Zone: Describing My Creative Space #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to the last day in the #AtoZChallenge. About half of the times I’ve completed the challenge, I’ve chosen “ZZZ” for sleep as my topic for my letter Z post. I originally wanted to do the same now, but I really can’t think of ways in which my sleep relates to my creativity other than the obvious: that I need enough of it to be creative.

Instead, I am going with the word “Zone” and describe my creative space, or where I feel like I can “zone in” to my creative self.

I blog wherever I have access to my phone or computer. I could also probably be crafty in many places. However, the place I feel most comfortable being creative in, is my room in the care facility.

I have a desk, which I’ve had for over fifteen years. This desk, I use to have my computer and iPhone on. I prefer typing on my laptop keyboard, but can also type on my iPhone’s external keyboard. I cannot type anything beyond simple messages, usually consisting only of one word, on my iPhone’s screen directly. Even with the external keyboard, due to WordPress having done away with the classic editor on mobile devices, I much prefer to blog on my laptop. For this reason, when I want to blog and I’ll be away, such as at my and my husband’s house in Lobith, I’ll take my laptop with me.

For crafting, I have a separate table. I do need to clear it out when I am finished for the morning or afternoon, as I eat at that table too. I already showed you all where I keep my craft supplies in my letter K post. I can easily reach those from my table.

Then there is, of course, the shelf above my desk, where I display my finished projects. That’s part of my creative zone too, in that it inspires my creativity.

YouTube: Finding Crafty Inspiration in YouTube Videos #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter Y post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I want to talk about YouTube and showcase some of my favorite crafty YouTubers.

When I first started working with polymer clay about nine years ago, I didn’t know much about YouTube. It did exist, of course, and there were definitely tutorials out there, but I was clueless. Now that I’ve restarted the craft, I get most of my inspiration from YouTube videos.

Of course, it helps if the YouTuber talks me through the process of doing the craft, although that too can get confusing. At least, I’ve found with macrame that it gets really hard when someone says one thing and essentially does another. With polymer clay, thankfully, I haven’t run into this problem that much.

My favorite YouTuber, for this reason, is Creative Rachy. Her voice-over is great and her tutorials are easy to follow. I particularly love her “Easy Charms for Beginners” tutorials.

I also love other YouTubers who share polymer clay charm tutorials, such as CupOfCuteDIY. This YouTuber in particular has some great compilations of kawaii (a Japanese term for “cute”) polymer clay charms sorted by theme or color.

When I want to do something specific in polymer clay, I now usually do a YouTube search for this term. For example, when I wanted to create the tulip for my mother’s birthday, I searched for the terms “polymer clay” and “tulip”. I then select a video that’s not too long in length. In this case, the video was about five minutes. Unfortunately, there was no voice-over. This is okay if my staff can explain what the YouTuber is doing in the video, which some staff are better at than others.

I usually watch a video in its entirety before starting the project, because that way I can tell if I need any supplies that I don’t have or whether any techniques will be used that I don’t understand yet. In the latter case, I can then look up another YouTube video with the explanation of said technique.

So far, YouTube has been of great help and inspiration on my polymer clay journey. Now of course I will need to step outside of my comfort zone and start experimenting.

Xenos, Action, Fimo-Shop, Etc.: Shopping for Craft Supplies #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter X post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today I want to talk about shopping for supplies related to my creative hobbies. I am cheating a little as, while Xenos is a store that does sell craft supplies among other things, I haven’t ordered anything there in years and the last thing I bought there wasn’t craft-related. It was a wax melt burner. So, that’s all I’ll say about Xenos for this post, but I needed something for the letter X. I guess a lot of people cheat with this letter, so it’s okay. And even if it isn’t, I don’t care.

Action, much like Xenos, is another store that sells lots of things. Also like Xenos, its prices are usually lower than those in other stores, as Action usually sells imitation premium brand products. I did in fact buy a lot of my crafting supplies there. I refuse to buy polymer clay at Action, but I did buy my acrylic paints, my glitters, my brushes that I use for applying the acrylic paints or glitters or Fimo liquid, etc., and many other supplies there.

My polymer clay, I usually buy online. There is a craft store here in town, but they only sell like five different colors of Fimo at a time. One of my favorite shops is Fimo-Shop.nl. That store usually has the entire Fimo collection in stock.

Sculpey and Cernit are brands of polymer clay that aren’t that commonplace in the Netherlands. I haven’t used their clay, but if I need something from that brand (such as one day I needed a Sculpey glaze), I order from HappyThings.eu.

I buy my color recipes on Etsy. So far, I’ve ordered from DewDropInc and PolymerClayLoves.

I order from other stores too, but these are the ones I’m happiest about. For example, I once ordered my polymer clay letter stamp set from an online art store that happens to sell polymer clay supplies too (won’t name the store because this’d be a negative review) and, not only did the description of the stamp set not match what I got (it was fine, but still), the polymer clay I’d also ordered was extremely hard and crumbly. This is one reason I usually order my clay at specialized polymer clay stores now.

Works in Progress: How I Deal With Having Unfinished Projects As a Creative #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to my letter W post in the #AtoZChallenge. For today’s topic, I chose “works in progress”. You know, those unfinished projects lying around forever waiting for me to get them done.

Right now, I have several works in progress with respect to my polymer clay. The most striking example is, of course, the mobile I’m creating for the baby girl my sister is expecting. I have yet to bake the last of my figures to go onto the wire, but I still also need to buy the wire for the actual thing.

Next up is of course the slice of a tree trunk I have had lying around for at least a month, waiting for me to build a forest scene on it. I initially thought of putting the polymer clay hedgehog I crafted about three weeks ago – which also took me forever to create – on it, but now I’m thinking of doing a squirrel.

Anyway, did I show you all the hedgehog yet? I don’t think I did. Here it is!

Lastly is of course the tulip I intended on crafting for my mother. Well, I tried. I mixed all the colors, which went well, but crafting the actual tulip was harder than I thought. That plus time pressure made me eventually give up and send my mother a polymer clay dolphin from my collection instead.

One reason I prefer to have smaller projects, is that having too many works in progress overwhelms me. This may be a reason I rarely have blog posts in my Drafts folder longer than a few hours to get back to later. Besides, if I start something then forget midway what I wanted to create, that’s a problem too.

Eventually, when I have had an unfinished project lying around for too long, I’ll discard it and start another, hopefully smaller, project.

Values: How My Creativity Reflects and Supports My Personal Values #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter V post in the #AtoZChallenge. This was a hard letter to find a topic for, but with the help of The Year of You for Creatives I found one: personal values. Core values are the abstract qualities you find important in life, such as trust, love, connection, growth, etc.

Now I haven’t really ever taken the time to evaluate my core values, so it is quite hard to say whether they are reflected in my creativity. However, when I give it some thought, I realize one of my main core values is authenticity. This is still hard to express in my creativity, particularly my polymer clay. Like I said yesterday, after all, most of my creations are still pretty much copies of what I see online.

In my writing, I do try to express my authentic self. This does mean I am quite open about my experiences of, for example, mental illness. I used to overshare to the point where it got uncomfortable for the people around me. Now, though some of my relatives probably still perceive me as oversharing, I do try to be mindful of other people’s privacy.

Another of my core values is connection. This is reflected in the fact that I want to share what I create and know about other people’s creative work. This is one reason I have a blog. It is also one reason I started responding to people’s comments on my blog. For the first so many years that I kept a blog, I didn’t do this, because I felt it’d corrupt my stats somehow (don’t ask me why). I now not only know that engaging with your commenters is the ethical thing to do, but I also really value the connections I develop through interacting on my blog.

Connection is also a reason I’m in Facebook groups for polymer clay and why I share my creations on Facebook. I don’t really do Instagram, although I might want to learn to use it someday for my creative pursuits.

Self-determination is another core value. I initially wrote “independence”, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. Even though I’d really like to be independent, after all, that’s just not realistic where it comes to my crafting. I do, however, want to make my own choices and do as much as I can by myself.

Lastly, growth is a core value of mine. I always aim for progress, no matter how small. I do not always find this is reflected in my work, because I sometimes don’t see the progress I’ve made. I could really improve in this area.

Unique: Developing My Personal Style As a Creative #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter U post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I want to talk about developing my own unique style as a creative.

As a writer, I think I do have a unique style. I have certain words that I use often, even though I try to vary my language too. In fact, I may have so much of a specific word choice that it gets boring at times. I really want to step outside of my comfort zone where it comes to my writing more and explore styles that I don’t normally employ. This includes poetry and flash fiction.

As a polymer clay artist, I haven’t really developed my own style yet, in the sense that most of my current creations are still based on the creations of popular YouTubers. Some are actually pretty much copies.

An interesting exception may be my unicorns. I do give a specific twist to my designs, most notably in the twisted mane and tail.

Unfortunately, with respect to my polymer clay, I struggle to step outside of my comfort zone even more than I do in the area of my writing. I fear ruining my clay, even though obviously that’s no problem, since I can always buy new clay. Honestly, now that I think of it, I may not have a unique style in any of my creative pursuits at all, but may just be sticking to a particular comfort zone. I really need to start experimenting more!

It may all be related to the fact that I’m not as imaginative as I’d like to be. Then again, Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way (I think) encourages her readers to explore creativity by experimenting. She also says that, to be a good artist, you first need to be a bad artist. In this sense, maybe I should really start making my own unique creations rather than copying from YouTube more. They may turn out rubbish, but so what? Some famous quote I think said that something’s better well stolen than poorly created. I think I disagree.

Time Management in My Creative Process #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to day 20 in the #AtoZChallenge. Today for my letter T post, I have a topic related to my letter D and R posts. After all, I am going to write about time management as it applies to my creative work.

I don’t have any real obligations where it comes to my creative work. I mean, in my blogging, when I sign up for a challenge such as this one, it’s just to be able to give myself some greater goal. Similarly, I don’t take on any assignments in my polymer clay, so I am basically the only one setting my deadlines.

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel any pressure. I get a thrill out of knowing I’ve made a long streak of blogging on here or have been able to finish a big project “on time”. I also get stressed when I feel I’m not meeting my own goals.

I currently blog everyday and, over the past year or so, have maintained an average of at least three to four blog posts a week. I usually write my blog posts during my time I don’t have direct one-on-one support, so between 1:30 and 4PM on weekends or after 8PM each day.

One of my goals in the care facility is that I do something “useful” each day. This could be a creative activity such as polymer clay, but on days when I have appointments with mental health, those count as my “useful” activity of the day.

Given that I don’t keep track and my activity level fluctuates a great deal with my mood, I cannot say how much time on average I spend on my creative work during the week. Sometimes, I make something out of polymer clay everyday, while at other times, I am lucky if I manage one simple activity, such as mixing a predetermined color, a week.

I tend to feel useless when I’ve not accomplished much in a given week, in the sense that I haven’t finished any big projects. However, this is also related to my perfectionism. To put things into perspective, when I was still in the psych hospital, I struggled far more to get things done than I do now.

Sensory Experiences That Influence My Creativity #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone. Today is day 19 in the #AtoZChallenge and it’s time for my letter S post. I was initially feeling a bit uninspired, so looked to The Year of You for Creatives again. In it were several prompts about sounds and sights influencing your creative work. I decided to expand on the prompts and write about sensory experiences in general.

Most times, I prefer to work on my polymer clay in relative silence. That is, I do speak with my staff, but only about the polymer clay project we’re working on. I also don’t have music on in the background. To be honest, I haven’t even actually tried it. It may be relaxing.

I sometimes do have an essential oil blend in my diffuser. Smells can inspire me, as they give off a relaxing or energizing vibe, which I can then translate into the colors I use for my polymer clay projects.

I also find that I’m inspired by sights. I mean, I cannot actually see colors anymore, but imagining a particular color in my mind’s eye does inspire me.

When I write, I do occasionally have music or a soundscape on in the background and I often have an essential oil blend in my diffuser. Right now, I have a playlist of rainforest sounds on Spotify on. My oil diffuser currently diffuses a blend of bergamot, orange, spearmint and ylang ylang essential oils.

I find that music, soundscapes, colors and smells inspire my writing, particularly my poetry and freewrites. I have a journal in the diary app Day One specifically for freewrites and I love to write stream-of-consciousness style based on a snippet from a song or a sound. I haven’t yet included the songs themselves into my journal, as that works only with Apple Music and I don’t use that.

What sensory experiences inspire your creativity?

Rituals and Routines Surrounding My Creative Work #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to day 18 and my letter R post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I’m going to talk about rituals and routines surrounding my creative process.

I don’t really have any particular rituals, in the sense that I do certain ritualistic things related to my creativity. Maybe it would help me if I did, because I sometimes struggle to get started with my creativity. Maybe having a creative ritual would help me get the “signal” that I’ll be crafting. Then again, that’d be similar to having a creative routine.

I do have certain specific routines where it comes to my polymer clay. First, I set up my work space. Usually, my staff help me roll out my no-stick mat and set up my pasta machine. They also retrieve my ceramic tile and the pencil case with my cutting tools in it from the locked kitchen cabinet. I have my clay in a large storage box, which I usually put onto my bed before starting to work. Most of the time, if I need just one color at a time, I get them out of the box one by one too and return them as soon as I no longer need them.

I usually have the staff pull my hair into a ponytail before I start to work too, because I don’t want to get hair into my polymer clay. When I’m wearing a fleece vest, I remove that too. I do usually wear black T-shirts, even though I’ve heard lint from that can get into your polymer clay too. I however don’t have any white shirts.

I always make sure to wash my hands before working with polymer clay and inbetween colors. A notable exception is when I’ll be using black for a figure’s eyes, because firstly I’ll just need a tiny bit of black then and secondly black will hardly be contaminated by other colors.

When I’m done working with polymer clay, I also have a routine that includes cleaning every tool I’ve used, including the ceramic tile, the pasta machine, any cookie cutters, my knives, etc. I clean most things using baby wipes, but this does mean I need to dry most of my tools (especially my pasta machine!) too. Most pros disassemble the pasta machine for cleaning, but I have no idea how to do that or how to put it back together.

I have no set time for polymer clay. For other creative activities, such as blogging, I do usually have set times, because I need to be alone when doing them. My most common time to write a blog post is after 8PM in the evening.

Quilting: My Grandmother’s Creative Passion #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter Q post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I am not going to share about one of my own creative pursuits, but about my grandmother’s main creative passion. My paternal grandmother was one of my main sources of inspiration in many ways.

My grandmother loved quilting. She at one point went to Amish country in Pennsylvania to learn from the people there. By the time I was born, she was pretty good at quilting already, so good even that her quilts were shown at exhibits internationally.

She made a bed quilt for each of her granddaughters (and one of her grandsons, because he specifically asked for one too). Mine, a quilt with lots of images of animals on it, was shown at an exhibit in France. My sister’s quilt was a simpler-looking patchwork design.

When my sister and I were young, we’d often go for sleepovers at my grandmother’s house. She would then take us to the “activity group”, which was a group of ladies gathering weekly in a room at a local estate to do quilting and other fiber arts. I loved working with the fabrics, even though I never even could do basic hand sewing, let alone work the sewing machine or quilt.

My grandmother made quilts until a few years before she died in 2018. We got a quilt she created in 2014 at what would turn out to be my and my husband’s last visit to her in 2016. I fully intended on taking a picture, thinking I had it here with me, but I can’t find it now. Think it’s at my and my husband’s house in Lobith.

I did find a small pillow that my grandma had quilted and which I took with me after her funeral (we were all encouraged to take one or more of her quilts).

When she could no longer quilt due to her eyesight failing, my grandma started knitting. Even when she was put under palliative sedation, according to my aunt, her hands still moved as though she were working with yarn or fabric.

Even though I did not inherit my grandmother’s love for quilting or yarn-based crafts, or her skill for that matter, I do believe I inherited some of her creative spirit and I don’t just mean in the crafting department. My grandmother knew what she wanted and went for it. I am the same.