Making Room

So what great insights came from my four questions session yesterday?

Carol and Barb came over for two hours. We had coffee and a quick nosh. (Can’t work on empty stomaches!) We “checked in” briefly to see what everyone was up to.

Then it was time to start.

What did I want to talk about?

I wanted to talk about my vision for my art. Wanting to catch everyone up on where I was coming from, I presented a five-minute summary of the last couple years:

My realizing I still have a vast new audience to present my current body of work to….(validation!)

Me knowing my work will evolve naturally and organically once I can clear space in my studio to get back to work….(relief!)

Me recognizing that writing, though abstract, makes me feel like I’ve done something…and may be distracting me from my actual art production time/energy….(hmmm…at least I see it, though I’m not sure what to do about it.)

Me remembering that last year my first surgery, and first foot injury happened two months before my big League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Craft Fair…(manageable, but still putting me off my game.)

and that it was the first fair I’d done in eight years without my daughter Robin assisting me every step of the way…(difficult.)

Me understanding the many negative things that happened to me at last year’s Fair (let’s just say that sometimes, there’s nothing scarier than your fellow craftsmen), and how long I’ve had to deal with the repercussions….(frustration.)

Me realizing my cancer scare began almost immediately after the Fair and lasted through several months of testing and follow-up….(emotionally exhausting.)

Followed by two more surgeries in December…(uh oh.)

Resulting in being housebound, in constant pain, inactive, incurring weight gain and depressed….(it was, well, depressing.)

And me now realizing we have to clear the garage for a new wood boiler, and clean out our house attic so we can insulate before winter….(yikes!)

And I still need to clean out my barn attic so I can begin to clean out my studio….(double yikes!)

There! “So,” I said, “I’m ready to talk about my plans for my art.”

“Not so fast, sweetheart!” exclaimed both my friends in unison. “We can see what the problem is here. And it’s not what you think.”

The problem wasn’t about the art. The problem was making room for it.

They both pointed out that the first step was to get a plan of action for this huge de-cluttering laid out–before I even begin to think about making more art.

They said they understood, because they’ve both struggled with the same issue. And gone through the process, and come out the other side–lightened, encouraged and energized.

And they said they both happened to be very, very good at creating such plans for action.

When they said that, a huge weight lifted from my heart. How perfect that these two people were doing this exercise with me.

I knew they were right. I knew I had to do this. I had no idea how I was going to do it.

It turned out they were going to give me exactly the help I needed.

They guided me through a visioning exercise. I mentally walked through my studio, “creating” the perfect new work environment. I thought about what really needed to be there and what didn’t.

Then we took a quick tour of the two staging areas. With their eyes helping, it was even easier to see what could be “at hand”, and what could go upstairs into the barn attic.

Shelves will keep my current storage containers more accessible, and labeling will help, too.

Teen-aged boys will be forbidden to set up a man-cave in the attic. (If you have teen-aged boys, you know what I’m talking about….)

The list goes on.

Someday, perhaps I’ll be able to section off part of the barn and actually insulate or heat it during the winter, so my office and shipping station can be upstairs, away from my actual workspace. (Email and internet stuff can be a huge distraction!) For now, there’s a lot that can be stored up there for quick grabbing when I need it. A little hassle to run upstairs (especially in winter!), yes, but better than tripping over E*V*E*R*Y*T*H*I*N*G underfoot.

My friends also offered to help.

It was so hard to ask! “Come on, Lu, say it—‘Will you help me?’–four little words! You can do it!” they urged.

I did, and they said yes. (They want pizza, beer and music. I think I can swing that!)

They encouraged me to make a list of other people I could ask for help, too, and how to make it easier for people to do so. (Keep the request to a couple hours, add the music and food.)

They encouraged me to set a deadline (three weeks!) to see how much I could accomplish by then.

They promised to come back for another session to make sure I’m making progress, and not getting bogged down in details.

As we stood by the top of the barn stairs and talked, I worried about how much shelving and labor would cost.

And then looked up and saw…..a stack of shelves, commercial-quality slotting and brackets I’d bought seven years ago, originally to use in my studio but set aside because I hadn’t needed it.

Here’s the funny thing. If you’d asked me where it was, I would have said I’d given the stuff away already! I’d walked by them a hundred times in the last few years, and yet not seen them.

Yet at the exact moment I realized I needed that stuff, there it was. (Okay, I’m not sure I can find the brackets, but those should be easy to buy again.) (I hope!)

In the end, nothing monumental or too big too handle. Just something that’s easy to do for others, and sometimes so hard to do for ourselves.

Update: I’ve already packed up six boxes of books for a prison library; set out a ton of stuff on our tree lawn which disappeared within hours; posted stuff on Freecycle which was picked up in minutes, and thrown out two bags of trash. I think it’s working!


9 thoughts on “Making Room

  1. You hit the nail on the head- Making room for it.

    Nature abhors a vacuum. Make space, and it will get filled. Just clear a spot on your desk or table, it will eventually have a book, ro papers or something there! So my thoughts are its gonna get filled one way or the other, so you might as well choose to fill it with what YOU want reather than whatever lands there.

    Your writing about how the last 2 years have affected you hits close to home. I’m glad you asked for help, people always want to help us, if we just let them.

    congrats on getting rid of all that stuff! YAY!!!



  2. I just dropped in to see what condition your condition is in, to paraphrase an old song. I have to say, you make me proud. . .proud to be a struggler who is learning to grow through (what seems to me to be) tremendous adversity; proud to be reaching for a new level of what I can do creatively (even though it feels so safe right here); proud to be trying to deal with all my interior clutter and achieve some kinds of insight into why I am doing what I am doing.

    I stand, as ever uncertain about so much, yet reaching for greater truth, more light, perpetually seeking higher ground. It is so nice to come by your blog and find you are doing the same.

    BTW, I’d come help you clean your studio in a NY minute if it weren’t so far away.

    Gail Denton


  3. I am very impressed! Great job!!!!


    PS – I have been reading for awhile and I am not an artist but I am a writer, and I think my writing may be stalled for similar reasons!

    Best of luck!


  4. It’s always good to know a) I’m not alone in all this, and b) what I have to say about it is helpful to others. Thanks, everyone, for checking in.

    Sounds like we all have our obstacles keeping us from living our dreams. And sounds like we’re all good at finding ways to kick through them, too! :^)


  5. Luann – I’m so happy to see you moving forward – but in you own words – Why are you letting these things get in the way of making your art? Have you come to a crossroads in your art?

    While you are making all of this room – please find some time to just keep on creating your beautiful art. I think it was Allyson Stanfield who said – “No matter what, just keep on doing the work.”

    When I get like this I liken it to the job I do to pay my bills – I have to go every day no matter what and everything else is slotted in around that! NO exceptions. I have to go everyday no matter how stuck I feel in my thinking.



  6. Just started reading your blog. This past spring I took on the job of cleaning my garage,and a storage shed for my fiber and yarn business. It was a huge undertaking but the results are wonderful. It is so great to walk into my shed and work. I love putting things away because I know where they go.
    I really struggled to complete the project. A couple of things I did was to work on a area and not look or worry about what else had to be done. I got myself to do the work because I promised myself that I would work for 2 hours and planned what I wanted to accoumplish. At the end of the task I was often ready for more work. If I was tired of the work I didn’t feel bad because I had done something.
    Good luck


  7. Colleen, your comments are excellent and spot-on. Your suggestion to focus on one small area at a time is exactly the tactic I finally settled on a few days ago, and it IS helpful. I’m glad to know there there will be “wonderful results” at the end!

    Fiona, thank you so much for your words of encouragement.

    I’ve continued to make jewelry and the sculptures all along, but the fiber work has gotten sloggy. And part of the reason is, there’s absolutely no room to even lay out a new fiber piece!

    Actually, the advice you quoted from Allyson is advice I’ve given in the past to other artists, who aren’t doing ANY art–“just clear enough space to work!” In my case, there’s no longer even room to clear a little bit of space. I’ve reached a roadblock I can’t go over/under/around and I believe I need to go THROUGH it.

    Time will tell if I’m right or not! :^)


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