First Friday Voices with Clara Nartey

First Friday Voices with Clara Nartey

A Practicing Creative is A Progressing Creative

There’s this myth that we often buy into. The myth that a progressing creative is someone who has some special talents that the rest of us regular people don’t have. Who’s the “progressing creative” you may ask?

You’ve certainly met her. She’s the person who makes awesome stuff, always seems to have the coolest ideas and everything she makes just turns out great. She seems to be on a roll, has a lot of energy and never creates one bad thing. I bet you’ve met her.

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I once wanted to be like her. I wanted her as my role model, my mentor – I wanted her in my corner.  I wanted to discover her ways and become like her. I worked hard to achieve high results like her.

Yes, there was a time, I too believed the myth – the myth that these people are just out of this world. That they must have been born with special talents which make everything they touch come alive; that creativity simply came to them easily. Then I decided to become serious with my creative endeavors and became a practicing textile artist. That’s when I learned that a practicing creative is a progressing creative. It’s just that simple!!!

It’s been shown over and over again that practice results in improvement hence the popular adage, “Practice makes perfect” (although, I prefer to say “practice brings progress” and loads of it). The more you practice at your craft, whether it be writing, sewing, painting or dancing, the better you become at it. But you’ve got to do a ton of it to become good at it.

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I believe everyone is creative. We all get creative ideas. Sometimes we don’t notice them. But when we become intentional about what we do, when we spend time practicing on the idea working out the kinks, we start to see our work progressing towards our original idea. Soon enough, we become more and more like her- that mythical progressing creative – we once so much admired.

A case in point, At the beginning of the year, I decided to constantly practice stitched drawing. When I look at my first piece it looks just like my work – you know, what I thought of my abilities.  When I look at say, my eighth piece, it looks like the work of someone who’s good at stitching and drawing.  Now when I look at later pieces, I don’t see my work anymore, I see Miss Progressing Creative’s work.

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Like the imp that came to spin the straw into gold for Rumpelstiltskin, I sometimes think a fairy comes to do the stitching to make my work look like that mythical creative woman’s.  But the truth is, we can all be like her.  All we need to make progress in our creativity is loads and loads of practice.

PS: You can go here for Clara’s blog!

First Friday Voices with Ginny Guaraldi

First Friday Voices with Ginny Guaraldi

Mourning Through Sewing

Thank you Janis for inviting me to participate in your blog.

Working with thread and textiles is almost as essential to my well-being as eating and sleeping.  Whenever I am very happy (as when a new grandchild is born), worried or grieving I go to my sewing machine, threads and fabric stash (or to my surface design supplies).  And so it was when my mother died.  It took a year before I could really focus on what I needed and wanted to say.  But then the design came all in a rush.  This is the quilt I made.

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Kit was born in China (my grandfather was a doctor and my grandmother an English professor) and live there until senior year in high school.  Both Cantonese and English were her first languages.  And my grandfather’s passion was growing and identifying new species of orchids.  Her life in the United States after college centered around her 5 children, music and the piano, husband and their activities.  These parts of her my mother’s story drove the choices of photos that I printed onto silk organza; and the machine embroidered Chinese characters that spoke to her life.  I also included things that she would say, poems that resonated with who she was, and her handwriting.

I drew on Korean bojagi to structure the quilt.  Bojagi are wrapping cloths and this quilt symbolically wraps up my memories and emotions.  I painted silk organza in her favorite colors.  And I added hand stitched “patches” to reference what is broken in life and relationships.

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Ginny Guaraldi

Some Notes on the Creative Process

Some Notes on the Creative Process

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As a singer, songwriter and performer, I am continually learning about the nature of the creative process. Trying to adapt strategies to summon, channel and direct this force is a
challenge that requires a certain discipline. Each of my above stated occupations, (or pre-occupations) makes its’ own associated demands. Let’s start with songwriting.

For me, songwriting is sometimes the hardest and other times the easiest creative task. What I am most often asked is, “which comes first, the words or the music”. Usually, but not always, it’s the words. A line or phrase will come into my head, that evokes some feeling, place, person or thing and I’m off and running. Often to nowhere, but the point is to keep at it, pick up the pencil and write. I have several pads of paper with many pages of two or three lines, that went no further, but if I’m lucky, the words will just come flowing out on to the paper, first line leading to the second and so on, as if I’m just a medium through which the words are being manifested. I won’t even know what I’m writing about until it’s done. Maybe not even then. It’s kind of scary and exhilarating, like a motorcycle ride. You don’t fully get the impact of where you’ve been until you step off the bike.

Other times, it can be drudgery. This usually happens when I’ve made a decent start and I think, I know where I want to go, but nothing seems to come, to help me get there. The words have to sound right in my head, there has to be a certain flow… rhythm and rhyme. When it’s really not happening, I have to put it aside for awhile. Hopefully, I’ll be able to come back to it. Unfortunately, inspiration can’t be turned off and on. To paraphrase an old blues verse: “just when you think it’s on….it’s turned off and gone”.

Writing lyrics is not writing poetry. One can be poetic, but a song is meant to be sung. Not many songwriters can get away with sung poetry. And few poets that I know of can convincingly sing their work.

The music often comes from thinking/singing the words. A tune takes shape. Maybe part of the melody of another song can be the starting point for a new melody. Maybe the mood of the song suggests a melody. Maybe there is a chord progression you’ve been saving that fits the lyric. A tune can come from a lot of places.

Working it the other way around, putting words to a melody is a fun exercise. It’s like filling in the blanks in a puzzle. Each note is a blank that has to be given weight and meaning and it all has to make a certain amount of sense. Doesn’t have to be literal, but it has to sound right. If it’s someone else’s melody that has a title, that can be a key to what lyric is called for. If it’s your own melody or one without a title, just go for it. Take whatever the tune is saying to you, making you feel and put that into words. Sometimes a little “poetic license” needs to be applied to either make the lyric or the melody work. In my opinion, there’s no great harm in that.

I really admire the great composers and lyricists of the 1920s through early 1950s that wrote what is often called “the Great American Songbook”. Often writing for Broadway, they perfected the craft of the popular song. Then, in the 50s, the Rock n Roll songwriters, like Leiber & Stoller, turned the industry on its’ head, only to be revolutionized again in the 1960s by the likes of Bob Dylan, The Beatles and a host of singer/songwriters. I guess, I identify more with the latter era that is of my own time. If anyone is interested in hearing examples of my songwriting, I have a CD available for download at cdbaby. It’s called “Originals Anthology Volume I.” There are samples available to hear and you can purchase the whole CD of 15 songs for only $11.99.

Thanks to, my dear friend, Janis, for the opportunity to talk about songwriting here and thank you all, for taking the time to read my comments. Happy Spring! No foolin’!

Andrew Sexton