Balance, Alignment, Juggling, Space

April 24, 2012

To piggyback on yesterday's post about making space for Big Things, here are some perspectives on juggling life and work and art (the peak times and the down times):

:: Kathleen Shannon writes about searching for 'alignment' rather than 'balance'.

:: Meg Keene discusses down time between big creative projects.

:: Photographer Becka Robinson brings motherhood into the equation.

I think that 'balance' would be having a porch office again.  But would I get anything done?

Making Space In A Sea of Big Things

April 23, 2012

Lately at our house the name of the game has been Big Things: big shifts, ideas, and plans.  I like it.  Unlike last year, the Big Things don't feel tornado-like in nature, sucking me up before I have a chance to realize what's going on.  But, they do get exhausting.  And, it's easy to get so good at chugging along in the constant motion that I forget to step outside of it for an occasional reality check.  So, I try to make space.
Meet Jarvis.

Making space means two things for me:

#1 Remembering to breathe.  Seriously. Today I was mid Mental Health Support Class (also known as a spinning class), and I was dragging as we hauled away.  It occurred to me that life was feeling like this right now: a little too quickly paced to easily breathe or engage in conversation.  I realized that panicking or thinking too hard about it wasn't going to help.  So, I just found my breath, and paid attention as my thoughts came and went, and just enjoyed being in it.  I'm not proclaiming some deep enlightenment that I've found.  Rather, I've just found a confidence that giant things will come and go, and I will still be standing at the end- breathing.  And, that's mega different from this time last year, where Big Things shut me down with anxiety that kept me from sleeping for months.  The goal is to not get too stuck in my head-- to stay in my body.

Seen on a street by my house.
#2 Finding my joy.  It's not rocket science: I'm a happier, more creative person when I make time to do things just because I like them.  I like life more when I remember what I'm curious about in the first place.  And, sometimes these things have nothing to do directly with creating, but sometimes connecting to these things ends up being the surprise instigator of good ideas.  Today I was reminded that I adore Jarvis Cocker, the frontman of the band Pulp, and that  I need more Brit Pop in my life.  I bookmark writing and images that I love for times when I have trouble remembering what's exciting in the world.  Because, if I can't remember what it's like to be at least a little bit madly in love with the world, what's the point?  That love is where the good stuff comes from.

In the last week, I've talked to a lot of creative people who are feeling a bit bogged down by the constant juggling that their work requires.  There are grants to write and audiences to develop and logistics to carefully pinpoint.  And, suddenly you've forgotten why you're doing it in the first place: the message that got you excited or the thrill of connecting with the audience, or the ideas that you're probing so intently in rehearsal.   And, that's where the real fuel resides.  That's the important stuff.  The logistics?  Those can be figured out.

It's tech week for the high school production of Guys & Dolls that I've been choreographing.   There are fourteen boys performing a fast-paced 300 measure dance number.  Dancing is not their forte.  At all.  But, they've been rehearsing each 8-count endlessly.  Every time I turn my head, there they are-- counting and watching one another and giving pep talks.  And, I have a feeling that on opening night they are going to kill it, or at least that their enthusiasm is going to speak far louder than virtuosity.  I think a lot about this as I'm swimming (and breathing) comfortably in my sea of Big Things.

National Dance Week

April 20, 2012

The Twin Cities is kicking off National Dance Week with the SCUBA National Touring Network at Patrick's Cabaret this weekend.  I am in awe of our dance community's vitality- the way members rally around one another.  You can see dance most nights of the week in the Twin Cities.  There are dozens of companies, and even more individuals making their own work.  So, this week I applaud them all.  And, I give thanks to the many that have supported my own adventures in dance making.  [For a listing of many other Twin Cities Dance Week events, see this week's dance news.]


April 19, 2012

Lately I keep being gobsmacked by new discoveries.  Also, the just-plain-magical feeling of being a bit more awake in the world than previously.  The little things feel incredibly important: cooking dinner, talking to someone I'm serving coffee to, walks around the neighborhood.  Everything feels like it has the potential to make me see the world in a new way.  I was reminded of this text that we used in my show I Like You last summer.  It originally comes from a Fresh Air interview with David Sedaris.

Hugh and I spend the summer in Normandy. And—and I discovered—well, I say discovered, but they already existed— spiders. And I am so incredibly interested in spiders now. And at this moment, at our house in Normandy, there’s probably eight hundred spiders in the house. And there’s one —it’s a kind of a spider that’s the shape and size of an unshelled peanut with legs on it. The Taganoria Gigantia. And feeding these spiders and recording their habits, and studying them under a micropho—um, under a microscope—it’s changed my life, and—but I didn’t know the day before I saw a  fly, fly into a web, and be eaten by a spider, I didn’t know that this would be a huge passion in my life. And I just think that’s so exciting that we have that ability to—to embrace things that we don’t even see coming. I mean, it really is—it sounds kinda corny, but it’s a reason to live. And—and who knows what it might be next. I mean, I’d be surprised if all the sudden I got into that, uh, footboxing. You know, like, that would be a real surprise to me. But who knows, I, there could be something tomorrow, or—well, actually, I have my hands full with the spiders right now, so, something could happen ten, fifteen years from now, um, that might cause me to look at the world in a completely different way.

[Photos by the wonderful Megan Mayer.]

ARTCRANK: bike nerds meeting printmaking nerds

April 18, 2012

pint glasses sold to benefit Springboard for the Arts

The ARTCRANK opening party was a whirl of people in awesomely hip clothing, beer, handshaking, street food, and fun.  As an introvert often posing as an extravert, I was proud that I faced the masses comfortably.  As a person helping make the event happen, I was thrilled that the masses showed up!  We sold out of 1,000 beer glasses within two hours.  Now THAT is exciting.

I have mad respect for people who make things happen the way that the ARTCRANK producers do.   I love art that is shareable-- art that you can take home and frame and celebrate without breaking the bank.

Laura Brown's Wheels Are Wings

Art that brings people together.  And those people?  They were in full geek mode.  I love it.

campfire on the back of a bike.

[You can read more about the MSP ARTCRANK opening here.]

I like to ride my bicycle

April 13, 2012

When my new friend Kate O'Reilly asked me if I wanted to act as volunteer coordinator for the Minneapolis ARTCRANK opening, I jumped at the opportunity.  I jumped because I wanted to be around smarties and their work, and because ARTCRANK is a brilliant (and successful) idea.

ARTCRANK is a bicycle-inspired poster festival that started in 2007.  It's the brainchild of Creative Director Charles Youel, and co-produced by Charles and Kate.  It has taken place in London, as well as eleven cities across the US.  It's smart in so many ways: it unites the art world with bike lovers; it raises money for great causes; it allows people to take home art at an affordable price ($40/poster!); it gives artists a theme to create work in response to.  Oh, and bikes.  I love bikes!

So, here I am a day away from my first ARTCRANK experience, with over sixty fantastic volunteers to work with.  I can't wait!

ARTCRANK has continued the brain buzz I've been having around collaboration: how do we find new audiences for our art work?  My favorite performance events are ones that are a bit like the design of ARTCRANK: the ones that feel like parties.  I like to drink a beer and watch some performance, and get to experience a handful of different works, rather than just one.

Last week I wrote about Business Suitcases: the stuff of you art or business.  The goal, obviously, is to take those suitcase contents and share them with your client or audience-- to take them to their destination, I guess you might say.  And, we're all trying to figure out  how to do that efficiently.  And, one way of doing this more efficiently is to broaden our audience base.  ARTCRANK is a great example of how a wider audience can be found by uniting groups of people: people with different weirdnesses.  You have cyclists, who might not otherwise turn up at a fine art gallery, and artists, who might not otherwise share their work specifically with cyclists.

I recently had clients choose a few new organizations or groups of people to connect their work with.  For instance, Jesse works as a nutritionist and is a farm-to-fork enthusiast-- she advocates for restaurants that use local and sustainable foods, for small farmers, and for food co-ops.  Shouldn't they know about her work?  There are probably some ways that they can collaborate and share client-bases.  Or, what about when Joseph Scrimshaw produced and directed the awesome musical Sexy Librarian: file under 'rock musical', and a whole bunch of librarians showed up in the audience.  Would they have come out to a show otherwise?  Maybe.  But, the performance combined two groups of audience members: people loving musical comedies, and people  loving library nerdiness.

So- my brain wheels are turning.  And now for my bike wheels.... (*womp womp*)

[You can read Kate's writing about the creation of ARTCRANK here.]

For the Gardeners

April 10, 2012

We don't have a garden this year (next year!), other than maybe an upcoming basil plant.

But, I have been living vicariously through pictures of other people's plants and descriptions of their progress, and I can't wait for the selection of fresh vegetables that will soon be available at the various farmer's market locations around the Twin Cities.

Last year I bought this letterpress Midwest Produce Calendar from Krank Press.  For each month it has a list of produce to plant, and also a list of produce that's in season for eating.  The drawings alone are worth the price-- a good gift for your favorite gardener!

Business Suitcases

April 5, 2012

Ben moved his office back to our house, so I inherited his old imac.  Big digs- lucky me.

And, today I got to Skype on said gigantic computer with the wonderful Kristen Graves.  She's a singer/songwriter and activist based in Connecticut.  She has a big, beautiful voice-- and a lot to say with it.

Today we Skyped about Business Suitcases.


Yes, Business Suitcases.  Your Business Suitcase is all of the stuff that you carry into your artistic or small business endeavor: your past experiences, your mission statement, your weirdnesses.  It's the stuff that sets you apart from the other people entering similar endeavors; it's the product that you're trying to get to an audience or client.

Yes, today Kristen and I talked about her Suitcase.  And, here's what was exciting: the parts of her Business Suitcase that seem so obviously remarkable to an outside person (me!) felt really commonplace to her; she didn't necessarily realize how noteworthy they were. Kristen is a vegan with dreadlocks who is organizing a guitar camp on an Indian reservation for at-risk youth.  That's pretty unique, isn't it?  Kristen's songs are full of hopeful honesty, and she doesn't shy away from talking politics.  That sets her apart.  Kristen is a rocker that scoffs at makeup and expensive wardrobes, and almost always wears a big grin.  She's down-to-earth and personable.

So...why does this matter? Well, most of us are making work to share with audiences or clients.  And, we need to know who it's for.  Looking at your Business Suitcase can help you...

:: Figure out who your ideal audience member or client is, and how to better reach out to them.

:: Help you figure out what your biggest strengths are.

:: Assist you in talking about the work you make.

:: Decide if there's anything missing from your Suitcase.

:: Figure out ways of integrating your past experiences and knowledge into your future plans.  

Point is, you're inevitably carrying all of this information and experience with you.  And the point is, we all have things that set us apart.  How can your weirdnesses help you?  

The Stickshift Lesson

April 3, 2012

There are certain life skills that I feel like I should have.  You know, you can't just drink bourbon neat to be a badass; you have to drive stickshift, too (not at the same time, obviously).
Stickshift Pro.

And, one of our cars is stickshift, so it feels like it's something I should figure out.  I've learned: there are certain things you are better off not trying to figure out with your spouse.  Driving lessons are one of those things for me.

Enter: Genna.  Dear friend; stickshift coach.  I knew all the basics, but I needed the moral support.


Stalls were minimal, and badassery is in progress.

It's Better Together: finding a tribe

April 2, 2012

Whether making a dance or a business or a dancing business, it's often lonely.  In fact, some of my happiest times-when my brain is exploding with good ideas- have also been the loneliest.  After all, the ideas are incubating.  And, I'm awful at articulating incubating ideas.  Because I kept talking to other folks who work for themselves and seem to experience the same feeling, I thought we should start a group.  You know, a small business group.  And, not the kind that discusses marketing slogans and communication styles, because that just makes me want to punch myself in the face.

That's how I found myself drinking wine with Emma, Jesse, Ben, and Eli last Saturday on a teal couch in Emma's adorable studio.

shadow play in Emma's studio.

Despite just plain liking one another, and wanting to focus in on that, we tried to get to the heart of why we were there.  It seemed pretty similar across the board: we wanted to find new ways to collaborate with local artists and businesses, even if we were working in different fields.  We wanted to find new ways to do what we're doing.  And...this:

We wanted to figure out how to find new audiences and clients.  Emma smartly acknowledged it: we don't find clients and audiences from taking out a large print ad in a magazine (usually); we find them because of the relationships we build.  People want to work with you because they like you.  It's true.  People want to see your work or talk about your work or book you as a photographer because they jive with you.  Something about who you are fits with them.  They like your weirdness.

Which fit a lot with what I was reading this week.  Kathleen and many others have recommended Seth Godin's We Are All Weird to me.  Naturally, I've loved it.  In a nutshell, Godin's theory is that the mass (the easily reached majority market) is dying.  Now that we all have more choices than ever before as to what we eat, what we buy, and what we like, everyone is getting really specialized.  We are all getting weirder.  Godin says that, rather than pushing the mass, we should cater to the weird.

world beard and moustache competitor.

And, this is really good news for people who make art and have businesses (or make art as a business!).  It means that we all have an audience-- we just have to find them.  And, they have to be able to find us.  And, for them to be able to find us, we have to know what makes us weird.  We have to know how to amplify, talk about, and commit to the things that make our art or businesses different from the person down the street (who's probably just weird in a different way).

Seth says, "What I care a great deal about is each human's ability to express her art, to develop into the person she is able to become.  I care about the connections between people and our ability to challenge and support each other as we create our own versions of art."  Me, too.  Because there's room for all of us.

So, the question is: how do we find our people?  And how do we figure out our weirdness?  Because, we all have it.

Well, that's a topic for later this week...

[You should check out this review of We Are All Weird that Braid Creative did!]


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