I vividly remember a photo of NYTimes cooking columnist Mark Bittman making gorgeous food in his tiny NY kitchen. The image came back to me while feeling nostalgic for the drawers, cabinets and shelves of the large CT art studio I abandoned over 10 years ago. Instead, I chose to be inspired by Bittman’s undaunted talent while dwelling in a humble space. A google search revealed that the article about him was from 2008, reminding me of a picture’s worth. I still recall it 12 years later.
I’m now living in a small, comfortable apartment and believe I can create great art even without the gorgeous architecture, or storage spaces filled with t-squares and bobbins.
The art of penny rugs, dating back to the 1800’s, was invented during a time when today’s modern conveniences were non-existent. Pennies were used as templates, and sophisticated tools were unavailable, if they even existed back then. Like patchwork quilts, women made bedspreads, chair covers and tabletops using scraps and what they had on hand to assemble them. In 2020 I’ve got access to gorgeous supplies, but limited space, as I begin to re-equip myself for this new endeavor.
By the time I moved out of my house in Norwalk I had converted my art business into a coaching practice and had given away the majority of my supplies–mostly those having to do with the egg decorating business I’d developed, but also all my rubber stamps and ink pads, jars of buttons, threads and quilt supplies I once kept on the shelves as a security blanket for when I’d have the leisure to play.
That time has come – not just for me – in the form of a pandemic. I wanted to share in this entry how I’ve adapted my home office to this new passion. I’m not nearly as neat as Bittman appears to be. When I get going on a project, drawers are flung open, the floor is used for extra surface space, and I immerse myself in the colors, textures and pace of invention. It most often starts with a cleared desk–a blank canvas–but quickly devolves into a mad scientist’s laboratory. I don’t care about neatness. Even though it appears to be chaotic, I always know where to reach for the small scissors to snip the thread, where the pincushion is, and where to retrieve the skein of Perle cotton I need.
I tell you this to dispel any image of me as a meticulous housekeeper and creator. I wish I were, but that’s never been my style. My action partner says she pictures me in a pristine space with everything perfectly laid out – like a dentist’s tools being gracefully handed to her by the hygienist at her side. Nope. My intricate works evolves out of mild chaos, and I like it that way.
I even find the scraps a work of art.
While working, I listen to podcasts or recorded books. Lately, I’ve been deeply moved by How to Be An Anti-Racist written and passionately read by Ibram X. Kendi. Before that, I listened to 1619, an extraordinary NYTimes podcast about slavery in America recommended by my friend and colleague, Rochelle Odesser. One positive action I can take daily is to become a better informed advocate for Black Lives Matter.
Yes, I’d love 10′ sewing tables, a rotary cutter and a self-healing cutting mat with inches ruled out on it. But I’m not letting that stop me for one minute of my creativity. I believe I can create beauty from exactly where I am now, with the materials at hand and the inspiration that continuously shows itself to me.