stuck-ness. So I shoved the rug down the stairwell and grabbed a purple tote full of stuff and descended. I intend to be the change.

(Read my letter of gratitude to Holly Becker after I took her first e-course when I began to truly see my creative blockage for what it was, bad for me.)

Fresh Flowers

My love of fresh flowers is deep and true.

Bells of Ireland from Shalavee.com

When I worked for Pama at Moonvine, I was very lucky to not only spend time with flowers but also learn their names and discover what I loved . And a party is just an excuse to order flowers to play with.

Vases and flowers from Fresh Flowers post on Shalavee.com

I’m such a flower snob and control freak, in true Pama style, I’d prefer a bouquet of solely one flower. I’ll scrutinize an arrangement unless it’s made by a floral designer of my liking.

Mantel arrangement with milk glass vases, old bottles, purple lisianthus, shasta daisies, maidenhead fern from Fresh Flowers post on Shalavee.com

For Fiona’s party, as I did with her coming out party last year, I went ahead and ordered my flowers from the florist in town, Patti’s Petals. As I did last year, I ordered Shasta daisies, pink stock, and ranunculus.

Bells of Ireland, ranunuculus,lisianthus, and stock on the mantel from Fresh Flowers post on Shalavee.com

This year, I added bells of Ireland (hello St. Patty’s day), purple lisianthus (inspired by my friend Lauren’s pictures), and some maidenhead fern for greenery. 

Maidenhead fern, Shasta daisies, and Bells of Ireland in a silver water pitcher from Fresh Flowers post on Shalavee.com

The bells and daisies are very hardy. The stock smells lovely and is short-lived. The maidenhead fern is brittle and needs to be photographed soon. I woke up to green crunchy fern in the vases the day of the party.

Springtime celebration from Fresh Flowers poast on Shalavee.com

Buying them from the local florist this way was more than half price of what it would cost to have them arrange these flowers. Perhaps I’ll ask for a gift certificate from Patty’s Petals for Mother’s Day instead of buying live plants like I always do. Either way, the they’ll be dead soon enough. Smell the flowers today.

Party Playtime : Paper Feathers

This past weekend was the Big Bash for the One Year-Old Fiona Marie.

Chandelier feathers and painting from Party Playtime on Shalavee.com

As usual, a party is always a good excuse for playtime. I perused the place of pins and knew I needed a paper feathers garland . 

Purple and red paper feathers from Party Playtime on Shalavee.com

I used a copper sharpie and some other metallic paint pens coupled with old music, handmade purple paper with gold thread, and construction paper from my childhood. The colors of the old paper are worn and more muted. And familiar.

preproduction of paer feathers on Party Playtime from Shalavee.com

preproduction of paer feathers on Party Playtime from Shalavee.com

This job was a bit tedious but I did find a rhythm and worked in shifts. When my feathers were done, I strung them on bakers twine using an embroidery needle I could almost thread without my glasses.

dining room with paper feather s for Party Playtime on Shalavee.com

My color choices was based on the “B” painting, painted by a family friend, that hangs in the dining room now. Red, purple, green, pink, and black and white were the primary colors. And when the balloons and presents came in, it was festive and sweet.

paper feathers for we are contributors and Party Playtime on Shalavee.com

feathers curtain and painting for Party Playtime on Shalavee.com

feathers curtain and painting for Party Playtime on Shalavee.com

Sometimes it’s not the perfection of the craft but the spontaneity and whimsy of the gesture that makes something work. These feathers were rough. Some of the paper was brittle and yet the overall effect was charming. And because they are small, they were very hard to take a good picture of too.

Paper feathers on floral fabric from Party Playtime on Shalavee.com

As with Fiona’s Coming Out Party last May, everyone enjoyed themselves, the place looked lovely, and I got to play with flowers. Those pictures are coming plus another project that Eamon helped with.

“And she’ll have fun fun fun til her Daddy takes the T-bird away.”

Suzonne Stirling – Uber-Creative Stylist and Mom : Q and A

Sometime ago, I was on Pinterest and came across some fabulous image that I pinned. I must have then followed the image to its home where I found Suzonne Stirling’s delightful blog, Urban Comfort. Suzonne is a professional magazine stylist with an amazing ability to work on multiple holiday decoration projects simultaneously at the wrong times of the year. She’s an author of two sweet little baby room inspiration books, a New Orleanian, a wife, a mama, and has a passion for creating unique cocktails, baking,  recreating antiques, and throwing herself head-first into her current challenge which usually ends up better than she’d imagined. She lives a passionately creative life.

plaster dipped flowers from Urban Comfort via Shalavee.com
I’ve been subscribed to her beautiful and simple blog for some time, gawking at the pictures she takes and magazine spreads she creates for a living. She is a consummate professional, painstakingly detail oriented, and all of her pictures and DIYs are thorough. I’ve lifted these pictures from some of my favorite posts/projects. Easter eggs with fabric patterns, The vellum moths on the candle sticks with industrial light bulbs, the mirror with plaster of Paris dipped flowers, and the pictures she took stalking around the French Quarter at nighttime with her friend Tristan. 

vellum moth on industrial bulb from Urban Comfort via Shalavee.com

This past year, I peeled myself from the woodwork and said hi to Suzonne. She said hi back. Yay. And I probably gushed when she actually paid a visit to my blog around Christmas time to find out how I was doing with my holiday neuroses. One of my new-found themes of interest has been on the subject of mothering and creating and how these work together or don’t for each creative parent. And so I kindly asked Suzonne if she might answer a few questions about these subjects. I offered,”There are many other domestic artistics out there and I’m curious to see how we all feel.” Her responses are very interesting, very honest, and very familiar in many ways.  My questions are in the italics.

You have a boy around the same age as my boy right? When I had my children, especially having this second one when I’m just getting on a blog roll, I feel I need to work twice as hard to maintain my separate creative self. Have you ever felt a need to work harder to maintain or increase your image as a creative or to be successful as it relates to being a mother as well?

I have a 7 year-old son and before he was born I was completely oblivious to how it would change not only my creative life, but my work life (complicated by the fact that my work life requires me to be creative in the first place). I was about a week past my due date and sick of waiting for birth, so I took on a magazine assignment to occupy my time. When I finally went into labor a few days later, I was in full swing, all of my projects laid out and waiting. When I returned from the hospital, after an unexpected C-section, all of those projects were still laid out in my kitchen and had to be completed. It was the hardest deadline I’ve ever had to meet. I pulled it off, but it was a very rude awakening. I had grown so accustomed to working whenever I wanted, all hours of the day or night, and suddenly there were more pressing concerns.

I felt a bit panicky for the entire first year of my son’s life. I constantly felt like I was treading water, unable to ever get into a creative groove since my work was broken up into small increments of time. It was scary, being a freelancer, and I wasn’t sure if my career would survive motherhood. But it definitely got easier over time and when my son was ready for preschool at the age of 4 it felt like an incredible luxury to have 6 hours of uninterrupted creative work time – an amount of time I would have scoffed at before becoming a mother.

leaf bowl from Urban Comfort by Suzonne Stirling via Shalavee.com

Do you feel there’s a societal conflict between creating, success, and mothering?

I think we’ve grown accustomed to seeing women “having it all,” so we don’t necessarily question whether a woman can be a successful creative, business woman, and a successful mother at the same time. But I think in some ways that it’s a disservice to women. Without help of some sort, I think it’s nearly impossible to do it all well, all of the time. I think those women who make it look so easy are either spinning in circles behind the scenes or benefitting from outside help.

A friend once told me that “you can have it all, just not all at the same time.”  I’ve grown to realize how true that is. Sometimes my child needs me more and my creative life takes a backseat, limited to only what I need to financially survive. At other times he’s doing his own thing and I can play a bit more, take some time to experiment creatively. I accept that there will be ups and downs, times of struggle and relative ease. I just work to be flexible, to meet the demands of each cycle. 

Was there a point, after you’d worked so very hard to establish a product and presence, when you could relax a little?

I’ve worked hard enough that I don’t worry about my career too much. But I don’t know that I feel relaxed per se. I think when your work is creative you really need to be engaged, searching and exploring most of the time. There are too many new (and old) things to learn, too many ways in which you can stretch yourself. When I find myself on autopilot that will be a signal that it’s time to switch careers. In fact, my favorite assignments are the ones in which I feel a little out of my depth, when it’s more challenging and there’s more to lose – and more to learn. 

 

bramble drink from Urban Comfort via Shalavee.com

What do you do to keep balanced your career and family goals? To keep from burning out at both ends? What are your thoughts, mantras, or practices on maintaining the balance of being a good mother and a productive artist?

Unfortunately I’m not the poster child for a healthy work/family balance, though I am always trying. A lot of times my work is feast or famine, so I tend to work within those parameters. When my work life is all-consuming, I ask my family for patience and they generally understand that it’s temporary. But that means I need to be present and engaged with them when the work slows down. But I always find myself wishing that there were a little more downtime, fewer obligations. 

I’m always working to change that balance, though. For instance, my son needs to read for 20-30 minutes each night as part of his homework. He likes it when I sit with him, so now we read together. It’s a nice bit of togetherness and the upside is that I get to read every day, something I didn’t do much of when he was younger. It’s a win-win for both of us. 

As for burning out, that danger is always present. But the one thing that keeps me going through just about everything is reminding myself that it’s all temporary – whether it’s specific parenting challenges, a heavy workload, lack of personal time, etc. If I can remember that it’s temporary I can put one foot in front of the other until it’s done. And when that temporary challenge is over, I celebrate in some way – a date with my husband on a weekday after weeks of non-stop work, a double feature, or lounging around in my pajamas for the day. 

And now the easy questions. What has been the most exciting point in your career to date and why? How do you celebrate?

Your easy questions made me laugh. I’m still looking for the most exciting point in my career to date – and I hope sincerely that I never find it! I am much more excited about the possibilities ahead of me than anything I’ve achieved in the past. My joy lies in the journey. But I will say, it was very exciting to receive my first paycheck for a creative endeavor. Realizing that someone will pay you to be creative is a wonderful, wonderful feeling! I still get a little thrill every time I receive a check. I hope that never goes away.

Thanks again Suzonne for stopping to really think about how you would answer. Can I say, I have even a bigger girl crush on you after I read your answers. The “have it all” statement was right on. Such smart friends she has. And her thought about the “joy lies in the journey” is so inspiring. I feel honesty not only helps us with our process, it’s also helpful to anyone who shares similar circumstances or problems as us. In sharing my internal conflict with my creative self and motherhood, I’m hoping to empower others to be better at both by making respectful choices for themselves and their children.

For her thoughtful post on the power of women’s friendships, read her lovely thoughtful Valentine’s Day entitled A Season of Women here.

Outside My Window Today

It snowed today. It snowed yesterday.

back of the Denton, Maryland courthouse from Shalavee.com

Stuck inside with a busy baby.

The long shadows are still lovely on Shalavee.com

She’s walking around and tearing up the contents of cabinets.

sunset in the museum window  on Shalavee.com

Winter wonderland has lost it's glamor on Shalavee.com

We took a trip to see her grocery store friends today.

The almshouse from Shalavee.com

Wave to the nice vultures.

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