Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Greece Photographs

It's been an interesting few days. I've come down sick, and I finished reading the book on Optimism that I was reading, and promptly moved on to a book my dad loaned me nearly a year ago - his copy of "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. I'll admit to being VERY put off by the introduction, she spends a lot of energy on talking about how SHE views creativity, and it's just...not how I do, at all. Not even how I WANT to. It's not just the way she discusses God - I could get past that, she makes it clear that she understands that not everyone shares her religious beliefs, fine - it's her attitude that creativity is something that comes from outside of us and flows through us. I don't think that at all, and I actually find that discouraging. I think of creativity as something that resides within us that we learn to accept, channel, and encourage. What's interesting, though, and that I only just realized is that in the end, perhaps the process is okay - she's talking about "letting" our creativity happen, and that's definitely how I view it too, it's about getting out of my own way and letting that creativity that resides within me...out. Anyway, despite my differences of opinion about things thus far, I've decided to give it ago. She says do one chapter a week; I read the first chapter last night, and I started tackling the "activities" in the chapter today. It's gonna be work, and I imagine I'll write more about it as I go - already, having read the sample activities, I've realized some interesting things.

What have I done so far? Well, she talks about doing "morning papers." Basically, wake up, pick up a pen, and immediately write three pages. She says to take half an hour. First discovery: I write small and fast, so I can only write two pages in a half hour. And I don't want to take longer. So, I was a bit skeptical, but I did it this morning. Last night, I set a journal and pen next to my bed, and this morning, I just opened my eyes, flipped the light on...and wrote. And it was interesting. What I really noticed about it wasn't just that it cleared a lot of crap out of my head right off the bat, but that it was invigorating. It wasn't invigorating because of the crap getting cleared out; rather, it was invigorating because, having spent a half hour sitting in bed accomplishing what felt like virtually nothing, as soon as I was done I sprang out of bed and immediately stared getting things done, and I've been getting things done ever since. Found that very interesting, and if it's the least I accomplish, I'll go with it. But tomorrow, I think I'll set an alarm, I think, I hate feeling like I've frittered the morning away (though, having just written that, I just realized...I don't feel like I HAVE frittered the morning away, which is interesting too, and maybe because I've been up five hours and have already gotten a lot done...but I can't credit the Morning Pages with that, since this morning has been a mirror of yesterday morning, before I read that stuff.) ...anyway. Yes. A bit rambling today.

Anyway, the cumulative effect of everything that I'm working on is that, while I wouldn't say I'm feeling inspired, I'm definitely feeling okay about just doing what I'm up for. I don't feel like "I MUST!" or "I WILL!" but I do feel a sort of quiet, resigned feeling of "I CAN!" It's been building for the last three weeks, starting when I started playing with my photographs again, and...I still feel that way. Anyway, over the last three days, I've gotten through labeling three or four more sets of my Flickr photos, and pinned a handful more of my better photographs. They're still all from the Greece vacation in September.


Do you know about Santorini? OMFG, I LOVED IT THERE! It was probably my favorite stop of the trip, except maybe Istanbul. I would LOVE to go back to Santorini and just relax there for a week or two. It was stunningly beautiful, and breathtaking. When I got back to the ship after my day there, I joked to my mom that CLEARLY, I have to become a geologist. The volcanic caldera that is Santorini CLEARLY needs to be extensively studied. Sure, there's always the chance that the volcano will erupt again, like it did 3,000 years ago, and blow us all to kingdom come, but in the interim, there's all that sunlight and beauty and hiking and SCIENCE to do. It'd be a sacrifice, to risk my life that way, but someone has to do it... :)

This is the first view I got of Santorini, coming out of the ship looking at the biggest city in the island cluster, called Fira. See that switch backed path? I climbed up and down that. Yeah, it was damn hard...

My main goal on Santorini was do a hike - I walked from Fira to Ia and back again, about 7.5 miles each way. I was REALLY happy when Ia finally came in to view...

It was very common to find small shrines with rocks stacked against them. I have no idea what the religious significance of this was, but it was neat...

There was a spit of land with a huge spire atop it that I decided to climb. Hundreds of years ago, the Venetians had built a castle on top of that spire, and the ruins are still there - it was mostly destroyed by earthquakes. The most fun/scariest/stimulating part was when I had to free-climb up the last 15 feet. I was going to chicken out, but there were a few other American tourists there too, and we all stared at it, and finally one by one we decided to take the chance. Alone, I wouldn't have done it, but I'm glad I did...

Like every where else I've been in Europe, graffiti was every where. I fell in love with this one - Love, To Be Announced. They'll get back to us when they've figured out whose name goes in the heart...

There was no where in Santorini where you looked and didn't see a breath-taking view.

The other set I labeled was the pictures I took in Athens. This was ONLY the "general" pictures, and doesn't include the Acropolis, museums, etc. It was mostly graffiti, actually.

Like this guy...

And graffiti-Cthulhu...

But the real highlight of these shots is this one:

I adore this shot. I think it's one of the best photographs I ever took. I remember when I was standing there I was even thinking, "if I get this shot the way I want it, it's going to be amazing." I took several minutes just looking at the statue, walking around it, taking a few shots...and it worked. It turned out just the way I hoped. And I love it. Thank god for all that sunlight!!

So...I've just got to keep it up! I'll write more about "The Artist's Way" as I go, and post more photographs. And I'm still doing other crafts - I just didn't make enough progress this week to think it'd make a very interesting post. Maybe by Friday. :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Ways to Sort Through My Photography

Last week, my friends on Ravelry told me about Have ya'll heard about this? Well, I'm not yet sure what I think about it overall, but I'm finding that it's particularly useful for organizing things that I'm working on related to my Ravelry activities and my crafting business. My most recently thought-up use for it is for sorting through my Flickr photographs. See, I've got 10s of thousands of images up on Flickr, and while I'm going through and labeling them or looking for specific shots, I'll often spot one and go, "hey, that might be nice enough to put on a card or print as an 8 x 10!" ...and then I promptly forget all about it. But no more! Now, I'm just going to pin them to a board in my Pinterest (my username is Claire P Houck, or unforth, if any of ya'll are on there...). Before, I would do this sort of thing but assembling lists of links. The problem with this was that I'd have to then open every link in order to look at it. Or sometimes, I'd make a temporary file on my computer, but this is also a pain - I have to go from Flickr to my local storage, find the shot, and copy it over to the folder, then label it - and I STILL have to click the file to know what I'm looking at (or use a photo-editor/browser...)

But no more! Now I can just pin it, and go to the board, and look at them all at once!

I decided to test how this would go by going through one of the smaller, unlabeled sets I had up on Flickr - in this case, the pictures I took during the one day I spent on Crete during the cruise I took last September. There were 29 pictures in the set, I labeled all of them, and then I went through again and just pinned the ones I thought might be nice enough to consider making in to cards/prints.

It's awesome, cause now it's so easy to do things like...write this post and include the four images I singled out!

We visited this nifty castle overlooking an arm of the Mediterranean...

Our group then went to this small town in the middle of no where. Just as it started to rain, I spotted this...

Then, mom and I got sick of traveling with the main group and broke off to do some exploration in Chania.

There was really cool graffiti all over Greece and Turkey...

Will all of these get made in to prints? No, almost certainly not. But now, I can find them again easily, compare them to other shots as I identify them, and keep stuff easily organized. And, also nice, other people can Like or Pin my pins - so I can also see if I manage to post something that other people respond to very positively! Which will be very helpful (and, in fact, one of my shots got a "like" while I was writing this post!)

This'll be a big job in the long run, but I think it'll be fun. :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Work In Progress Wednesday, 1/18/2012

Well, I've not crafted all that much the last couple weeks, but I've been doing so when I feel up for it, between everything else that's going on in my life.

I've been in the mood to cross stitch - well, I've been in that mood a lot for a long time, but because of other crafting commitments, I haven't done so, but I've decided that I don't care about that stuff any more. :)

I finally started the back stitching on this project, though there's still loads more to do. :)

I also pulled this out of storage, and ended up doing like four square inches (the lower bit, including almost that entire water lily down there).

Meanwhile, I played with the loom that my friend gave me for Christmas...

Lastly, I have a friend who is having a baby in weeks, and I wanted to design and make her a baby blanket. I sketched out the pattern, charted it, and then I started!

So, lots of different types of projects. I also spent some time on the socks that I've been making, but two more inches of plain knit sock is not terribly interesting to look at. :) My main goal right now is to just be laid back, and do whatever I FEEL like working on, and so for the moment that means non-monogamous crafting.

Check out what everyone else has been up to, over on Tami's Amigurumi and Other Crochet blog!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

National Archaeological Museum of Athens (Part 1)

As I work to get back on track, I'm starting by working on labeling the many still unlabeled pictures that I've got on Flickr. Right now, I'm tackling one of the bigger sets, those that I took at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Last fall, I visited Greece and Turkey, and it was fantastic, and I took a ton of pictures, but I still haven't gotten most of them labeled. I took about 800 total at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, which was the most spectacular assemblage of ancient Greek art that I've ever seen. Now, that includes all the labels, so it's really closer to 400 - 500 pics. I've only labeled about 50 of them so far, so as I proceed through the labeling, I'll post some more that I particularly like or found interesting. (normally, I'd wait til I'd done the whole set before doing a post like this, but I'm determined to get back on track posting in the blog, so sacrifices must be made... :) ) The marbles are definitely the highlight of the museum. They have thousands, and many are very, very fine, from throughout Greek history. This is a Kore. Kore are a traditional type of female sculpture from the ancient Greek empire. This one is the most beautiful I've ever seen. Some of the pigment is still left on her chiton, and the detail work is spectacular. When I see a work like this, I wonder how ancient sculptures must have looked when they were fresh and new and hadn't been buried, weathered, and otherwise damaged by the past two millennia. This is the base of a funerary sculpture, showing four people betting on the fight between a dog and a cat. The details are just breath taking. I think that dog is in trouble... Speaking of dogs... I just like this one. The most interesting thing I've already labeled are the shot I took of the remains of the Antikythera device. The Antikythera Device is one of the amazing remains of the ancient world. Found in a ship wreck off the island of Antikythera, it's taken a century of research to figure out just what it might be. As far as we can tell, this complex construct of gears and bits and pieces was a mechanical astronomical clock, which used the movements of the moon and stars to tell the time. Workmanship of it's like doesn't appear again for 1500 years. It was made in the 1st century BC. The one I most wanted to share on this blog is this one... Not as remarkable as the others, but take a closer look! That lady, sitting on he left, is holding a spindle in her hand! Yes, she's a spinner! This gravestone dates to the 5th century BC, but some things really haven't changed that much. :) That's all for now!

Friday, January 6, 2012

It's Friday!

The first Friday of the new year! A bout of stress-induced insomnia chased me out of bed at 4:30 this morning, but I didn't let that worry me - I immediately got to work on my personal goals for the year to come, in this case, poking through my closet. Why? Because today, I'm going to the Farmers Market, which I intend to make a regular weekly task of. I want to go Green, it's one of my main goals for the year in fact, so I wanted to quickly sew up some cotton cloth bags to shove produce in so that I won't have to keep taking plastic bags at the farmers market, grocery store, or any where else. While I was at it, I decided to pull out a few other things that reflect my current crafting goals - to craft what I want to craft, when I want to craft it.

But first, my cotton bags! They took just over an hour to make. I made 2 big ones (like, to hold a whole head of romaine lettuce), 4 medium ones (like to hold a couple pounds of potatoes), and 8 small ones (like, to hold an apple or two).

I started with this muslin I got a few years ago to make curtains for an apartment I don't live in any more. It was plain, simple stuff - the same stuff I use as my photo backdrop, in fact.

Then, I cut it into 6 strips roughly the same width. Two of these, I left "as is," two of them, I cut along the center fold, and two of them, I cut along the center fold and then folded in half and cut again. This was all very approximate, but it got the job done.

To make them in to bags, I just sewed a flap along the top edge (so I could put in a draw string) then sewed up the sides. I used some random old scrap trim I had and some yarn bits to insert the draw strings, and then I was done, and ready to go!

At the same time, I pulled out a few things I want to work on. I've been loving Nerd Wars, and I'm not quitting, but it's caused me to focus almost exclusively on knitting and crocheting and spinning for the past year. I miss my other crafts. I miss sewing. I really miss cross stitching. It's time for me to start making better crafting choices. NW will manage, especially since I bet I'll be more productive across the board if I just relax and do what I want to do, when I want to do it.

So, what's in the pipeline?

I started these socks in September. One is done (more or less) and this is the second. It's a great project for my purse - small, time consuming, and not too likely to fall off the hooks while I'm traipsing about town.

Sorceress Crochet!
Remember this project? It was what I was JUST finishing up when I stared this blog in August, 2010. I worked on it all that summer, and got it to this point...and then stalled before I finished the detailing work. I really want to get it done. It's so close. So out it comes, lets see how this goes. :)

Lap Loom!
One of my good friends sent me a lap loom for Christmas, with a note that I should use it to play with my homespun. She's BRILLIANT. So I'm gonna play with the loom, and see what I can do with the rainbow yarn I spun in November.

Cross Stitch Design
Lastly, I'm going through some rough personal stuff, and have felt pretty low for a few days, but last night I reached an epiphany point, and really finally absorbed (rather than just hearing and having it bounce off) that if I don't love me, no one else will either. While I was waiting to fall asleep, I thought about a strategy my step-mom uses, and that a friend of mine also suggested - leaving notes to myself. The one I was thinking about leaving was "I Am Beautiful," to help with my self-image. But then I thought...I should do this like I would do this. I wouldn't write a note. I'd MAKE something! So I'm gonna design and make myself a very simple cross stitch that says that, I already know how I want it to look. I feel really good about this project, and already have a few ideas for more.

All in all, for the first time in ages, I kinda feel like I have my crafting mojo back. I was excited to put all this together. I was excited to write this blog post. I'm excited to be about to cross stitch, and learn to weave, and to go back to designing things. I'm excited that I think that two of these ideas - the produce bags and the self-inspirational cross stitch - actually have some marketability potential, as I think about building this business more. It's a little hard to ignore the things that theoretically I HAVE to finish, but I'm just making myself relax. I have to love this again, first.

Read what everyone else is thinking this first Friday of the New Year, over on Wisdom Begins in Wonder and Tami's Ami and Other Crochet Blog.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Work In Progress Wednesday: This Blog!

Well, it's a New Year, and looking back on the year that passed, I'm not proud of the way things have gone for my crafting, my blog, and in general with my production. Don't get me wrong. I've done some fabulous things, some FO I'm VERY proud of, and some good work. I raised money for Japan, I became an important moderator in two Ravelry groups - one of which is the one of the most prominent boards in the entire site - and I got a solid core of a website that I just need to finish developing. I made more money that I did in 2011 from the business - though still not much - and I generally had all manner of minor successes. But oh, the things I let slide! So what comes next? I'm down for the count, but I'm not out yet. You won't see me tap! I'll do a post at some point soon reviewing the goals I set for 2011 (almost all of which I have failed) and outline my goals for 2012. I'll also do a post about business in 2011 - what I did that seemed to work, how my profits and money looked, how much I sold and of what, and what I think I might do differently. I'm keeping my goals and expectations for the year to come modest, perhaps more realistic, and I'm conservatively hopeful and even a little excited about what is to come. It's been a long 2011, with a lot of downsides. But as I looked at 2012 and thought, "I have to cut back, I have to do less," because I was at my limit last year, I realized: this is non-negotiable. I'm looking forward to what's to come! It'll be fun! ;)