Sunday, December 29, 2013

Decluttering for Creativity's Sake - New Year Thoughts for the Author/Illustrator

2014 is the year I WILL become a published author. How do I know? Because the publisher that is currently holding my proposal for a children's book has promised to get it moving early in the new year. If this doesn't happen, I will send it elsewhere. While I work on being patient with publishers, I will continue working on other projects, including possibly self-publishing a wonderful story, for adults,  that is just about ready to go. It's a story of love and of war and of how two families became one, through a series of amazing coincidences.

But where will I work? My studio, which has doubled as a guest room and Santa's workshop over the holidays, is totally out of control. The lovely new pencils and sketch books I received for Christmas have no place to call home, and I can't find the right papers to move on with my illustrations for the book that is under consideration. When I get the call, I need to be ready to get back to work on illustrations. Clutter has taken over... again!

I thought I'd try a few strategies for clutter control that I found in the Internet. Since much of the clutter from the studio was moved to another bedroom to make space for company, I thought I'd attack that room, which HAS seen the light of day in the past month. A bed full of clutter from the studio disappeared in less than an hour. I turned on some music, set my phone alarm for 30 minutes,
and got to work with one bag for recycle, one for trash and another for donations. Everything that was on the bed is now in a proper bag or is located where, or near, where it belongs in the studio or various closets. It took less than an hour.

While clearing up this clutter, I also came up with some possible strategies for the studio. I see now that I need bins or shelves for the many types and sizes of paper, page covers and laminating pockets I use. I also need bins or boxes for materials for different projects: genealogy, the current book, two up-coming books, the foundation I run and my card-game business, Copy-cology (c). It is clear that I need some type of shelves in the closet to organize wrapping paper, fabrics, gift bags and various craft supplies.

I also need to work at getting rid of things I don't need and letting go of things that have emotional glue all over them. Today I managed to let go of a number of papers, including the networking plan I created for a university class I used to teach and a crossword puzzle I created for that class. The new year needs a new mind-set. If I created those things 16 years ago, I can certainly create the same things or better ones now. Some of this material might be on an old computer, but accessing old files is yet another challenge for the year ahead. One of the lines I loved from the Internet pointed out that, if your home is full of clutter, there isn't room for all the good things you want in life.

So tonight I will plan and search for organizing tools, and tomorrow (before the new year even begins) I will attack the studio and make it mine once more. Then I will begin to polish "The Mexican Blanket," and work on illustrations for my children's book. The author/illustrator will be back on track for 2014: the year my first book is published!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Holiday Herald - The Art of Christmas at My House

     Of all the arts and crafts projects I have ever created, I think my Advent banner is the one of which I am most proud. During a particularly difficult December about 33 years ago, I made this banner from scraps of felt and bits of craft materials I found in my sewing basket. Finances were tight that year, and I made do with what I could find. The banner, itself was ready on the first day of December, but many nights I stayed up late piecing together the ornament for my son to put on the tree the following morning. A few were patterned after pictures I found in magazines or books, but most were works of heart.
     The Advent banner has hung in my homes in four states, and traveled with my son and me when ever we went "...over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house." It is a constant in my Christmases, whether a child or a spouse shares the trimming of the tree each year. I was deeply touched when my husband's niece called to ask for pictures of it, as she wanted to recreate it for her niece and nephew.
Holly, Jolly Dragon
      It's fun to choose the ornament each day from the bright red basket with it's cheery holiday bow. Some have special significance. The sleigh with a gift in it always goes up on my son's birthday, which falls on St. Nicholas Day. I usually put the wreath ornament up the same day I put the evergreen wreaths on our doors. The snowflake is added the day of the first December snowfall, and the tree on the day we put up our tree. Santa arrives on the tree on December 24th, and the star goes atop the tree on Christmas morning. So, in a way, the banner is the diary of our Christmas preparations.
     We have a drum for the drummer boy, a lollypop, a candy cane, a gingerbread boy and a Christmas mouse. More spiritual symbols include an angel,  one of the abiding shepherd's sheep, a candle, a sprig of holly and an evergreen wreath. Santa, a toy train, a teddy bear
and the Cat-in-the-Hat's hat are joined by dinosaurs,
a trumpet and a bell.
                                                                           For the crafters among you, the ornaments are
stuck to the tree with Velcro (c) dots. Before it is fully dressed, the dots are white balls on the tree. They are interspersed with shiny snowflakes sewn to the tree. Each ornament is slightly stuffed with batting to give is a 3-D look.


      Each ornament is about 2 inches high. Some have googelly eyes. Some include bits of ribbon or bells. Each is hand stitched with love and stuck together with craft glue and affection. This is a treasure that I hope will become an heirloom for future generations.

Stuffed Teddy
So in the days and weeks ahead, as we continue to dress the house for the holidays, write Christmas cards and letters, listen to hymns and Christmas songs, and read beside the fire, the banner, created for my little boy, will be a constant reminder that the days are drawing nearer to the special
day when we received that most
special gift: Jesus, the Christ Child.

As I wait til after the holidays to hear more from my publisher about my book proposal (I got another encouraging email this week) I plan to work on another story which I think I will self-publish. I will get back to work on my illustrations and, of course, create a Christmas letter for my husband and me to send to family and friends. I will also create some new Christmas decor, and bake dozens of cookies and batches of granola. The Longest Night is closing in on us, and I will endeavor to fill these short days with creativity and the spirit of the season.