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.

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.

Practice Makes Perfect?: How I Deal With Perfectionism As a Creative #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter P post in the #AtoZChallenge on creativity. Like I’ve said a couple of times before, I can be quite a bit of a perfectionist. Today, I want to talk about that.

Of course people say that practice makes perfect. I disagree. Even after a lot of practice making unicorns out of polymer clay, I still make mistakes. You see, here’s my most recent unicorn.

As you can see, one of its ears is slightly bent backwards and its horn is slightly crooked. You may or may not be able to see this, but the heart-shaped platform on which it stands is also slightly curved.

Sometimes, when my creation is really off and I don’t find out until after I’ve baked it, I throw it straight into the trash. That rarely happens now. In this sense, I’m not that much of a perfectionist, in that I do let less-than-perfect creations remain and even share them online.

When I still work on a project though, I try my best to perfect it. I don’t accept a mediocre result from myself when there’s still room for me to improve on it.

It does, however, feel slightly discouraging knowing that, even after months of practising, I still can’t create the perfect unicorn. I’d like to move on to something else, but if I’m still not able to craft this sculpture exactly as I want it, how can I move on?

Of course, I can, and I do craft other things besides unicorns. But doing a different design for a unicorn would feel like giving up on this particular design. And I have just a little too much experience having to give up on a technique or an entire craft.

Do I seriously not believe that practice makes perfect? Maybe I do believe it, but not in my own case. And maybe that’s a thing of low self-esteem and it needs to change. After all, maybe just practising sculpting the same unicorns using the same techniques a thousand times won’t make me perfect, but I could still ask advice from other polymer clay artists on how they’ve prevented their slabs, for example, from going curved. That way, maybe my next unicorn will be another step closer to perfect.

Negative Feedback: How I Cope As a Creative #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter N post in the #AtoZChallenge. I am feeling very uninspired today and almost gave up on writing this post, as my headphones decided to no longer work. Yes, those headphones I got for €239 a few weeks ago. The cable connection to my computer still works though, so I really have no excuse.

Today, I initially wanted to share some resources for newbie crafters, but that’d get rather boring. Instead, I’m going to share how I deal with negative feedback as a creative. This may get rather, well, negative, but oh well.

After all, I’m not thick-skinned at all. Like I said when writing about my creative frustrations and in other posts too, I get easily discouraged. As a result, my way of coping with negative feedback is usually to give up a craft entirely.

I didn’t do this when starting out with polymer clay. I mean, I did get some rather blunt comments early on, but I could see they weren’t meant to degrade my efforts or my ability to ever learn at all. It may’ve been because I had used polymer clay for a short time years before and, as a result, knew that it isn’t an inaccessible craft for a blind person.

It was different with card making. With that, I got hurt very easily when getting kicked out of groups for flaking out of my obligations for swaps etc. Still, it wasn’t until someone flat out told me that my work didn’t meet her expectations even though she knew that I was blind, that I decided to give up. Card making is not altogether inaccessible for blind people, but it can be very hard when you want to follow the traditional “rules”.

Then, with macrame, people doubted my ability to be able to learn the craft as soon as they found out I’m blind (and have mild cerebral palsy). With that, I decided, probably sensibly so, not to invest in a lot of supplies before I’d really decided whether I could master the craft. I so far only have one color of cheap macrame cord and a few supplies. I am so happy about this, since, with card making, I may’ve spent as much as €1000 without ever being remotely proficient at the craft.

Now that I’m okay as a beginner polymer clay artist, I still do get negative feedback at times. I can handle it when my staff point it out when I do something that I need to retry it as it’s not looking good. I also don’t mind people reacting badly to my finished projects. I remember once, when I’d published a polymer clay shell with a bit of a fleshy color to my Facebook wall, someone saying they were freaking out thinking it was a body part. That made me feel off for a bit, but I was quickly reassured by my staff as well as my other Facebook followers that it looked like a shell and I definitely hadn’t posted NSFW content or something.

On my blog, I get the occasional negative comment. Usually, it’s based on a misunderstanding and we’re easily able to resolve the issue. I deal with clear trolls with a direct hit to the spam folder. Then again, these are very rare.

Mental Health and Creativity #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone. For my letter M post in the #AtoZChallenge, I’d like to talk about mental health as it affects my creativity and vice versa. There’s a common stereotype, and it isn’t entirely untrue or so I’ve heard, that people with severe mental illness are also often particularly creative. At the same time, autistics are commonly thought of as especially unimaginative. Now I indeed don’t have the most vivid imagination, but I wouldn’t say I have aphantasia (the inability to form mental images) either. I wish I were more imaginative and able to create things in my mind’s eye than I am though.

Anyway, my mental health is interconnected to my creativity in that, when I am depressed, I cannot usually put the effort into doing anything creative. For years while in the mental hospital, I struggled to write even one blog post a week. Now that I’m more stable, I at least find myself able to write almost daily. Still, I notice that my crafting ebbs and flows with my mood.

I also experience a huge flow of ideas sometimes, but am not always able to put them into action. For example, I have been wanting to craft a polymer clay squirrel for weeks and did indeed mix the colors I wanted to use for it, but I haven’t actually gotten down to starting on the sculpture itself.

Due to my autistic obsessiveness, I can perseverate about a particular aspect of my craft for a while, then lose interest completely. Some autistics have special interests that last for years or even a lifetime. I don’t. In my case, I am really lucky that I still enjoy polymer clay pretty much everyday nine months after having started the hobby. I do tend to change which aspect of it I’m most interested in though. Right now, of course, it’s mixing colors.

My creativity impacts my mental health in a positive way, in that I find in it a means of distracting myself from my anxious or depressing thoughts. When I accomplish something in the area of my creativity, it is a true mood booster. Conversely, of course, when I experience frustration while crafting, it can have a negative effect on my mental health.