Monday, June 30, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop




I'm honored to be participating in the Around the World Blog Hop today. I was thrilled to be invited by numerous people - about six wonderful ladies emailed to ask me to play along. But the first to ask was Gillian, of Tales from a happy house, who has become a real friend and has always been a great inspiration to me. She lives in Leeds, England with her husband and two children. Sometimes I think she's my alter ego across the sea. I've learned a lot from her and thoroughly enjoyed our friendship and her lovely blog. Thank you to everyone who invited me to participate. This blog hop involves answering several questions. I'm answering them on both my creative process as well as my writing. Both are important to me and I enjoyed thinking about them within the context of the questions posed.




1. What am I working on?

So many things. And to be perfectly honest, I don't always feel good about it. Let me explain: I'm the kind of person who likes to concentrate on one thing at a time. I've never been a "magpie" (though I do like shiny things; or maybe that makes me a raccoon?). I actually want to be one of those people who can have several projects on the go, flitting back and forth between them as the mood strikes. But I'm not, at heart, that kind of person. I'm more the type who reads a book she hates all the way through to the end on principal. In school, I used the same pen until it ran out of ink. Sometimes it took several months but I wouldn't give up. 

Crafting, for me, is often the same way: I need to finish something fully before moving on to the next project, or I feel at loose ends, too scattered to really savor the work. But in recent months, I've decided to let go a little bit and work on more than one project at a time. This has been good and bad for me. Good, in that I can put something down when I'm tired of it and let the inspiration build again. Bad, in that I'm not finishing much of anything lately and I'm even forgetting how to do the work sometimes. I recently found myself referring to a book to make a simple granny square! Sounds inspiring, doesn't it? I don't finish anything and I lose basic skills. On the other hand, I'm able to pick up different projects depending on my mood and I also get to have projects for different settings and circumstances: small, portable ones and great, big lap-covering ones. In the end, it feels okay. I think it's a sign of maturity that I can do this at all, actually; a few years ago, the idea would have made me tearful and panicky.

On the crochet front, I'm currently working on a flowers-in-the-snow blanket for my daughter, as well as a ripple throw for my in-laws. I have plans for a crocheted shawl as well as a cowl for myself, to hopefully be worn this winter. I'm also sewing a bit, making a Maggie Rabbit (from a kit) for my daughter too, and working on a patchwork table runner (which just needs binding at this point). Occasionally, I pick up one of my practice knitting swatches, having just mastered the garter stitch this winter (but nothing else yet). I also have several embroidery and machine-sewing projects swirling around in my head at any given time, very few of which have been realized yet. I'd like to work on them before the end of the summer, if possible, but I'm going easy on myself. I've only barely begun to get used to this crafty-promiscuity thing and there's no rush (well, except for the Maggie Rabbit, which has a deadline, as it is a birthday present). 



2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is a difficult question. I'm trying to make my work stand out more. I will say that I've been learning a lot about color and pattern in the past year, and have been finding my own style in that regard. I did lots of sewing, and some crochet, before discovering the world of crafty blogs a few years ago, but I've found it hard to break away from others' ideas of what looks good since immersing myself in blogs. I think I am easily influenced by others' tastes and always have been. I got a "Rachel" haircut in college because everyone else had one, but I never actually liked it. With crochet, I've had to stop and think about my tastes. When I think about what I really love to create, I think of soft colors, simple, clean lines, nothing frilly or overly feminine. I like floral fabrics in small amounts and a few brighter colors mixed in with subtle, muted ones. I don't especially like ditsy prints all over a room, chintz or ruffles.

With this in mind, my crochet work especially has evolved as I've embraced my own style. I tend to shy away from using lots of bright colors now, though a couple of years ago, I was all about a bold, rainbow palette. I realized I like grays, browns and blacks, and soft dusty shades of blue, rose and green. I love mustard now! I didn't know I liked it, but mustard and mellow-gold tones really speak to me. I like pink too, I've realized. I hadn't given it a fair chance before. It has taken me a long time to really feel good about my own work. I've never had much self-confidence and I can be very critical of myself, feeling that I'm not good at much. But it's getting better. I think the key has been to stop worrying about what others would think (especially on my blog), and to start making things that suit my tastes and preferences. I appreciated my own creativity more and began finding my own style too. 


3. Why do I write/create what I do?

I write what I do because life at home with my family is the most important thing in the world to me. I write from my heart. I have very simple desires, I think. I really care about having a peaceful, productive, intentional life. For me, life at home is about comfort, warmth, doing the things we enjoy and being kind to one another. I also like to write about my hobbies, my environment and places I visit. I find that taking the time to photograph and write about the world around me helps me to enjoy it more. In general, I don't really crave excitement. I love staying home, being comfortable and cozy, cooking our own meals and working on hobbies. I try to bring this to life in my writing, to share (and hopefully make interesting) my own little perspective.

I create what I do for all the same reasons. I want this place to be the safest, happiest one my children know. I want them to grow up surrounded by things I made with love and with their needs and tastes in mind. I don't like a fussy home environment. I like a lived-in one, with a few nicer touches here and there, but all of it must be useable and functional. I'm pretty frugal and I love to make things myself, so I try to do that as much as possible. I enjoy seeing the people I love using things I made. I love to look around the house and see my creations and think, "I made that." Mostly, I just love to make things. I'm always working on something and it makes me happy. If there's one thing I hope my children learn from me, it's to find happiness in their own creativity. 



4. How does my writing/creating process work?

My writing process starts in my head. I write every minute that I am awake. I've always been this way. As a child, I filled notebook after notebook with observations and ideas, scrawling over the pages with whichever writing utensil was to hand. Now, I'm neater about it, using a pretty notebook which I keep on my desk and pens stored in a crochet-jacketed bean can. I like to make a few notes for blog posts, but generally, I just sit down and start writing. Blogging helps me channel the writing, which sometimes can feel a bit compulsive. Now I have a place to put it all down, with accompanying photos. I've always enjoyed expository writing most of all, and it's a great pleasure for me to write descriptively and in detail about the world around me. I wrote for my school newspapers and was a writing tutor in college, before becoming an English teacher. I particularly loved teaching writing. Blogging has been a formative experience for me as a writer. I enjoy writing on my own and with prompts from others; I am honored to be a member of the Color Collaborative, a group of bloggers who explore a new topic each month through the lens of color, which has been a challenging, thought-provoking and enriching experience.

My creative process is similar. I love to pore over photos of projects and think about ways to personalize them or make them my own. I have a list of things I would like to make, and I make them as it suits me (unless it's a gift with a deadline). I shop for yarn and fabric in a fairly organized way; I'm not one to splurge on supplies unless I have a specific project in mind. I plan colors the old-fashioned way, dumping a pile of yarn on the floor, or stacking bolts on the counter in the fabric store, and playing with them until I like what I see. I have a relatively tight crafting budget, as well as limited storage space, so I tend to buy small amounts of supplies and use them up before buying more, but I do have a little stash of fabrics and yarns. Occasionally, I'll start a project on a whim, which feels good. I would like to do this more often. It feels more organic. I am a natural-born planner, but creativity shouldn't always start with a blueprint. 

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It's my great privilege to pass this Blog Hop exercise on to two bloggers whose work I enjoy and admire. I hope you will visit their blogs and read about their creative and/or writing process. I am sure you will love what you see there. If you don't already read their blogs, you'll want to return again and again to see what these talented ladies are up to. They will be posting their blog hop contributions next week, on July 7.

Teresa, of the eponymous Teresa Kasner blog, is an artist and yarn-crafter. She lives on a farm in Oregon. She is funny and warm and she shares interesting tidbits of her life on her blog. Teresa is a retiree who is extremely active in her community, holding numerous offices in civic organizations and volunteering often. She is a mother of grown children and a grandmother - a very loving one at that. Her artwork and crafts are beautiful and unique. She is a truly talented and interesting lady and I'm proud to know her.

Nicole, of My Garden Diaries, is a mom of three small children who is passionate about gardening and home design. Nicole lives in Illinois. I am always very impressed at how beautifully she puts together her home and garden, in addition to being a very devoted mother. Nicole and I are about the same age and I feel that she really "gets" me, especially when I mention things I liked as a kid or teenager. Nicole's blog is truly inspiring; I get new ideas from her all the time. And she's always sweet and supportive. She is the best kind of blogging friend.

38 comments:

  1. Lovely writing, truly from the heart. The love you have for home and family and communication comes through. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Hi there, all caught up now! Your flowers from your last post look really great, they are definitely coming along well aren't they. You must have worked out what the knack is to get them to grow in your climate, so now you just need to enjoy them! It was very interesting to read this post, I hope that you can worry less about what others think and just do your own thing and gradually work out what your own style and likes and so on are. It can be a tough thing to do can't it, especially if you are not someone who just goes with the flow but likes to be more planned and think ahead about things. You will find the balance and work it out I am sure! xx

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  3. Hello Jennifer,

    Through your responses here, we feel that we have been given a very privileged and personal look into your world. Everything that you do is thoughtfully and carefully considered. Clearly, your family is both important and a source of support and inspiration to you. Their influence is very apparent as so much is written and made from the heart.

    Your skills and talents are immense. We cannot thread a needle so much of your craftwork is way beyond us and it is so very interesting to read about the ways in which it has developed to the point it is at today. And, how wonderful for us that you enjoy blogging as an avenue for your writing, for in this we can share.

    We have followed your links and been delighted to find Nicole and Teresa. A small world when one is blog hopping!

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  4. Jennifer, I absolutely enjoyed this. From the heart and just nice to get to know you even better. You have come a long way with your blog.-It definitely shows. I love coming by and reading your latest post and seeing what all you have created on your spare time. What a wonderful post. :)

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  5. The work that you displayed in this post just blew me away friend! You should be so proud of everything that you have accomplished and made! It is beautiful and inspiring! I have just been teaching myself crochet...my goal is to make a simple blanket by the fall and then I will be coming to you to learn about granny squares! I really admire your sense of self and how much you cherish the home....it shows in all that you do! Thank you so much for thinking of me and passing this on to me...I feel completely honored!!! Have a wonderful week pal! Nicole xoxo

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  6. You are so inspiring, I love your writing which is obviously from the heart. Your creative skills are a joy to see, I would love to be able to produce crochet work that is as beautiful as yours. I'm so glad I found your blog x

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  7. Lovely post. A pleasure to read and look at. You make such beautiful things and photograph them so well.

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  8. A lovely post, so nice to read more about you and to see your lovely colourful images. Hope you have a wonderful week, enjoying your cherished family, home and creativity.
    Helen xox

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  9. It has been fun to do hasn't it? I truly feel that you blog from the heart adn that is what I like. From the moment you spotted my Robert Smith postcard on a noticeboard makeover I knew we would be blogging friends! Keep making stuff lady... Love Jo x

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  10. Such a lovely post, I'm enjoying these blog hops & finding new blogs to follow! I already follow Gillian & Nicole who seem such lovely people & who have enjoyable blogs to read. I hope you have a super week. xx

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  11. I must say this on so many of your posts, but I just love the elegant way you write, it makes so much sense to find out you were an English teacher. This was a lovely insight in to your creative process, and I'm so happy to see that you chose Nicole to continue, you are both two of my favourite bloggers! x

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  12. Your posts are always interesting, Jennifer, but this one was even more interesting than usual. Thanks for sharing. Off now to visit Gillian, Teresa and Nicole. :o)

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  13. This was such a lovely post, Jennifer. Even though you are much younger than I, I think we would be good neighbors. I kind of see a lot of my younger self in you and how you go about being a mom and a wife. I'm always telling my husband about something that I read on your blog, and I always refer to you as "my New Mexico blog friend -- you know, that really sweet family," and then he knows who I am talking about!

    I do have to remind myself, once-in-awhile, that just because a bunch of bloggers are doing something a certain way, that does not necessarily mean I should change how I'm doing it. I'm pretty good at marching to my own drummer most of the time, and I see that in you, too.

    Where we do differ big time is the flitting vs non-flitting issue! At any given time, I could easily have five or six different things going on. I get bored very easily and will just "flit" from one thing to another and back again, unless it does have a deadline.

    I think it has been so much fun reading and learning more about you, Jennifer. You are certainly a young woman whom I greatly admire, and I'm very glad we are blog friends.

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  14. A lovely post Jennifer. I really liked what you said about hoping your children enjoy creativity too. For me it's a happy enjoyable thing too, and I hope that my children will also be able to get joy from hobbies and making things as well. The best part of creativity is when somebody else "gets" it and when you can share the pleasure. CJ xx

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  15. I so enjoyed reading this, Jennifer. You do write very well. And I loved your collages. I hope it gave you a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, seeing all your creativity laid out there like that. Thank you so much for taking part. xx

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  16. what a lovely post Jennifer, it must have taken quite some time!
    I love the picture of the crochet circle flowers in the box, they look like a packet of jammie dodgers (your friend Gillian across the pond will know what they are :)
    Jillxo

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  17. I loved reading more about you and the things your truly cherish and love.

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  18. Hello Jennifer! I enjoyed reading your post and always learn new things about you - but I definitely already knew of your devotion to be the best mom and wife and I think you're spot on! Thanks for selecting my blog for the next hop. So, I post in one week and answer the same 4 questions? Pick a few bloggers to pass it on? I can do that! :-)
    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  19. Thanks Jennifer. Such an interesting post. It's always lovely to get to know someone a little more. X

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  20. I don't know why you're not confident about your crafting because your work is fabulous. I love your crochet work especially and your colour choices are highly inspirational. Keep up the good work, Jennifer. This was a great post with loads of crafty eye-candy to please the crafting senses. Thanks. x

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  21. Hi Jennifer,

    Wasn't this a challenge, having to analyze your writing process and stylistic attitude of your blog? When I was in the 'process' of writing my take on this subject, I felt some of the same things you talked about here. And speaking of similarities...was both surprised, but should have realized, that you, too, were an English teacher!! I'm sure you were just as creative in the classroom, and provided a cozy security for your lucky students, as well.

    Happy 4th!

    Poppy

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  22. What a lovely post. I enjoyed reading about your creative process and looking at all the beautiful things you've made. I shall pop over to the blogs you've nominated now.

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  23. Such an honest post and lovely to learn a little more about you. Some very beautiful creations shown here too, you are so talented Jennifer xoxo

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  24. You absolutely should feel good about your work - you are SO talented! I really enjoyed this post and reading more about your creative process. Col x

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  25. Lovely to read a little more about you. So lovely to see lots of your creations together they look fabulous x

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  26. Jennifer I loved learning more about you. I think our processes are much alike. I read a book I don't really care for all the way to the end too.:-). I also love reading about the happy home you're creating for your children. It's the absolute BEST gift you can give to them.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  27. Such a wonderful post, Jennifer, I have really enjoyed seeing your projects and creations, and knowing from where they stem! Your work is just beautiful, all of it! And as usual, I see a kindred spirit in your writing, your reasons for creating, for writing, and the nurturing heart of it all! Chrissie x

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  28. so many beautiful creations and colors.. and you do it with heart, which makes it all the more special

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  29. Hi, just catching up from my holiday. What a truly beautiful post, from the heart and some amazing works of art made with love. A true inspiration.

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  30. Look at all of those Fabulous makes! WOW!
    I loved reading about your philosophy for a happy, handmade family home, perfect.
    love Jooles x x x

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  31. Another beautifully-written and beautifully-illustrated post, Jennifer and one which gives real insights into how you approach your writing and your craft work. Having admired your writing for a long time, I'm not at all surprised to learn you were an English teacher. It explains a lot. :-)

    I'm impressed you're learning to flit between projects. I can't do that. I prefer to work on one project at a time, otherwise I feel I'll never finish anything.

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  32. Hi Jennifer :-) this is such a beautiful heartfelt post and I love all your photos too. It's so lovely to get to know you a little more.
    Tracey xxx

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  33. Loved to hear more about you and how the creative process works for you. I'm loving all that summer food too....making me hungry and I've just had lunch! :) x

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  34. Ha ha, Jennifer, I know exactly what you mean about finishing projects. I am the same! I like to have one thing to work on and I am determined to get it finished. But that is my problem as I get stuck or fed up with it, but I will not move onto another one until it's finished. And I do the same with books, read books I am not enjoying because I feel like I have to finish it. I am glad you have started to get a few more projects on the go and I know I must do the same. I really enjoyed looking over all of your past projects. :)

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  35. Gorgeous post. Lovely to see all your makes yoder her, you really have made some beautiful things.
    Marianne x

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    1. Sorry...that is meant to read...all your makes together!
      Marianne x

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  36. How neat you were asked to join in on an amazing blog hop! I love reading about you! You are so very talented! xo Jen

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  37. Such a wonderful post Jennifer. It's good to learn more about you through your creative processes. I love the collages of all your beautiful makes. I know what you mean about finishing things too, sometimes I'm scared to start in case I don't finish!! I'm looking forward to seeing more of your makes and creativity in future posts!

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Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

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