make-a-page

There’s crafting…and then there’s actual art-making.  Those who know me, and know this blog, will attest that my creative output always encompasses the former.  What’s the difference?  Crafting, by my definition, is a process towards making something that involves rules, instructions, templates, patterns, and recipes. In other words, someone else tells you the basics of what to do, and your creativity comes into play in choosing the particulars.

Don’t get me wrong — I LOVE crafting of all kinds and consider it a fabulous vehicle for creativity.  There are millions of things to craft, and I want to do almost all of them.

But….then there is art.   Art-making is rule-less, or perhaps we could say, unruly.  Making art is making something — a painting, a quiche, a bowl, a collage, a page for a special someone’s 40th-birthday book — with no template.  The materials are yours to manifest.  You don’t know how it will turn out.  You don’t have anything or anyone to tell you when you are “done.”

At any given moment, I’m knee-deep in at least 4 halfway-done crafting projects…and that feels just right to me.  No reason to finish one before starting another.  The sense of satisfaction when I finally finish something is fabulous — it often feels like I’ve been working on it for years even if I haven’t touched it for months!  Then along came an invitation a few weeks ago to participate in a time-treasured ritual: The Birthday Book.   Perhaps you have been involved in such a thing in the past?  An album of “pages” created for someone for their birthday — often a milestone birthday — that gives participants the chance to show their love “creatively.”  This, as I saw it, was an opportunity to make some Art.

Instructions were loose.  Deadlines were even looser.  The only requirement was to love up this special woman turning 40.  Consider it done, I remember thinking.  And then ….time passed.  Craft projects were started and some were finished.  I couldn’t think of an idea.  No pages coming out of this house.  And then, 2 days before the final final, last-extension deadline, I declared it an evening for art-making and pulled out everything colorful and supply-like that’s not already packed up in a box.  And without a plan in place, away we went.

 

 

 

 

And, in the unencumbered, unruly process of making something that I didn’t have a recipe or instructions for, I relaxed and let it come to me.   And I realized something important — making art is not easy, and moreover, it’s a muscle, like anything else.  To let my mind go free and allow the page to come together and tell me when it was finished felt novel, curious, and exciting.  We finished our pages, and set them on the counter to dry.  And as I lied in bed that night, allowing myself to become sleepy, I felt truly, wonderful — a different wonderful than after I’ve finished a craft project.  I felt like I had expressed something — something about myself — that I didn’t know was there.  And I remember thinking,wow.  I never do that.”  Not only did I get to fully celebrate this beloved 40-year-old woman who I hold dear, I got to enjoy the rare experience of free art.  My brain loved it.  My heart loved it.  I slept well.   A new family ritual, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EmailPinterestShare

the Real Deal

small space collaboration

small space collaboration

Two nights ago, I attended a 15-person birthday dinner party at the home of my friend David.  David’s apartment is a classic [tiny] Brooklyn studio with a kitchen the size of my closet (about 2 square feet of counter space) and just adjacent, a “main room” the size of a suburban walk-in closet.   It was 90 degrees outside in an apartment with no air-conditioning.

This is the kind of space where one would think you couldn’t do much cooking (let alone, entertaining) beyond heating up the occasional potpie.  There is a limited number of chairs and nowhere else to sit except on David’s bed.  The bathroom is right there, its proximity making audible any sounds or activities that occur inside it. This is both the quintessential New York scenario and also the basis for the kind of excuses that I hear all the time from people around these parts — “I can’t have people over, my apartment’s too small.”  “There’s no space to cook in my kitchen.”  “I don’t have any furniture.”   “My only day off is Monday and no one wants to come over on a Monday.” “I’m not a good enough cook.”  “I don’t have any time.”    blah blah blah blah blah.

making homemade gnocchi

making homemade gnocchi

What I love about David (and what I loved about this night) is that he appears virtually unaware of his own limitations. No counter space?  Great!  Let’s make the most labor-intensive and space-requiring food that exists — homemade gnocchi!  Hot apartment?  Great!  Let’s crank up the oven and roast 2 fatty pork shoulders for several hours.  Tension among the invites and lots of big personalities?  Great!  Let’s turn up the music and let them fight over the chairs!  Meanwhile, we all basked in the hilarity of real life.  Real life, without pretense.  Real life, with successes (incredible gnocchi) and failures (inedible panna cotta).  Real life, with real people who aren’t being careful.

What I love about David is that he’s not waiting around for conditions to be perfect in order to do what he wants to do. Small space and no A.C.?  Who cares?  He wants to have a dinner party to celebrate his birthday and to cook for his friends and so, we want to be there for it.  Sure — a rotating fan or a different locale entirely might make it a bit more comfortable but really, being available to do it on these terms — David’s current situation — is really the most fun.  It makes space for failures.  It allows us to see, firsthand, the actual sweat that goes into making something from scratch, and we can actually taste the love in the results.  And, it relinquishes us from the almighty grasp of needing to look or think or be a certain way and just show up for what is right now.

cooking for 15

cooking for 15

What I love about David is that he trusts his friends to love him unconditionally. What ensued over the course of that evening was that we dug in and made a real experience out of it.   We collaborated.  We threw a few extra hands into the tiny kitchen to create an assembly line.  We held chicken liver pate in one hand and a slice of poppyseed dessert cake in the other.  We ate and drank and talked and laughed and we sweated our asses off in the process.  We cracked jokes at David’s expense, took pictures of our floury, sweaty mess, and passed the delicious food around like we were family. That David trusts us to enjoy him and love him in these conditions has us open our hearts in a new way — not just to him, but to each other.

I’m not going to ask David for his panna cotta recipe, but I am going to walk with this:  when we sit around and wait for the conditions in life to be perfect — for everything in our lives to line up just so, so that we can make the move we want to make — we aren’t really living.  We are waiting.  And, in the meantime, there is so much fun to be had, success to celebrate, food to share, risks to take, failures to learn from, and real people out there who want to see us for who we really are.  Why wait?

EmailPinterestShare