Category Archives: creativity

Nooks, Holes, Cracks, and Crannies

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The cracks define the path.

“Sculpture is the art of the hole and the lump.”  Auguste Rodin

Last night I found myself at a funeral, where a thick carpet of grass lay on the platform under the casket.  Tempted to take off my shoes and enjoy the grass between my toes, I actually felt the casket inviting me to visit.

When life is too busy, I walk past the outlines that form the beauty of the day.  I fail to notice the cracks and crevices filled with their carefully selected grout.  I’ve grown accustomed to the beggar needing a piece of bread and the downcast face of a colleague.  The things in life that invite me to experience real joy go unnoticed.

Jesus shows me a life of real contrast.  Even when pressed in by the crowds, he noticed the touch of a woman with great faith.  He stopped to converse with a small man sitting in a tree.  He heard the cry of a blind man begging for sight.  Of all people who could have been too busy to notice, his example calls me to a different kind of lifestyle.

Today, I hope to consider the nooks, holes, cracks, and crannies.  I hope to notice those things put in front of me rather than passing them by.  I hope I’m reminded that life is brief and that a layer of grass is inviting me home.

Like the grass under the casket, it’s the small details in life that create the big picture.  What’s in the cracks and crevices outlines the events that invite me to involve myself more deeply in life.  As Rodin shapes the clay with its holes and lumps, my life should be the same–a work of art shaped by the master artist.

Decent Guys Who Skate

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Birmingham skatepark demolished to make room for the Birmingham Barons.

“I consider skateboarding an art form, a lifestyle and a sport.” Tony Hawk

With the recent demolition of the downtown skatepark in Birmingham, Alabama, one might question the city’s prejudices.  Baseball certainly has its place, and Birmingham enjoyed the season when Michael Jordan brought more fans to see the Barons.  However, in choosing the new location for the minor-league ballpark, we’ve demolished the site where Birmingham’s skateboarders go to get noticed and hopefully to become pro-skaters.

Other than monetary gain, our stereotype for skateboarders might be a part of the problem.  We often see these guys as a bunch of vagabonds who wish to destroy the town by riding the stair rails, doing drugs, and plastering graffiti on downtown brick walls and tunnels.  Who cares about them anyway?

So I ask you, dear Birmingham, where will these skaters go now?  The Birmingham Railroad Park built what they considered a skatepark, and since it didn’t meet their needs, the skaters made their own park right across the street.  This park, however, included appropriate ramps, bars, and rails that the skaters could use to practice tricks, jumps, and grinds.  In essence, they made a place to contain themselves so that they could get the practice they needed without vandalising the city.  They don’t require an audience like the Barons, but they do need certain types of equipment which were not considered by the Railroad Park.

Since I was born and raised in and around the Birmingham area, I consider myself in the know about our city.  My son, however, is just now developing a love for Birmingham since he has spent his years in the big city of Bangkok, Thailand, where he enjoys skateboarding with many of his friends in several of our public parks.  He has worked with our slum ministry and loves helping people.  He is a decent guy who skates.

Birmingham, would we consider a place where both minor-league baseball players and minor-league skateboarders could both excel and practice?  Could we once again look past your prejudices and see the skateboarders as a group of decent guys who skate?  Could we provide a place for them just as we are providing for our baseball players?

We’ve worked through difficult times in the past, and here’s another chance for us to shine.  What do you say?

Day 355: 7 Kinds of Patterns That Spur Us To Create

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A beautiful pattern, even with its flaws, can inspire.

“A palindrome is a word or pattern that instead of developing in different directions it folds in on itself so that the beginning and end mirror each other, that they are the same.” Todd Solondz

The word ISUZU irritates me every time I get stuck behind it in a traffic jam.  I’m sure it has a memorable meaning for its market, but I see it as a word falling short of its potential.   You see that the S and the Z can be written backwards, and the U in the middle is fine.  However, the I and the U are not balanced.  Had the owners looked artistically at the potential of the word, they might have called it ISUZI  or USUZU or something that could potentially be flipped forming a palindrome.  Instead, it simply annoys me.

Creative people don’t like to follow patterns, but they do look for patterns that inspire.  We are often spurred onward when we are not bound.

While working through my new resolutions, I’ve been looking at patterns to inspire me for 2012.  Here are a few pattern types that motivate me to create.

1. Patterns that puzzle – Tessellations, made famous by the artist M.C. Eschler, are interesting creations.  Like puzzle pieces that fit together perfectly, making a nice tessellation requires a creative jolt in the brain. When forced to find a new way to make a repeating pattern, we might come up with amazing combinations.  Check out the tessellations.org website and start creating your own tessellation today.

2. Patterns that work – My relative is obsessed with football.  When he watches it, he believes that the way he holds his head, the position of his arm, and various other superstitions has some sort of impact on the game’s outcome.  It’s a bit funny to watch except for the scary fact that he seems to believe it is real.  On the positive side, though, I find that when a certain pattern causes a positive end result, we should probably give it some attention.  For example, last year, I was able to complete two of my New Year resolutions for 365 days (almost there).  Now, I’m focusing on what pattern made those resolutions work and how to repeat the pattern for my new resolutions.

3. Patterns that guide – I find that I often want to create something but simply have no idea how to start.  This is a time when a pattern really helps guide me.  Had I never used a clothes pattern, I may have never been able to produce things when they come into my head.  Those basic patterns give my brain some structure and guidance.  These basics allow me to build ideas and to create beyond the guides.

4. Patterns that limit – I like a project that limits me by time or by resource.  Honestly, when lots of ideas are floating around in my head, it’s hard to  pin one down and focus.  Sometimes I love a contest that gives specific parameters.  Within these limits, I can create let my brain go wild.  Here’s an example where a basic pattern can explode into creative genius.

5. Patterns that break – Last night, I found that one of our nice dishes had broken.  Here’s an opportunity to make something interesting.  I wouldn’t want to break the dish on purpose, but now that it’s broken, I’ll be able to try a mosaic. Sometimes, we find a break in a pattern that draws our attention.  That’s where our creative juices start to flow.

6. Patterns that continue – I’m a science lover because since is so often about looking for patterns.  It interests me to no end that we can find a huge model like the universe and see its repetition in a tiny model like an atom.  It’s amazing how nature mimics us and how we mimic nature.  Patterns that continue can give us the “stuff” we need to start a new creation.

7. Patterns that are memorable – A good thing about patterns is that they often help our memory.  Think of a great poem from childhood.  We likely remember it because the pattern was predictable enough that our brain enjoyed keeping it around.  Of course we often have to take the time to store it in our brains and then bring it out to rehearse it from time to time, but the joy of its pattern often keeps it there.  Good advertising seems to base its plan around a memorable pattern.  Connecting creations with a positive and memorable experience can spur us onward.

What are some new creations you are cooking up for this new year?  I’d love to know.  Are there patterns you’d like to use to encourage your creative juices to flow?

“I like rhyme because it is memorable, I like form because having to work to a pattern gives me original ideas.” Anne Stevenson

Day 353: Resolving 2012 – Making A Good Plan

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The plan didn't go as we expected.

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Pablo Picasso

My husband and I thought we had a great plan.  We went early to the wedding which was several hours away.  We stopped and successfully found supplies that have been missing in Bangkok since the flood.  What could pass the remaining time more perfectly than a relaxing meal on the beach?  The food arrived and was made with some old crab.  Having experience to draw on, we knew that we needed to pay and leave.  Though it was an expensive mistake, at least we didn’t add to it a trip to the hospital with food poisoning.

With 2012 right around the corner, I’m trying to make a new plan.  This year, I had several resolutions, two of which I’ve kept.  This PostaDay 2011 was one of the challenges I kept, and now I’d like something new and exciting to start 2012.

Here are some things I hope to consider when making my plan.

1. Something that stretches me: A plan I consider good is one that I know will be good for me.  This PostaDay challenge was perfect, and I took it on because writing is not my forte.  It forced me to be vulnerable and stretched me in many other ways too.  (I’ll share more about this in my final post this year.)

2. Something that’s doable: A good plan will be one that I know I can do if I set my mind to it.  The PostaDay challenge was measurable, and WordPress gave us good support.  Having other people doing the challenge gave me courage to continue.

3. Something that allows me to create: I find I’m happiest when I’m making something new.  This year, I was able to make a new post every day.  Some days I was very unhappy with my entry, but I was able to be creative in a different way than ever before.

4. Something that helps me learn:  Besides creating, my plan should include learning something new.  I’m thinking of getting back to my computer languages.  My plans aren’t complete, but I know they’ll include learning.

The time is ticking, and I could start the year without a plan. I know, however, that I tend to accomplish what I plan to do.  What kind of plans are you making for the new year?

Day 346: The Music Of The Night

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Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Psalm 150:6

“I believe musicians have a duty, a responsibility to reach out, to share your love or pain with others.” James Taylor

Last night, my friend took me to the 25th anniversary presentation of The Phantom of the Opera filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in London.  I’ve been singing ever since.  There’s something about music done well that stirs my deepest emotions.

Because our souls were made by an inspiring creator, we have a continuous need to express ourselves with passion.  I am grateful for artists who, rather than suppress those feelings, find ways to express them through the mediums of sound, paint, charcoal, and words.

I am an adorer of these artists.  I appreciate how they bear their souls, and I don’t take them for granted.

During this Christmas season, I hope we each take time to connect deeply with our creator.  His creative hand print is seen in every aspect of our natural world.  From the trees, the rocks, the mighty seas, and the beautiful sunset, we hear His voice crying out to us.

The opera God has written for each of us is most beautiful.  May we take time to learn and to perform it with excellence.

Day 342: Learning For Fun

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Learning for fun is the kind of learning that sticks...

“Learning never exhausts the mind.”  Leonardo da Vinci

Our ballet teacher’s son had an amazing mind.  His parents each spoke a different language, and I watched how he went about collecting information even before he could talk well.  He once took my hand and led me to the other room where he tapped the top of his horse.  I realized that he needed the word “mane,”  but he didn’t know it in English.  “Mane,” I told him.  “The hair on the horse’s neck we call the mane.”  He then repeated it and started using it.  This child did intrigue me with his incredible need to learn.

Yesterday, our teachers had an opportunity to learn something new.  I loved the fact that so many of them came to a non-required meeting and had such enthusiasm while playing with two technology tools quite new to them.  There were questions I loved.  No one was trying to show off, and they were very willing to take risks.  When a person wants to learn, that’s the person I want to be around.

Here are my favorite types of learners:

Sponges - People who like soaking up something new are fun. These people know what’s out there, and they are passionate about it.  They introduce us to the fun stuff and get us excited about trying it too.

Yes People - These people listen to what we have to say, and then say “Yes.”  I love being around them and I especially love working for them.  Basically, I can add a”no” anytime I want.  I don’t need it from other people.  “Yes” people give out wings effectively.  I like wings.

Artists - I’m not sure what it is, since I am not a painter or a drawer, but I would surely say I’m artsy.  For some reason, I just mesh well with these people.  Last year, I made a deep connection with an artsy teacher.  We just had some kind of “idea chemistry” going.  Our ideas just kept bubbling up and feeding off of each other.  We would finally just have to put a lid on them in order to go home at night.

Crime Partners – I’ve loved working with one of my co-workers.  We go to conferences together and learn all we can.  When we’re on to something new, we can share it with each other.  We commit to learning together and have a blast doing it.

Da Vinci was right.  Learning energizes us!  If you’re like me, when you learn something new, you get energized and have to share it with someone.

Now, it’s your turn!  Quick–what are ten new things you’d like to learn?

Day 341: Cleaning Up Wild Kisses–The Very Idea

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How about a trip to Paris for a "Wilde" kiss?

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” Oscar Wilde

Today, I read an article about Oscar Wilde’s grave.  An Irish man buried in France, he was passionate.  His tombstone has been washed clean of the pink and red lipstick stains left by fans.  As of December 1, the tomb is now cased in glass to avoid the mad kisses coming Wilde’s way for years.  In essence, his stone was being kissed to death.

Kissing a tombstone might not be considered dangerous, but Oscar Wilde believed that ideas should be.  How are ideas like a kiss?

Prepare for a wild kiss.  We all know to grab some breath mints, put on the right lipstick, and freshen ourselves when romance is in order.  Ideas also come when we prepare for them.  By gathering new materials, we are able to allow our creative juices to play around with new thoughts.  When we give ourselves reflecting and resting time, we set our environment right for creativity.

Kiss with passion.  If an idea is not memorable, it’s not likely to last.  Like a passionate kiss, the idea should be familiar, yet different enough to allure.

Know when to stop.  The best ideas are like a great kiss.  It is not overdone.  It keeps the mind dazzled, and it leaves the receiver wanting more.  A few companies seem to get this right.  IKEA has just come to Bangkok, and I believe they have got the concept right.  They introduce the right amount of new ideas that keep us going back for more.

The next time you think of wiping off that wild kiss, think again.  Ideas and wild kisses are not so very different.

What kinds of passionate ideas do you have in mind?

Is Your Mood Ring Stuck On Black?

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The natural colors and designs in nature are free for those who notice!

“The earth laughs in flowers.” e.e. cummings

Back in the 70′s, I was enamored by the faddish mood rings.  Whenever I put one on, though, I found it often turned a shade of gray or black.  At the time, I was horrified because as a sixth-grader, I wanted others to see me as passionate.  Of course now I know the reason.  My hands were almost always icy cold in the wintertime at our school.  I would see people working on the school furnace, but it seemed that none of it was piped down to Mrs. Blalock’s room.  Unfortunately, the mood ring didn’t reflect the idiom, “Cold hands–warm heart.”

Our moods come in many colors, but if we’re seeing too much black, perhaps we haven’t taken time to enjoy nature’s design.  Think to yourself, what did I notice on the way to work today?  If it was the changing colors of nature, the details in a leaf, or the shape of a mountain, chances are that our mood ring would show a vibrant or a dark blue.  In mood ring language, that may mean relaxed or even passionate.

Do we often find ourselves so busy that we run out the door without noticing the weather, the flowers, or anything about the nature around us?  If so, it’s time for a change of pace.

Stop and smell the roses.  That song was written for a reason.  When we are too busy, we fail to notice the miracles all around us, and we forget to count our blessings.

Just dance.  Lady Ga Ga might be a little strange, but she does understand the value of a bit of exercise.  In a gym or wherever you enjoy working it out is just fine, but I like exercising in the park.  With nature all around, I can’t help but give thanks for God’s natural wonders.

Come together.  I love to spend time with a friend over a cup of coffee. It’s even more fun if that person is passionate about life.  There are some people I love being around.  When I leave them, I usually leave with a smile.

The next time we find ourselves stuck on black, let’s get out and enjoy the natural songs of nature and of friends.

What do you do when you’re in a bad mood?

Day 323: Have You Used A Crayon Lately?

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Let your true colors come shining through!

“All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.” Marc Chagall

We knew my dog had been into someone’s crayons when he expelled something purple and green.  Green can come from various sources but purple was surely the work of a crayon.

Even dogs know the value of vivid colors.  You can buy another brand, but it’s hard to beat Crayola crayons. They even hold the smell of childhood.

A good way to refresh your creativity is to take a trip back in time.  Grab a coloring book and some crayons and have fun coloring alongside your favorite child.  When I was a child, I was shocked to see how “good” an adult could color.  The lines were even, the texture seemed flawless, and I wanted to color that way too.

If you want to get in touch with your creative side today, stop by for a pack of Crayola crayons (not the off brand) today.

Day 320: No Free Art, So Keep Painting

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The brushstrokes give it character.

“It is not your paintings I like, it is your painting.” Albert Camus

There were no art classes in the school where I grew up.  Once, a lady came to town and offered classes open to those who could pay for them.  I watched and listened when students came back from those classes. I remember hearing that they had 60 seconds to draw figures without lifting a pencil.  It sounded exciting.

Being resourceful is a side-effect of growing up in a small town.  Two key factors allow creativity–time to think and limited supplies. When opportunities are limited, people become creative using what they have to make what they need.  This was my situation.

Not having an art class might seem sad to those who had them, but for us, it was normal.  Resources were limited, and essentials were emphasized.  Yet, as I’ve gotten older, I can see the benefits of a brain that aches to create without a formal instructor.  Just as I ran home and tried to draw without lifting my pencil, I can see that experimentation improves creativity.

There are times to experiment for our own growth and not for others.  The process is the important thing and not the product.  Yet, we often find that products improve because we play with resources.

My problem is getting started.  Because I’ve never learned to paint, my mind thinks that I’ve got to come up with a masterpiece in order to dirty the canvas.  That’s not how children go about it, though.  Their creative side flows easily.  I don’t think that most of them have any idea what they’re going to paint when they pick up the brush, but still they do it.

So, I have a dilemma.  A brush, paper, and paints have been sitting in front of me for days.  How will I start?  I’m open to suggestions.