The Ergonomics of being Creative

It’s all about the brushes and scissors and glue. But the what they don’t tell you about in “creative school” is your hands and neck and back.

Conversation with myself:
ME: Yes, yes, yes…color swirling, this way, blend, right-angles, numeric calculations, cut here, scrunch there…

MYSELF: Ouch, no, dang it thumbs, ugh, no, bad neck ergonomics, dizzy, stop scrunching…

ME: Hair frizzled, glasses smudged, elevated bliss, color, texture, inspiration, just a while longer…

MYSELF: Ouch, pinching, stop now, blurred vision, stretch again, frozen shoulder, ears ringing, locked finger joints, stop, stop, stop…

What is the one thing that cellists, facialists, writers and artists all have in common? We all lean over and curl around our creations. And while we all know how we should counteract this bad posture, 8 hours a day at one’s craft retrains the body for the worst.

I have been dealing with this accumulation of wear and tear on my body parts for these last number of months—which is why I have been writing these blog posts so infrequently. And after bouts of crippling muscle entanglements and resulting fractured vision earlier this year, this is what I have learned about the ergonomics of being creative.

  1. Lap top key boards are bad for most people and especially for those with a wide shoulder span. It forces our hands too close together resulting in a collapse of the shoulders and a pinched neck.
  2. All standard key boards and mice force your hands flat which trains your arms to hang at your side backs-facing-forward, like a gorilla. This pulls your neck and shoulder muscles out of alignment which pinch nerves and make your hands go numb. An ergonomic key board and mouse will force your hands side-ways preventing the gorilla stance.
  3. We should view our work straight ahead rather than leaning over with a tilted neck. I have elevated my computer monitor, put my sewing machine cabinet up on blocks and will finally realize the potential of my mother’s tilted art easel that has been stored in the basement all these years. Next project up…
  4. Standing is better than sitting so we do not cut off circulation through the center of our body. I have not yet figured that out with my sewing machine but make myself walk to the ironing board and design wall so I can cut down on my sitting time.
    If we must sit (like many of us do all day) our body should be at a right angle. Back straight, thighs out straight at a right angle with lower part of leg straight down; arms also resting at a right angle straight out from the body. For some people this many mean an elevated foot rest. For me, since I am short-legged with a long torso, my seat is low and I wear clogs that lift my legs upward a bit.
  5. Lastly, stretch out those muscles that get over used to counteract the positioning. I use a hard rubber ball against the wall to create a release of tightness and a good chiropractor and a good Physical Therapist massage technician has also been so very, very helpful. Yoga, of course, is awesome but that requires daily discipline, something I struggle with.

Can’t stop creating though.  From my studio to yours; a new painted and pieced quilt in progress…enjoy!

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Art and light of Christmas Montreal

As David said, it wasn’t cold enough in New Hampshire so we headed north to Montreal, Canada last week for a few days of snowy Christmas-y-ness in the historic old city.  Cold it was—2º one morning—but walking in it added to the charm, invigorated one’s spirits and burnt off a lot of calories!  Let me share some of the sights with you seen through my artist’s eyes.

All entrance ways were decked…

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It was cold so stopped for tea…

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…and stopped for cappuccino in the most magnificent building.

So much attention to ceilings…

In a season of darkness Montreal has mastered the art of color and light.  Outdoor light displays were everywhere and we saw a most incredibly breathtaking light show INSIDE the Notre-Dame Basilica.  The pre-show that focused on the outer-edge shrines was in itself amazing.  See video below…cameras not allowed during main show.

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Near the water front where the original 1642 settlement was formed, fireworks lit the sky and historic reenactments were projected on the 19th century buildings.  An underground tour of the remains of the original settlement showcased the river turned sewer, eventually encased in stone masonry, turned art-light display.  See video below..

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Many artistic inspirations from this trip…we will go back.

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Open Studio; a labor of love

We labor all year on our arts and crafts preparing for an Open Studio in the hope that someone will come and recognize our inspired process.  We hope that our souls will be seen through our work, that the spark that drives us will be showcased and that the viewer will be touched.  It’s a lot of work.  It’s a lot of deadlines.  But it’s a labor of love.

In this past month in preparation for my 11/4 & 5 Open Studio I have updated my website, designed & mailed a postcard, designed & published an email newsletter, uploaded pictures to Facebook & Instagram, personally invited past patrons and reorganized my studio.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor of love.

Today I am photographing and writing a blog post.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor love.

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In this next week I will be completing several new works, adding a new artistic touch to my road sign and posting more to Facebook and Instagram.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor of love.

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In the last week before Open Studio I will be completing more new work, hanging the show, making refreshments, cleaning up my yard & entrance way and keeping my fingers crossed that people will come.  It’s a lot of work but it’s a labor of love.

Why do we make art?  Why do we put ourselves through this intensive process?  It’s a big topic and there are many inspirations, but, basically it’s love.

In this troubled world we need art and artists to comfort ourselves and remind us what love feels like and to rekindle the fire in our own soul.  So rule of thumb; if you ever see an Open Studio sign any time, any place  or any where; stop.  It means the world to those who have gone through this process and you just might feel good yourself.

Come to my Open Studio and visit all my fellow Canterbury Artisans that will be open on the same days, November 4th and 5th.  We are part of the state-wide NH Open Doors Tour in association with the League of NH Craftsmen, supporting and encouraging artisans since 1932.

Fooling mother nature: Autumn color study

The Autumn chill is really late in coming this year here in my tree surrounded property and much of my summer garden is still perky. So I have had a creative impulse to see if I could keep it that way until my Open Studio on November 4th and 5th utilizing some frost gardening tricks gleaned from my years in California.

When I woke early the other morning I saw that temps were dropping at sunrise to 32°; our first frost—and a surprise. So I scooted out with head lamp donned to bring in the last of the vegetable garden across the road. Fried green tomatoes, chili tomato chutney and the rest to dry and grind into powder.

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But in the gardens on our side of the road at my home and studio doors, I was not yet ready to let them go. The turkish eggplants are just now turning orange and I had envisioned that splash of color into autumn. The dahlias on the other side of the walkway are still going and, because I love the combination of the two tones flanking the walkway as we enter the home and studio, I decided to try to keep them going.

I put plastic garbage bags over the eggplant and a heavy sheet over the dahlia. It worked! I put some mulch around their bases for further protection and will continue to cover them when the temps get low at night. With days still going into the 70’s my little green-house effect may keep them going until Open Studio. Fingers crossed!

Trukish eggplant and dalias- janebalshaw.com

Color theory 10:15:17- janebalshaw.com

Gradations of warm to cool, orange to pink, yellow to green.

Color theory class Recognizing Color; Learning to see Hue.  Saturday January 13, 2018.

 

 

In the mind of a creative

IMG_5385I finally sat down, exhausted, and looked around me. Piles on the floor creeping towards me, carefully engineered desktop “filing” teetering, bags exploding over boxes, one inspiration after another layered on work surfaces…. I have done it again. I creatived myself into a mountain of mess.

My mind never really stops. The creative ideas come faster than I can actually execute them; but still I try. There are nasty things that get in the way of execution; like eating and sleeping never mind keeping a somewhat clean house and tidy yard. So to discipline myself to do these somewhat mundane things I turn them into a creative project. You know where I am going with this. New recipes to develop, a seasonal decorative change in the bedroom, a new system for cleaning in a newly appointed room, a redesigned more efficient garden bed… IT NEVER ENDS.

I just can’t seem to help myself.  But I know I am not alone.   Every other artist I know has the occasional (or more than occasional) break down when in the flurry of finishing a project or getting ready for a show the mountain caves in on them.  Where are the 911 head-lamped art-rescue crews when you need them?

I do it to myself in business too.  I remember advising a younger artist that just because she could do something doesn’t mean she had to do it.  But I guess I don’t listen to myself very often because if you look at all I offer here on this website [as I reflectively have just done] I do seem perhaps a little all over the map.

Where do we draw the lines?  It may have something to do with ratio or proportioned time allotment but this does not account for the inspired rush of the moment.  Stop in the middle and you lose the inspirational flow.  In a flash the idea is gone.  Perhaps all creatives need little gnomes to follow them around dabbing the sweat from their brows, feeding them chocolate and sweeping up their messes at the end of each flurry. An aproned housewife might do; or perhaps a toga-clad roman slave type might do nicely too.  Pick your pleasure.

This a rich topic.  I would love it if you commented and we started a discussion.  When I reply it is on this post so check back. Thanks for listening.

The beauty of neutral

As the season and sunlight slips away, nature plays its visual tricks of on us. The chemistry of color takes hold and the natural world around us becomes neutralized. But we don’t really notice the loss of color though, because when neutral is played against itself, subtle becomes vibrant and all the negative descriptions of neutral dullness no longer make sense. Why is that?

When all colors grouped together are in the same relative clarity, the individual tonations in each show up.

Neutral on neutral; janebalshaw.com

Display a neutralized color against a fully saturated color and it will fade.  Interestingly, the brown above is the same brown as shown below.

Color on neutral; janebalshaw.com

 

Nature knows this trickery; in this season of brownish colors, berries are faded orange and those who turn truly crimson red only do so when they present in the pallete of intense winter contrast. Green leaves fade in autumn only because they fade transparent showing off the layers of singular colors always present, eventually loosing them to death and browning.

 

Autumn leaf color formula; janebalshaw.com

Another cause for thought; everything in its time, everything in its season…  Beauty is relative.

But what makes a color neutral? The dictionary defines it as “a color that does not alter its surroundings including our emotions.” From a painters point of view, neutral is a color that contains many pigments, technically called a complex color unlike color-wheel colors that only contain 2 pigments.

rusty truck color formula; janebalshaw.com

dried leaves color formula; janebalshaw.com

As an artist I have found this study of neutral to be endlessly fascinating.   Which pigment goes into a color in turn decides what other colors look great next to it.  What is the perfect beige to paint the wall behind your new burgundy sofa, which off-white is best to set into your quilt block and which shade of nude lipstick is best on your complexion.  Once you understand neutral then the world of color opens up.

I am teaching a class on this subject at the end of October this year 2017.  Follow this link to my workshop page to read more about it.

Neutrals; janebalshaw.com

End of summer gardens; lessons in life

I haven’t written much about my gardens this year. It has been a rough, slow start for most of them. My breast cancer slowed me down in the spring when I should have been tending to their new growth, the continual sprummer rain and darkness on beds that were planted for dryness and sun mooshed, damaging hail storms shredded, and, to be honest, my husband and I have been having too much darn fun every Sunday off the property when I normally would be putzing out there.

None the less, nature has its way. Mid August heat and the organic fertilizer I liberally applied—that I normally do in the spring—has given both of us hope. Something a true gardener is never without. But frankly, I don’t mind a bit-messy garden. It is a symbol of other things pressing on one’s time—fun or duty—and I can appreciate that; no judgement here. The mess can also the humbling effects of nature. One weed pulled today is another weed tomorrow. As Michael Pollan so humorously points out in his book Second Nature, man against nature is a philosophical never-ending battle, one I choose to relinquish now and again. Going with the natural flow of things, living in the moment…I learned this a lot in the garden this year.

 

Blue doesn’t always stay blue and fading can be nice…we all fade.

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We planted late.  Sometimes we get a late start in life and big isn’t always better.

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Toby, our natural grass barber.  Never let your hair cut define you.

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Sometimes all one needs is a good sit and the color red.

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…or pink and orange.

 

Herbs are hardy.  Don’t forget that by adding spice in your life you will become more hardy too.

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Next year I will make the brick edging that will keep the dirt in the beds in place; next year, next year.  You do what you can do, “You get what you get and don’t get upset”; Pinkalicious.

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