Encouraging Creativity At Home

 
Encouraging Kids Creativity
 
 

This week I have a second opportunity to work with the Chicago Children’s Museum, and my first time to work with kids in the new art studio space. We will be showing them different ways to weave at home using repurposed materials. As a part of the workshop for the smaller age groups, I wanted to offer parents some ideas that have worked really well for our family to encourage our kids to create on their own (without unmanageable mess!). I made this list of a few tips that I feel have made a real difference for us, and a shopping list of some basics for stocking and all-ages creative space.

These things can easily translate to encouraging yourself to create in new ways on the regular! So whether your home has kids or not, here’s some things to try.

5 Ways To Encourage Creativity At Home

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  1. Create A Designated Space-- Find a permanent spot in your home where your kids can have regular access to supplies that you’ll be okay with a moderate amount of mess, and they can leave an unfinished project out. A table top, a small shelf or space for storage, and a floor that is wipeable are all you need.

  2. Make Something Yourself-- Tapping into your own creative space not only models this habit for your kids, it can create some quiet quality time that you both enjoy.

  3. Let Go- Try to keep your guidance minimal. There will be plenty of people in your kids life to give them rules and structure when it comes to creating. Their home art space can be the place they play and think outside of any boxes, a skill as important to foster as any other.

  4. Get Easy To Use And Easy To Keep Supplies-- but not too many or it will be too hard to clean up and organize! The basics are best. Use this handy Supply List I made on Amazon with some of the basics that my kids are always using. Follow their curiosity and get different or better things based on what attracts them to create most often.

  5. Take An Interest In What They’ve Made-- Instead of asking if that’s a tree or a dog and accidentally assigning meaning or completely misreading it, you can say, “Tell me about this part!” and then follow up with questions. Hang it on a designated wall with sticky tack or tape, or frame it with a small poster frame above their beds.

Check out this printable version of a shopping list to take with you to shop locally. I also made up an Amazon idea list here if you want to get some basics online. And of course, don’t forget to shop your recycling and the back of your closet for materials!

 

How To Do What You Say You Want To Do // Studio Before & After

 
 

I did not expect improving my basement studio to give me a mental and emotional battle.  

Here’s how it started. Last summer, while I was working, I got a hammer and started hacking away at the tile that framed out our basement window. I thought, if I just get started, then I’ll have to keep going because it will be a huge mess. If I just get started I can work on this a little at a time, in phases, and I won’t have to work in this ugly place anymore. So I began Phase 1: Get rid of the copious tile, paint the part of the basement where we work the most, and (ask Nate to) build the shared desk we’ve been wanting. We finished Phase 1 in a few days. And that was nice, for a while.

 
 
 First Draft

First Draft

 Second Draft

Second Draft

 
 

Come November I was getting real sick of looking at the blue ceilings (every ceiling in our house was blue when we moved in), the unfinished everything, the dark paneled wood of the staircase and the relative dysfunction of our undesigned space. I wanted a place I could invite people. I wanted a place I could feel good, a place I could take pretty pictures. So I started again. I’ll just do a little at a time, I thought. I painted, and painted, and painted, an hour or so at a time over several weeks...and did not seem to get very far. I told myself I'd finish it by the end of the year, and I didn't. 

 
 
 That staircase. 

That staircase. 

 Much better. 

Much better. 

 
 

Then in January, I had a pivotal moment reading You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero.  Here's the revelation that made the whole book worth reading for me: 

“The moment it gets hard or expensive or puts you at risk of looking like a moron, if you haven’t made the decision, you’ll quit. So often, we pretend we’ve made a decision, when what we’ve really done is signed up to try until it gets too uncomfortable”.

Woah. These 2 sentences shifted something in me so powerfully.  She called me out. I realized that I wasn’t honoring my decisions. I wasn’t following through, and I was calling it responsible. I was second guessing so much in my decision making as a business owner and artist that I wasn't producing what I actually wanted to produce. And I was jealous of the people who were making the exact things they wanted to. I had no idea how they were doing that-- how they were ALLOWING themselves to do that. I realized that if I made some real decisions and stuck through without stopping when my mind started to question things, I would see some real results that I wasn’t seeing. I had already written down what I want to do this year and why- or rather what I had decided to try to do until it got uncomfortable. One of those things was finishing my studio space. When I asked myself why I wanted that, the answers were clear to me and I truly liked my reasons. I could see the value of a better space. But I still wasn’t really making the decision to actually do it. I was getting held up by discomfort.

So, I decided to make the decision. I would really and truly for real real finish this space. I set right to work- adjusting my calendar, telling people I wasn’t going to be available for this and that, making space, getting the supplies I'd need. Right away, I was shocked by how hard and uncomfortable it was for me. Here are some of the thoughts that kept challenging my decision: 

 
 
I should be doing things that will make money.

This isn’t really important.

Other people don’t have this privilege.

There are people suffering in the world with nothing.

My friends will think I should be doing more important things.

It doesn’t need to be perfect/finished.

It does need to be perfect/finished and I’ll never get there.

I can’t have nice things.

It’s still a basement.

I can’t make a big deal out of this because other people will think it’s not a big deal because it’s still a basement.

I can’t make a big deal about this because other people have a lot less and might feel jealousy or see that I’m privileged.
 
 
 Worse. 

Worse. 

 Better. (Same view)

Better. (Same view)

 
 

There were moments where these thoughts took all the energy out of me, and sucked away my vision so I couldn’t see where I was going or why. I was so surprised noticing how often these things were slowing me down, like hurdles in my path. One day, close to tears and at that point of fixing up a space where it’s worse than when you started, I was feeling stupid and defeated. I felt like I was spending time Nate could be using to generate income for our family, and he would make so much more money with this time. I felt like he didn’t see the importance. I felt like quitting, but instead I tried on some new thoughts. “That’s okay if no one else sees this as important. I don’t need them to, because I see it. I know this is important, and I made a decision, and that's enough for me.”  I stopped with the paint roller in the air and said out loud, “I promise myself, I’m going to finish this. I promise I’m going to finish this to the place where I can look around and not see a bunch of things that I want to change. I’m going to finish this until it’s complete in my eyes.”

 
 
 Just after moving in. 

Just after moving in. 

 After photos by  Rachel Loewen Photography .

After photos by Rachel Loewen Photography.

 
 

As I got closer and closer to finishing, I still battled those thoughts about wasting time, but I started to notice the power of those thoughts diminishing, and being replaced with a new nemesis: Comparison. I could see that this basement studio of mine, that I love and that feels like luxury to me, would be nothing compared to some of what I saw on Instagram: Photos of a basement that looks nothing like a basement, with wood flooring and detailed moulding. Another of someone’s studio with floor to ceiling black steel-framed windows facing tree covered hills. I felt defeated by comparisons. What’s the use? I can’t show this space to any interior designer, or people who work in high-end spaces. This space is embarrassing.

But then Instagram, always a complex character, gave me some gifts to restore my vision. First, Jersey Ice Cream Co. I discovered them years ago via Design Sponge but hadn’t seen their work in a while. Their style consistently resonates with me. It’s creative and eclectic but thoughtful, intentional. They appreciate old things and imperfect things and texture but still use some minimal and modern touches. Their style feels connected to the past and not overworked.

 
 
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The second gift was Grace Bonney’s couch, posted right on her IG feed with a giant rip from her dog in the background. I respect her design eye and business practices so much, and that couch rip felt like validation that I can be myself. If Grace and Tara and Percy can show the beauty in imperfections, so can I. If they can be free to like what they like, so can I. And I like imperfect, down to earth stuff. Don't get me wrong, high end finishes and luxury elements are amazing too. But they're not right for the house I live in, or my family, or me. I like my studio with the patchworked lumber the previous owner used as a baseboard around only half the basement. I like that there are some splatters of paint and stain I can’t get off the floor, and a basketball hoop for my kids. 

These tiny examples of imperfect spaces were enough to get me out of my funk and so I could push to the finish line. When my deadline came and I called it finished, I was so happy with the results. My family loves the space and our use of it has increased. My husband raves about how much the environment has changed his day to day work experience, how he feels more professional. And I feel like I know better than ever how to actually do the things I want to do. This whole thing was another exercise in my life of building trust in my own ability to make decisions that bring life, even if no one else can see it at the time. 

What about you? Do you wait for other people to validate your decisions? Is there something you really want to do and see the value of, but you've been stopped by the discomfort it causes? Give yourself permission to really decide. Don't waste your time going half way. Go get the best "Afters" your life is capable of creating. 

 
 

My 2018 Manifesto

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I wrote this a while ago and wanted to share it with you (if anyone's there even though I post so rarely) in case it resonates with you and lifts you up. 

I got the prompt for this from the book You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, recommended by Nikki at Feminest (link is to her 2017 book list and it's worth checking out). I know, it sounds like a woo-woo cheese sandwich to write yourself a manifesto, but I have to say- every time I read it my mindset, mood and activities change. I become 95% more effective at having the kind of day that makes up the kind of life that I want to live. 

I use the words, "fully drop into the moment" in one part of my manifesto. I don't remember who I got that language from, but they should probably have whatever I otherwise might have spent in therapy and Zoloft this year so far. In my battle with anxiety, the idea of dropping in to the present moment- like I teleported from somewhere else and just got here to reality- is my most effective and easy access to relief. I think a lot of my anxiety comes from a swirling, hyperactive mind. When I notice it- my jaw clenching, tightness in my chest, not breathing well, feeling like I could lay down and cry- and then picture that concept of dropping into the present moment, it's the fastest way I've experienced my anxiety dissipating. 

Anyway, here's what I'm focusing on manifesting in my life this year. I did not write this for the internet. It's super personal and real. But I want to share it with anyone who might want the same things or feel the same obstacles so we can cheer for each other. If that's not you, no problem. If you've done something like this, please (please, please!) send me a link or an email about it-- I haven't read others' and would love to be inspired by you, or resonate with you. 


Jamie's 2018 Manifesto


I see myself selling $*** in artwork this year (amount censored so you don't have to think about it). I’m so grateful for every person who buys my work. I’m grateful for the time spent making and connecting with others, and selling it. I see myself creating 4 series of work this year. I see the development of the work and finding a gallery to show it in. I see myself having my first solo show next year. I see myself getting in a rhythm of making work. I see our studio clean, organized, finished. I’m so grateful for a space that feels functional, beautiful and warm. I see our bedroom and the kids rooms coming together. I see us saving enough to start putting money in retirement again, to work on our house, to vacation, to pay for the kids to be in sports and go to a summer camp. To budget for clothes from ethical makers.

I work hard but don’t wallow in fear and stress. I build great connections that are meaningful and powerful. I serve my community, my family, my husband and myself. I serve God, the source of love and the force that brings life and unity without exclusion or fear. I have friends that enjoy me, are refreshed by me, and are refreshing to me. I spend time with people I admire and want to be like.

I take care of my body with regular exercise, good food, sleep and meditation. I spend time outside. I am fit and dress nicely, in a style I like. My closet is not overly full of clothes I don’t like or fit in, but clothes I love to wear and feel great in. The materials are nice, they are stylish and well crafted, the colors make sense and look good on me. My shoes fit and are not worn out.

I express myself through writing. I write blog posts and make small zines to go with my work.

My marriage is deeply loving, full of care, enriching, sensual and connected.

I enjoy my 3 kids every day. I tell them so. I listen to them and am patient when their behavior needs improvement. I’m considerate. I enjoy our time spent together and am able to fully drop into the moment and be present with them, leaving other thoughts and things that get my attention to the side. I read to my kids. I play. I’m intentional about building a relationship with each of them.

I practice Sabbath well. My weekends feel like rest.

I speak well of others. I forgive and move on quickly. I don’t ruminate on things gone wrong or conflict.   

I take joy in the day to day: the tasks and maintenance as well as the creation and pushing toward new.

I go to the dentist. I pay my taxes like a boss. I keep track of all my accounts and am familiar with my income, expenses and profits, both as a business and personally. I make excellent business plans and follow through to great success. I have great health insurance.

I keep in touch with my family. We enjoy hanging out and knowing each other well. We build trust and are present for one another’s wins and losses. We think and speak well of each other.


I hope that was inspiring to you and that the part about the dentist made you laugh. I'll leave you with this quote from "You Are a Badass". 

"Write (a manifesto) that makes you feel invincible, read it over and over every day, see it and feel it and become a crazy person about it. I know, this sounds like a pain in the ass, but do it anyway because trust me, it works. Lame, vague goals are the best way to live a lame, vague life. If you want to knock it out of the park, you need to know exactly what you're shooting for. And be so excited about it that you're almost annoying to yourself." 

 

With love, 

Jamie