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I am UmberDove.

And by that, I mean an artist.  One who hears stories in the wind, who paints because it is what her soul tells her to do, who smiths because the muse moves through her fingertips, who loves nothing more than the promise of an unexplored trail, the sound of the ocean in her ears, and scent of a serious cup of coffee.

Week 1 - The Spark

Holding Space

Kelly Clark

“How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour and with that one, is what we are doing.”  - Annie Dillard

I've so been looking forward to this day!    I'm utterly ready to dive in, and so we shall.

Here is a truth:

When you make, be it a painting, a poem, a hand-build mug or a hand-stamped cuff, you make it in a physical space.  And that space has the ability to foster and grow our creativity, or, well, not.  I'm talking about your artistic space, the area in which you create, your own studio.  Some of us have whole rooms dedicated to studio space, some of us have the corner of the dinning table after the plates have been [mostly] cleared.  But no matter the size or how it moonlights when the pencils are packed up, it is still YOUR creative space.


I spent a great many years treating my studios like nice, tidy white boxes to create in.  But somewhere along the way, a shift slipped into place without my conscious recognition.  My studio became more than four walls to hold artist tools.  It became a refuge, a place where I could be emotionally naked (and in one location, so hot that physically naked was about the only option), where I could sit in silence and meditate, where I could dance around like an utter wild woman.  In short, it became sacred space.  I now see my [your] studio space (in whatever size/form/state of permanence) as opportunity to build a sacred site for your works to come forth, a space for intimate expression and the search for your own honest truth.  HERE, in your own space, is where I'd like us to begin.  

The Physical Space

If you already have a creative space dedicated to your art, fabulous!  If not, I'd like you to think about where you will plop down your sketchbook and record your inspirations.  Either way, I want you to stand in the center of that space and do a slow, slow 360 degree turn.  Look for at least one small thing that brings you a hit of joy when your eyes fall upon it.   Over the course of the next six weeks we're going to add to it - not necessarily with more objects, but with more joy.  And if you're unsure, if no one this pops out, then this is exactly the right time to begin.

I have yet to meet an artist who is not a collector of some sort - and I'm willing to step out on a limb and believe that you are too.  Humans naturally have a bit of magpie in them; we want to pick up and hold beautiful things, to collect small objects, to gather memories and experiences, to corral words and images.  These things that we gravitate to are huge shinning beacons that say "this excites me, this inspires me, this is important to me."  Some artists are able to fill every inch of their studio and home with objects d'art, others (like myself) are just too visually stimulated and need a lot of open space with just small groupings.  There are a million images of lovely studios on the internet and in books, but right now we're talking about your studio space.  I'd like you to honestly feel out where you may fall, right this second, on these questions: Does your space feel good to you?  Does it feel like a reflection of you and the things you love?  Don't worry if it doesn't yet -  we have plenty of time.  Just building an awareness allows us to tap into what honestly works for us, and then we can shift and grow from there.  If you already have a dedicated space, do you have inspiring bits and pieces of your life to look at?  If you do not, is there a window ledge, the top of a dresser, or a mantle or some other spot that you can physically gather inspiration?  Sometimes all we need is a single note: one found shell, a beautiful photograph or piece of artwork, a jar full of buttons or dried herbs.  Sometimes a whole vignette, altar, or collection does the trick.  In this, I just want you to think about what makes you feel warm inside, what gives a little pleasure to your heart.  

I ask you to do this because building an intentionally creative space acts like an appetizer; we get a little taste and want more art, more making.  When we feel buoyed and inspired by our surroundings, it tends to come through our fingertips.  When we honor our spaces, we honor the work we will create in them.  When we invest in our studio and spaces, that investment reverberates through us and, I believe, always pays us back tenfold.


Adding Life

Nothing brings up the energy of a space like life.  I have a shameful (yet I am shameless) addiction to houseplants - and I always manage to find room for one more in the studio.  Not only do living, growing things energize your studio and imbue your work with life, but they help cleanse the air and give you an immediate reference for natural shapes.  If growing plants is not your cup of tea, consider gifting your studio space with fresh flowers, herbs or branches - for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, we are sliding into the fall season.  Here in the Pacific Northwest the farmer's markets are still filled with late summer blooms and the streets are alive with autumnal foliage.  I'm a big fan of snipping small sprigs of cedar, rosemary or lavender and popping them into jars - I'll even grab boughs of holly or fir through the winter to bring that fresh life inside.

Creating a Ritual

The truth is, most of us have a lot on our plates.  Sometimes time dictates a fierce schedule: go to work, cook and clean, take care of your errands and business, and now ok get in the studio and be creative!  The scuff and hustle of the day is not always easy to leave behind - and even if you begin your day in the studio, chances are there are plenty of "to-do's" floating around your head.  Acknowledging this and setting aside a few moments before you dive into your art gives your mind a chance to gracefully step into that transition and gives your body a chance to feel grounded in your space.  

We all have a multitude of rituals we preform each day: flossing and washing my face in the evening signals that it's time for bed, coffee and making beastie breakfasts is the trigger that tells me to wake up.  When I step into the studio, I like to signal to my body and brain that Now it's Time to Create.  I don't always do the exact same thing; somedays I'm ready to dive in, and I only need a minute or two to mentally prepare.  Other days I go through my entire bag of tricks, paying attention to the thoughts and feelings arising out of my chest until I feel purged enough to work.

For me, these are some of the small rituals that help me focus, release the clutter of the day and ground fully into my creative process: 

- Meditating or praying.  Even just a few minutes of sitting quietly and intentionally breathing can help focus. 

- Lighting a candle, burning incense, smudging with sage (or sweetgrass, or cedar, or...).  For centuries upon centuries, lighting a flame has been a symbol of creating a sacred space, of clearing out the old energies and bringing in the new.   

- Using scent by spritzing an essential oil, dabbing on a special perfume, or even lighting a scented candle.  Scent plays deep in our physical, pre-verbal brain.  We have all experienced a particular scent that brings us right back to a place in time or a specific memory.  When we use a scent repetitively (i.e. burning sweetgrass smudge every time we prepare to work in the studio space), that scent become a message to our brain, saying "hey! now I get to create!"   


Week 1:  Your first homework (homeplay!) 

We'll be easing into our creative processes by setting the stage.

- Assess your studio space.  If you already have a space in which you work, take 20 minutes to re-energize it.  Clear off your desk or bench, wipe it down and replace only the things you need and love looking at.  And unless you're feeling particularly inspired, no more than 20 minutes!  Just give it a little love.  I promise it will love you back.  If you do not have a permanent space, then assess where you will be happiest creating and make sure that space is ready for you.  Tidy it up, clear it off, and again,  no more than 20 minutes!  We are not in the business of house cleaning, we're just setting the intention and clearing the space so that it is ready for US. 

- Add some life.  Gift yourself some flowers, gather some wild blooms from your neighborhood, buy a wee houseplant, bring in a single leaf or branch that you find beautiful.  I'm serious about this one!  I know, it seems like the easiest one to ignore, and perhaps even the least important, but let me say it a different way.  When we gift ourselves and our spaces (and remember, gifting doesn't mean spending money - my neighbor's rosemary can attest to that!), it is a step of self-care and self-love.  It is a kindness and a gentleness to ourselves, and promise, we all need a little more of that!

- Try on a few different rituals.  Those listed above are a great place to begin; some may work for you, all may work, or you may have your very own.  I just encourage you to see what feels good and generous in your life, and leave what doesn't serve you well behind.   

Alright you wild women!  Get to it! 

If you are in the FaceBook group and would like to share photos of your studio and creative spaces, I'd LOVE to see them!  There are few things more inspiring that the sharing of space!  And if you are not in the FaceBook group and would like to be, just drop me an email or a FB message and I'll add you in pronto! 

Be well sisters! 

- K