Tell me about your practice: SILENCE

Tell me about your practice: SILENCE

I recently read a really lovely post on Brain Pickings by my new best friend Maria Popova.* In true Brain Pickings fashion, it touches on a lot of things, but the one of those things that really struck a chord with me was silence- including its role as a necessary catalyst to creative acts and deep searching.

In a 1986 paper about ‘Wait Time,’ researcher Mary Budd Rowe found that by increasing the wait time (or teacher-silence) after asking students a question by just a few seconds had tremendous changes on both students and teachers. Students answers grew in length and complexity (sometimes as much as 700%), while teachers became more flexible and began to refine their own questions to be more thoughtful and intentional.

Silence comes up in my own teaching practice all the time. To be able to follow student interest or accurately gauge the reaction of an adult learner to something said, I need to be a good listener. I’ve found silence to be a great tool to help build this skill (which makes sense- how can I listen if  I don’t shut-up now and again?). It’s empowering to learners to have the power to co-construct a conversation but more selfishly, it feels good as an educator to know that it’s not up to me to fill time or perform.

That’s not to say that silence is always, or should always be, a zen-like contemplative experience. Sometimes Frequently, we find silence to be uncomfortable or even downright scary. My own completely unscientific hypothesis about why this is is twofold: First, when we pause to listen, we get a chance to hear our own insecurities and small voices, ‘Are they listening? Are they zoning out? Am I boring?’ Second, and even more unsettling, though, is that when we allow for silence we open ourselves up to the Unknown, and to the human mind, little else is as scary as what we don’t know.

Cartoon Network’s miniseries, Over The Garden Wall uses our fear of what we don’t know/can’t see to great effect. It’s also the manifestation of everything I love. Go watch it so we can drink tea together and freak out about how good it is.

In contrast, in the Reggio Emilia approach, foundational to my own approach to working with children and adults, self-enforced silence is seen as selfish. If the aim of education is to foster community and engagement with the world around us, then keeping your thoughts to yourself is selfish- you’re withholding from the group insights which could enrich the conversation.

As with most things, I have two opinions (‘Do  I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself…”) Silence is good. Silence is bad. Ultimately, silence is a tool, and like any tool there are times when it’s the tool that’s useful and times when it’s not.

This is true in the home studio as well.
Sometimes I need noise:


Remnants8

and sometimes,  I need silence:

IMG_4503

What about you-

What audio or ‘visual decibel’ do you need to be successful is it always the same? And if not, then how do you know when it’s time to change?

*No, we haven’t met, but seriously, Maria, if you’re ever in Columbus hit me up- I will buy you Jeni’s and we can talk about books. Or you can talk and I can just listen in wonder- whatever works for you..

“Herstories and How-Tos” or, What I’ve Been Writing.

I think I’ve alluded on here that I’ve recently taken on another writing gig to help kick my arse into writing more (with the hope that eventually it will lead to writing better), but don’t think I ever actually linked it.

In case you’re curious,
are skeptical that I have been tinkering with the English language
(in a typographical sort of way) and require proof,
or if you happen to enjoy learning about dead ladies who rocked
and/or while learning useful skills to apply to your everyday life-
The link to the articles thus far can be found here.

If you do follow the link, however, do yourself a favor and click the banner at the top to go back to the blog at large. There you can find more interesting articles, interviews, musings etc that come out of the collective CAW brain.

Herstories and How-tos: Claude Cahun

So not only did I not stop blogging for good, I double not-stopped by volunteering* to write a monthly bit over on CAW (Creative Arts of Women)‘s blog. The column is called ‘Herstories and How-to’s’ (I really lobbied for Corpses and Crafts, but ultimately decided it might be off-putting.)

This month you can learn more about my current dead-lady obsession Claude Cahun, as well as three easy ways to fight The Man!

a picture of Cahun with a levitating cat that I desperately tried to work into the post.

 

 

*Isn’t that funny? They offer a monthly space with lots of eyes to practice writing and I get to call it ‘volunteering’. This is almost as good as the gig over at Ohio House Rabbit Rescue, where one ‘volunteers’ by cuddling bunnies. Living the philanthropic lifestyle really can be so trying.**

**But f’real, you can actually go volunteer to cuddle rabbits for an hour I’M SO THERE.

Creative ecology, permaculture of the mind.

Currently in the process of absorbing the following into my brain:

Studios, collections, spaces for exploration and discovery, permaculture, self-sustaining ecologies, learning ecologies, living lightly, living deeply, the connection between life and artistic practice, collections, our intrinsic need to touch natural materials, space and aesthetics, summer.

(all images linked to their original owners.)

 

 

 

Bridging the gap.

Sometimes I’m fairly convinced that the universe is trying to communicate with me via public radio. (Which, if this is the case, good work, Universe! I’m ALWAYS listening to public radio, and trust the the likes of Carl Castle, Terry Gross and Lynn Rossetto Casper with almost frightening implicity.*)

This past week, cosmic intervention took the form of the TED radio hour (as it sometimes does). I was flipping through the stations (let’s be honest, looking for some Journey to belt on the way home) when I heard the phrase ‘LOLcats.’ I, of course, immediately abandoned my search for the smell of wine and cheap perfume and tuned in to listen. Though I didn’t happen to catch all of the talk (The entirety of which, you can see here) the part I did manage to catch and which I’ve been mulling over like a tasty worther’s original, is this:

The stupidest creative act is still a creative act. The real gap isn’t’ between the mediocre and great work, the real gap is between getting started and doing nothing. If you’ve created something, even if it’s stupid, you’ve put yourself in a position to do more.

OH YEAH. Does anyone else periodically lose sight of the fact that we all started making art because at some point it just feels good? Or, to go a step further, does anyone else periodically discredit the creative acts they do based on an arbitrary scale of ‘worthy (i.e. labored over)’ and ‘stupid (i.e. fun’)? For now, let’s stop doing this and just take a moment to celebrate that for no logical or tangible reasons, we are creatures that make things, and sometimes these things are fun.

As a first step, here are some completely frivolous posters and cards that were made entirely for fun:

galentines_ono

 

 

fabulist lecture poster_2

COSMIKA_2

poster for Cosmika’s second gig.

 

A birthday card for the fella

“How do PIE love thee?”

'The Spirit of Texas,' a farewell gift to a friend, with John James Audubon playing the role of Steph, and Bobby Darren playing the role of the Spirit of Texas herself

‘The Spirit of Texas,’ a farewell gift to a friend, with John James Audubon playing the role of Steph, and Bobby Darren playing the role of the Spirit of Texas herself

 

I had a lot of fun making these, and there’s certainly some creative remixing happening here, but is this still…art? Is it a ‘lesser’ form of art than my large scale projects or even my drawings? “There is no such thing as bad art, there’s just ART, and things that are not”…but how can you tell which is which? Without the context of the gallery or museum to validate what you’re doing, how do you justify your work to the rest of the world? Or even to yourself? What am I doing awake past 10:30 and why am I trying to form words and/or thoughts? More questions and more ambiguous, ambivalent  ponderings to come as this stuff continues to rattle about in my head.

 

OH: And in case you were in need of more motivation to make things, check out my friend Sharon’s latest blog post, where you’ll find answers to all  your lame excuses AND a picture of the cutest dog in all of Ohio.

 

 

*Seriously. I once tried waiting until 9:30 to have my first cup of coffee, based on a report I heard on Morning Edition, with  tragic results.