Human beings are a confusing species. There is such a duality to us. Consider the two opposing human desires of predictability and exploration. How is it that a species can desire both? They are opposites. But yet, they must be two sides of the same coin, because we do.
On one hand, we love to fit things into boxes. We want simple explanations; we want there to be absolute answers, we want things to be black and white. We like predictability. It makes it easy for our brains to process information if we can quickly name it and file it away.
It is comforting and comfortable to live with the known.
Contrast that with the human desire for exploration. Humans crave the new. We love to learn, make discoveries, and explore the vast unknown. We like a challenge. We are curious beings. We strive for creativity and originality.
There is joy to be found by stepping into the unknown.
So, there’s a dichotomy. We want to feel comfortable; comfort is such a warm and cozy feeling. As for the unknown, there is discomfort there. There is fear: of uncertainty, of failure, of insecurity; there is stress.
It doesn’t make sense to always be outside of your comfort zone. It would be utterly stressful to never have the comfort of the known. It also doesn’t make sense to always be comfortable. Boredom, perhaps even regret, is sure to follow.
It can’t be one or the other. In fact, I think it’s actually the contrast between the known and the unknown that is most beneficial to us. We can’t have one without the other, because it's the contrast itself that provides the enjoyment. If there is too little contrast, what is life but monotony?
We need to allow ourselves to go through the uneasiness of the unknown, so that we can find the delight of discovering new things; about ourselves, about our world. Once we push ourselves through this discomfort, the unknown is unknown no longer. We will find our minds expanded and we will become comfortable with this new way of being.
Then we can begin again. Push and expand, understand and relax. Both, and.
Although I've always loved creating art, I feel stiff and scared whenever I try new art materials. I have a fear of not knowing what I'm doing and I worry that I'm doing it wrong and it won't turn out. In fact, I haven't tried any new art materials in quite a while. I think it's because I have this preoccupation with the final result.
Currently, I'm researching creativity for my grant project and I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject. In the book Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go, author Shaun McNiff urges us to be playful with new art materials. He wants us to simply see what the materials can do without an expectation of the final result.
He says, "We do not have to know where we're going at the beginning of the creative act. People who control the work in advance are pushing against the grain of creation, so no wonder there are feelings of inhibition and emptiness."
The other day my son dropped his pristine set of chalk pastels and was utterly devastated. In that moment, I had a flashback to my own childhood urges to keep everything perfect. I thought, what was the point in keeping all those art materials looking new?
So I asked my son if I could use his broken pastels.
I found some black paper and I sat myself out in my backyard. It was a lovely summer evening and I sat for a minute and watched the bumble bees buzzing on my coneflowers. My daughter's interest was sparked, and she sat down next to me and asked for paper. We both started drawing. We chatted. We broke the pastels even more.
It was just right: she was without self-consciousness and I felt the same. We were in the moment and it was playful and relaxing.
I can already see that during the process of this grant project I'm going to be doing more than creating fiber art. I'm giving myself permission to let go of expectations. I'm going to explore new art materials and simply play.
I may even break things more often.
On a summery Saturday afternoon in late June, I got a letter in the mail from the Textile Center. It was very slim. Definitely just one sheet of paper inside. Letters that slim are always letters declining an application, right? Right. It must be a letter to let me know that I did not get the grant, the one whose proposal I had so rigorously worked on for weeks and weeks the previous month.
But yet, I had a good feeling about this grant.
I took the letter out to my backyard. After taking a seat and a deep breath, I slowly opened the letter. Yes, it was just one sheet of paper, but I quickly spotted the word "congratulations" in bold print! In fact, it said, "Congratulations! You have been selected to receive a Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant for 2018-19."
And so for the next 10 months I am on a journey of discovery. This grant has provided me with the opportunity, the time, and the funds to explore the ideas I find most interesting. And to create art! I'm beyond honored and humbled to have received it.
The Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant is amazing. For one, I will be supported throughout the duration of the grant period. I still feel like I'm new to the world of textile art, and I'm happy to take all the help and input I can get. But, of course, the most exciting part is that the grant process will culminate with an exhibition of my art at the Textile Center in the spring of 2019. That will be thrilling!
I hope you'll follow along on my journey. I plan to blog about what I'm up to, and I'll also be posting my in-progress work on Instagram.
Of course, I can't continue without saying thank you to the Textile Center for this amazing opportunity! And thank you to the jurors for their belief in me!
Below is the announcement of the recipients of the Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant for 2018-19.
At the bottom is a slide show of the photos I submitted with my proposal.
You can find out more about the Jerome Project Grant here.
My latest work of textile art “Two Views” got its start back in September when I had been making an overabundance of sharks and I needed a creative break. It wasn’t in my schedule, but I pulled out some fabrics and decided to work on something different for the day.
I do a lot of ruminating on philosophical ideas. I like to consider things like: what makes us human, how society works, and the intricacies of human relationships. I also love to learn about the latest science on the human brain.
When I took out the two blue patterns five months later, I had been thinking extensively about the concept of reality. Everyone is different. Our upbringings and our unique life experiences are like filters, and it is through these filters that we understand the world. I like to ponder if there is an actual true Reality when we are all looking at the world in so many different ways.
In his book The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen wrote, "Life has a kind of velvet luster. You look at yourself from one perspective and all you see is weirdness. Move your head a little bit, though, and everything looks reasonably normal." I find this idea fascinating. I frequently notice that I hold two seemingly contradictory feelings or thoughts or views at the same time. I decided to explore these ideas further as I worked with the two slightly different blue striped patterns.
Most of the time, I don’t have a predetermined design that I’m working to create. Likewise, for this project I used the process of cutting and arranging to lead me to the final design. This way of working can itself be a contradiction since it's both exciting and nerve-racking to work when the outcome is unknown. I have to do a lot of stepping back and looking and thinking during the process.
I think this artwork would look wonderful framed in a modern white float frame. Its complex, yet soothing pattern, simple straight lines, and beautiful blues will bring a sense of calm and interest to any space.
You can see this piece in person at the upcoming American Craft Council Show in St. Paul, April 20 - 22, 2018. I'll be in booth 510.
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions.
I started last year with intentions of spending a whole lot of time exploring my new love: wall art. I got through the winter and the spring creating new works and exploring new ideas. It was thrilling!
I made my first sale of wall art at the American Craft Show in April, where I was also awarded the Award of Excellence in Booth Design. Things were looking good! Then, my handbag line got picked up by the prestigious Walker Art Center's gift shop, as well as the UptownMN shop in the MSP Airport. I was so happy!
And then came mid-summer. Unexpectedly, the year turned into (cue the Jaws theme music: dun dunnnnnn, dun dun dunnnnnnn... ) The Year of the Shark.
At the end of July, with a single day's warning, Etsy chose to feature my 'Out to Sea' Shark Bite Pouch on their front page.
This launched a tidal wave of orders!
Only a few weeks into the feature, I was booked with 12 weeks worth of work! At that point, I removed all Shark Bite pouches from my Etsy shop to stem the tide of incoming orders.
As Autumn rolled around, I was ready to stop making sharks and get back to my explorations of art.
My favorite retailer, Uncommon Goods, was looking to get in on the shark action! After a smattering of small orders, they suddenly placed an order for 120 sharks (!) in November. I almost told them, "No thanks, I've had enough of sharks for the year." But, I challenged myself to take the order and completed 120 sharks in just three weeks.
That comes out to about 5 months worth of working on sharks full-time!
What got me through such an intensive amount of time creating sharks? Well, it was helpful to have a vacation to look forward to!
I ended the year with a much needed break: a family dream-vacation in Maui, Hawaii.
Although, I didn't see any sharks, I did see: humpback whales, eels, an octopus, sea turtles, manta rays, and loads of fish and coral!
I went scuba diving, surfing, snorkeling, whale watching, and spent plenty of time swimming in the sea and exploring the island. It was wonderful.
Now I'm back in my studio, thinking about the year ahead. I plan to make some changes. I'm ready to make this year The Year of Exploring Textile Art. And so that it doesn't get away from me again, I'll have to do things a little bit differently.
I think sharks will need to take a back burner if I want to make progress on my art.
First, however, I have an order of 30 sharks to complete...
Happy New Year!
Now, don't get me wrong, being busy is good news. But having down time is also important. I can get crabby when my mind and body haven't had a chance to recover from a big event or an intensive period of work.
This past weekend I was finally able to take some restful time off. Spending time outdoors in the sunshine, and also reconnecting with my family, has rejuvenated me a bit. I actually got antsy at the end of the weekend; inspiration for another piece of art has been nagging me. It is a challenge to put off a creative urge until there is time to devote to it!
So, here I am, two weeks late, taking a moment to write..
A Quick Recap of the Show
And if the thoughtful reception by the public wasn't enough, I was thoroughly astounded on Friday afternoon when the American Craft Council presented me with the Award of Excellence in Booth Design.
Here I am being presented with the award by ACC director of education Michael Radyk (left) and ACC executive director Chris Amundsen (right).
From the American Craft Council:
"A tradition established at the start of the American Craft Shows, the Awards of Excellence recognize and celebrate show artists ... From a pool of more than 200 incredibly talented makers, five were chosen to be honored with awards at our 2017 American Craft Show in St. Paul.
Taking home the award for booth design, which honors both quality of work and booth presentation, was textile artist Mary Pow, whose display highlights the clean lines of her striking, color-block work."
After floating through the rest of Friday with stars in my eyes, I didn't think the show could get any better. But Saturday proved me wrong.
We were anticipating a slow day due to the beautiful weather outside. And while Saturday may have been quieter; for me, it is a day I will never forget! I made my first-ever sale of wall art.
Of course, after I sold a piece of wall art, I had to scramble to figure out how to wrap it. I was not prepared for a sale! Luckily, my very kind booth neighbor, artist Amber Harrison, helped me out by bringing me cling wrap and felt. (She is the same person who, after I received the award for booth design said to me, "And you were so worried about your booth!" True. I was.)
Here I am standing next to my four-panel piece, The Interplay of Opposites, right after it sold.
I think maybe the best part of the show is meeting the artists. Since artists tend to work in solitude, gathering for a craft show is a rare opportunity. It forces us to get out of our studios and interact with each other. I think, although we enjoy spending time alone, we also like to find out how other artists work. I know one of my favorite things is to hear about the process behind the craft.
Thank you to the American Craft Council for honoring me with such a prestigious award. Thank you to my husband for his encouragement and assistance. Thank you to the show-goers and patrons who support fine craft. And thank you to the artists who inspire us all!
I didn't do anything with that one piece at the time, and it fell to the bottom of the pile on my side table. But the idea of creating wall art grew on me. Throughout the fall my mind was full of ideas. Color combinations I wanted to work with swirled around in my head.
I couldn't take action at the time; holiday shows and orders took precedent and I had to wait until the new year to start exploring my ideas. But once my time freed up, I went all in -- and for the past few months, I've been wholeheartedly enjoying the process of assembling textiles into arrangements of pattern and color.
Creating larger works, without the constraints of turning them into handbags, has allowed me to explore so many ideas.
I've been able to think about how to create the look of movement with arrangements of fabric.
I've been enthralled with exploring the idea of opposites, especially at a time of such polarization in our country.
There is a lot more that I want to do. In fact, it seems that I have an over-abundance of ideas for color combinations and patterns that I want to work with. I especially want to think more about how opposites can work together. And I don't want to stop making more.
I hope to see you there!
Let me introduce you to all the adorable "pet fish" currently available. They are hungry! And they are excited to go home with you!
It makes me so happy to know that I'm not alone in thinking that these fish are simply too adorable not to love!
I hope you'll take one home with you!
Traveler, your footprints
Nope. After many years in school, I was finally logging my intern hours at an architectural firm, just as I had planned. I was following The Path I had set out for my life. I was on track to becoming a Licensed Architect. (Such a long process.)
Of course, I had also planned to be a mom. I always wanted to be a mom, but I hadn't considered how the two would work together. Architecture is an historically male-dominated field; at school, as we learned about the process of becoming an Architect, no one ever talked about how becoming an Architect would work together with becoming a mother. I never considered it either. Even though they both happen at the same time in one's life -- you know, biological clocks and such.
Who knew once I had a baby - and then another just 18-months later - that my planned path would suddenly, and completely, change direction? I took 6-months off work for both babies. A dream! Then I went back to work, but worked only part-time. It wasn't great, I didn't like it. I cut back to even parter-time. Still not right. After so much internal debating, I quit.
What a tough decision. I worried, "How will I ever get back on track to becoming a Licensed Architect if I stay at home being a mom for several years?" There was no guidebook for those questions. I didn't know what to expect. All I could do was toss my plans. I decided not to think about my planned path, not to worry about the future. I needed to be with my babies.
I loved it. It was wonderful. I also didn't like it. It was so many things: monotonous, chaotic, ordinary, extraordinary, amazing, and amazingly difficult. (Being a mom is full of contradictory feelings, I learned.)
I didn't think about architecture. Except: deep down inside I craved to be creative, to be my own person apart from being a mom, to have my own space even. I was quietly jealous of my classmates from school who were building their architecture careers, while I stayed home. In the back of my mind I thought, "Why did I spend so many years in school - for this?"
Slowly, I carved out a space of my own in our spare room. I didn't know what I was even going to do with it, but I felt the need to have a space. My own creative space. I tentatively, quietly, referred to it as my studio.
My baby boys got bigger. I started playing around with fabric. I borrowed my mom's sewing machine. I designed my own bags, and made fun stuff for my kids. I accidentally started a business! It began to thrive and it took up more of my time. My boys started preschool and kindergarten and I thought, "What will I do now? Should I try to grow this teeny-tiny business of mine? Or should I go back to work? How will I get back on the Architecture Track after being away so long?"
But our family wasn't complete, I didn't need to consider that next step. I became a mom to a lovely baby girl. I took time off from my teeny-tiny business. And since my daughter wouldn't nap anywhere but in my arms; I didn't have much opportunity to sew. I held her for all those hours of forced quietness, and I loved it, I savored it (my last baby!), and I resented it (again with those contradictory feelings). I still craved to do my own thing.
As she got bigger, I knew I had to grow my business. We decided to try daycare a couple days a week to see what I could do if I had more time. I had two days a week all to myself! I worked in my home studio and got to do my own thing. My business grew a little. It was thrilling!
Unfortunately, it was also limiting. I still had all my same duties as a homemaker, as a mom to three growing, changing kids, as the planner, organizer, everything of our family - but with less time to do it all. I learned to become a great juggler, as all moms do, I'm sure. But I also became stressed. And I became bitter. Why did I have so many responsibilities? I was working, even if my workplace was in our home.
It was time for my husband and I to talk. I needed him to help carry the load if I was going to be working. He agreed. We rearranged some chores, I felt better. Things were going well!
But there were always summers to sort out, days off from school to take my time, a kid home sick, or this-that-and-the-other-thing, and all the responsibilities kept falling to me. I was over-whelmed. I told myself I could handle it, I was used to being a stay-at-home mom. Yet, every time my life got complicated with being a mom, my business was put in last place.
This past summer was especially intense. It has reminded me that I am an artist, and an introvert, at heart. It's challenging to put myself into creative-mode when my time is fractured into small segments, or when I'm continually interrupted. I love my family and I love being a mom, but I also need space and time to do my own thing. Putting my business last means putting myself last, and I can't to do that anymore.
School has started again. We're getting back into a routine. I have more hours to work on my business, my daughter is in preschool and daycare most days, and my boys are in school.
My husband and I continue to talk about sharing responsibilities. Which can be very hard! Many things that I had done as a stay-at-home mom, I continue to do out of habit. Luckily, my husband is an understanding guy, and he's willing to change as I enlighten him on the many responsibilities I can no longer do on my own. I'm learning to be an advocate for my time. If I don't place importance on my business and my art, who will?
Next year all three of my kids will be in school. I'm excited to have even more time to explore my artistic side. I'm considering moving my work to a studio outside of our home. Maybe I'll be able to hire an assistant if I have more space. It would be nice to separate family space from work space -- finally. It would also make some things more difficult. There's always another challenge to figure out.
I never planned on being a stay-at-home mom, but I got to do it twice. In two different ways. And soon I'll be moving on to the next chapter of my life. But this is something that I've learned: There is no path. I'm making my own path. Readjust as necessary.
Here's what's going on this week:
- Name the Shark contest! Going on now on my Facebook page. You could win a $15 gift certificate to my shop!
- Free U.S. Shipping on all Shark Bite pouches! Through July 4th, 2016. Use coupon code SHARKWEEK.
- Four new Shark Bite cases are available in the shop this week!
- An exclusive Shark Week deal will be going out in my newsletter this week! You can get my latest newsletter by signing up here!
- Five years of sharks! I've been making Shark Bite pouches for the past five years. Read my back-story and find out how I got the idea to create a shark-shaped bag in the first place!
Have a happy Shark Week! Keep swimming! ;)
I am an artist and designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My specialties are textiles and pastels.
I also enjoy reflecting on the human condition.
In my blog, I write about my musings and my art.
Find my bio here.