The book of 2012

We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.  ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

I’m always cheered by the thought of a new year and another chance to start over. Blank pages used to scare me, but I welcome them now.

Last year brought incredible challenges involving my widowed mother’s healthcare, leaving me little time or energy to devote to writing projects. At the end of the day, sometimes, I would head up to the art studio to work on collages, greeting cards, or mixed-media constructions.

In the process, I learned that making art both relaxed and uplifted me — and appealed to a part of my soul that writing never could. Of course, I will always write, one way or another, but right now I’m excited about the possibility of projects that combine illustration with text. I want to push beyond the creative goals I set for myself years ago. It’s time to begin again.

I hope your new year is off to a great start, and that you’re excited by creative possibilities and dreams. I hope you find what makes your heart want to sing, or dance, or paint, or draw, or write. — Cindy La Ferle   

–Original greeting card collage by Cindy La Ferle–

 

Do what you love

It’s a DIY world, but you can’t do it alone. Build your team as wisely as you would choose typefaces or words for lyrics. Embrace your place on earth as creative. Give thanks you were given this gift to share. Turn a deaf ear to those who say the path of art is hard. Doing something you don’t love is a much harder path.” — Patti Digh, from What I Wish for You

— Original mixed-media art by Cindy La Ferle —

Music and mad science

Mystery is at the heart of creativity. That, and surprise.” — Julia Cameron

At our house, Halloween weekend is always a celebration of creativity and make-believe, whether we’re stirring up a batch of Hell’s Kitchen Chili or putting the finishing touches on our costumes.  Which makes it the perfect time to introduce you to Doug’s brand-new CD, “Professor Pandemonium’s Cabinet of Wonders.”

As Doug likes to explain it, his album is a musical variation of an old curiosity cabinet — a wild assemblage that could just as easily belong to a mad scientist. Crack open the cover of the CD and youll discover 16 catchy tunes that are classified as “steampunk pop.” Like a potion from the medicine wagon in the Wizard of Oz, the whole mix is a little hard to describe. Start with the Beatles “Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” and add equal parts Ray Bradburys novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Danny Elfmanns film, “Nightmare Before Christmas.”  Like a costume party, it’s pure fun — and highly entertaining.

I’ve always been a fan of the Victorian circus, so right now, my favorite song from the album is the dark and mysterious “Pandemonium Ensues.” I keep telling Doug that it ought to be included in the soundtrack of a Dr. Seuss film — it’s that atmospheric and cool. But not all the tunes are Halloweenish. “Just Be Friends” and “There Is No Time” are pretty mainstream, each with a lovely hook that stays with me. “Let Monkeys Rule” — which has its own video on YouTube — is pure political commentary on how our inability to get along is endangering our world and thwarting our own progress.

OK, I’ll admit I’m slightly biased. And five years of piano lessons didn’t make me a music critic, by any stretch. But this is my husband’s newest endeavor and I’ve got bragging rights. In any event, I’m the luckiest woman I know — married to such a creative guy who’s full of surprises. For reviews and information about the new CD, as well as a glimpse inside the professor’s cabinet, visit Professor Pandemonium’s Cabinet of Wonders. — CL

–Top photo of Douglas La Ferle (a.k.a. Professor Pandemonion) in his laboratory by Cindy La Ferle–

Circus of life

Damn everything that won’t get into the circle.” — e.e. cummings

I’ve been a fan of the big top as far back as I can remember. It was the highlight of every spring when I was child. Later, as a local freelance reporter, I was thrilled when I was assigned to interview the lion tamer when the traveling Shrine Circus came to town.

And I love how E.E. Cummings (also spelled e.e. cummings) uses the circus as a metaphor for a rich and juicy life — a life bursting with color, sparkle, muscle, and magic.

In another poem in this series, Rumi reminded us to seat ourselves next to our own joy. Along these lines, Cummings rallies against the safe and the dull. His poem is a warning against those who run around putting holes in other people’s balloons. So let’s hear three cheers for the risk-takers and joy lovers — for the fearless ones who dance on the tightrope of life. — CL

Damn everything but the circus!
By E.E. Cummings

…damn everything that is grim, dull,
motionless, unrisking, inward turning,
damn everything that won’t get into the
circle, that won’t enjoy, that won’t throw
its heart into the tension, surprise, fear
and delight of the circus, the round
world, the full existence…

— Reprinted from E.E. Cummings: Complete Poems: 1904 – 1962; Liveright; Revised Edition; 1994

— Detail from “Damn everything but the circus!” (an altered book) by Cindy La Ferle —

Shifting creative gears

Enjoy a tiny adventurous moment close to home. It changes your perspective, reminding you that the world is deep and rich and full of color and miracles.” –SARK

A lot of us are stumbling over creative blocks lately. Those who live in the wintry Midwest and Northeast blame it on lack of sunshine. Or cabin fever. Even if things are going reasonably well in other areas of our lives, we might gaze out our windows at the icy moonscape that once bloomed with roses or black-eyed Susans and feel twinges of ennui, or even despair.

Whatever the cause, it’s hard to get inspired when you’re sluggish and blue.

Last month I tripped over a huge creative block and hit a wall. For starters, what began as a satisfying home renovation project was abruptly stalled by a carpet order gone wrong, thanks to the evil Home Depot. (As a result, our master bedroom stayed torn apart for weeks.) Meanwhile, my elderly mom’s dementia-related health problems took a turn for the worse, requiring several trips to her doctor — and the hospital — for tests. As her sole caregiver, I felt helpless and exhausted.

Worst of all, I couldn’t seem to write or talk my way out of any of it. It was time to work from another side of my brain. Time to shift creative gears and to make something tangible and fun.

Bead therapy

Just in time, I received a clothing catalog featuring one of the coolest fetish necklaces I’d ever seen. Strung with African trading beads, brass trinkets, and a wild collection of charms, it evoked long walks on Caribbean beaches and cabana cocktails under the stars. A summer-fantasy vacation on a string!

I was tempted to pull out my credit card and purchase the fetish necklace online or over the phone. Instead, I decided to treat myself to the pure fun of making it myself.

Things were slow at the local craft store when I arrived on a gray Wednesday afternoon with the catalog photo in hand. The salesclerk working in the bead section was just as intrigued by the necklace, and eager to help with the project. Taking my time, I chose a few imported beads that had special meaning to me: a wooden bead with a butterfly motif (symbolizing transformation); another with a Celtic spiral; others that simply caught my eye.

At home I played with the beads until they became a necklace, stringing them together one by one and finding myself in a sunnier frame of mind. Of course, our master bedroom was still in chaos, beyond my control. And my mother’s dementia-related “episodes” were still unresolved. Regardless, I’d made something cheerful and new. The necklace wasn’t exactly like the one in the catalog — but I’d made it my own.

I often tell my workshop students that writing an essay or a chapter is a bit like stringing beads to form a beautiful necklace. Like the right bead, each word or sentence must do its share of the work to bring meaning or sparkle to the whole piece. You need to take your time, choose carefully, and take pleasure in the process.

That said, no matter what you’re working on, you could find yourself getting tangled up in “the process” at some point. When that happens, it helps to take a break. Or try making yourself a real necklace. — Cindy La Ferle

— Fetish necklace in photos by Cindy La Ferle —