Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: 21 Reasons You Should Make Art

Are you the artsy, creative type?

I would never put myself in that category. In my head, art and creativity belong to those that actually call themselves artists, not someone like me, who is in the business world. I’ve learned in the past three years that those ideas can actually coexist together; that art and creativity isn’t limited to just those who are talented enough to have paintings hanging in a museum.

One of the things I’ve committed to do in 2013 is to give myself some weekly creative space: time to write, read, and dabble in things like photography and drawing; things I’m not necessarily great at,  but enjoy. I’m lucky that a lot of my friends are self-proclaimed artists, so they have been encouraging me, to say the least.

I stumbled across this article awhile back, and thought it was great. If you’re thinking about creativity, then here’s 21 reasons to embrace it.

~Mandy

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Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Symphonies and Whistles

The ability to create beauty in the midst of chaos is something that is always intriguing to me.  I’ve found it fascinating to view art that has emerged from war zones and to see it’s powerful messages of hope stand valiantly in the face of darkness and despair.  I stumbled across this amazing little clip a few weeks ago and was so moved by these Congolese men and women’s ability to create beauty and order in the midst of the chaos around them.  ‘They seem to defy the poverty of their war-torn country’ and produce music that is almost angelic.  It makes me reflect upon my own ability/energy/willingness to make something beautiful from something chaotic in my own life.

On a similar note, I recently went to my high school reunion (another post on that possibly coming soon:) and ran into an old friend who has started a campaign calledfalling whistles to help end the war in Congo.  Their mission is simple and inspiring. Check it out.  Again, it made me think of the Congo and also the incredible power of beauty and love in the face of war and destruction.

-M.C.

Inspiration

Further Reflections of a Home

I’ve been thinking quite a lot about M.C.’s post from last week, and what home looks like for our family. If you’re creatively challenged like me, it can be daunting to think about decorating, or defining what true beauty actually means. As I glance around our Oxford flat, I see piles of books everywhere, furniture that doesn’t belong to us, really horrible blue carpet, and very little that makes this place ‘ours’. It is difficult to maintain or even define a sense of family identity when everything that surrounds us is not ours.

My husband and I have lived in 6 different places in the 8.5 years we’ve been married. Only one of those places was truly ours; the others were all transition places. Unfortunately for us, when we began our graduate journey, we adopted the “we’re only going to live here for x years, so why bother to decorate” policy. I now realize what a mistake that was.

I know that material possessions do not define us, but what if beautiful things are put into our lives to help us define the environment we live in? What if fresh flowers, photography, beautiful art pieces, or a breathtaking architecture book help us appreciate where we are on this graduate journey? And what happens if we ignore that?

It wasn’t until MC came into my life did I realize how much I missed having a space, or a geborgenheit, in which to rest. After her move to Oxford, I watched her create a little haven for her family, and you know what? When I visit her house now, I am filled with a sense of calm, a sense of rest. Her home is truly a reflection of her family’s identity and personality. She has worked very hard to define what beauty means to her family, especially in this graduate season of life, and has creatively displayed that through the elegance of her little flat. It is home.…but it is her home.

I began to brainstorm ways to make our home a place of rest, wondering how I could incorporate our family personality with our quirky taste in art on a virtually absent budget. All I knew was that I wanted to articulate an atmosphere of happiness, brightness, and laughter, things that had once been very important to me when we owned our first home, as we welcomed friends for dinner, family staying for the weekend, or people who just needed their spirits lifted. I wanted people to feel loved and encouraged upon their arrival and departure in our home. But, I wasn’t sure how to do that.

So, I bought flowers. Not a big deal, but it was for me, because I had not purchased fresh flowers in 3 years.

Then, my aunt sent me this little guy, along with a handwritten note written saying she wanted to brighten our lives and our flat. It did.

But, it wasn’t until last year did I come to realize how one piece of art could completely change our home. My husband and I fell in love with an Oxford artist named Tim Steward. His iconic Oxford scenes moved us, and we sheepishly hatched several ways of procuring one of his drawings, knowing we would never be able to afford one. With a gift lovingly bestowed upon us by our families for finishing a PhD, we now have one of those drawings hanging in our flat. I always marvel at how much it’s changed the room. It represents our time here, memories of forged academic community, the birth of our son, hard work, sweat and tears, the struggles of graduate life.

We began to shape our environment at home, one that did not include bare walls. My husband and I delved into our love of photography, and began to hang more photographs of our son, our godsons, and our family, even though we weren’t allowed to hang things on the wall. Our home began to have a safe feel, a place of familiarity instead of transition, a place we could rest, a place we could imagine being for awhile.

I would by lying if I didn’t stop to say that I do long for the days when the vibrant colors and bold strokes of folk artists that adorned the walls of our first home find their way out of storage to proudly hang in our new home. But, I will be happy for the art that represents and defines one season of our lives to meet the art that represented and defined another season of our lives.

And for me, as I sit in my newly defined place of rest, it is enough. For now.

In this graduate journey, what words would you use to define the environment in which you live?

-Mandy

Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Sketchbook Project

This time last year I was gung-ho about signing up for the amazing sketchbook project put on by the ArtHouse Co-op (a group out of Brooklyn that creates massive international art projects that tie artists from around the globe together).  The sketchbook project takes the sketchbooks submitted by thousands on tour.

 It is like a world concert tour, but of sketchbooks.

Sadly, with our move across the ocean, delayed shipment of my treasured art supplies and a big trip back to the US in December…I dropped the ball and never finished my book.  I had planned the entire theme of the sketchbook to be on my graduate wife journey, even though I was only a few months into it at that point.  Happily, when I discovered the Art House was doing it another year, I jumped on board and hope to have a wonderful sketchbook that depicts in images and a few words,  my graduate wife journey!  It is a challenge to work on something like this, but it is also so good to be stretched and forced to think inwardly about myself and my life in a way that is ‘outside the box’.

I encourage you to check out this fascinating experiment of thought, imagination and the ideas behind getting ‘art’ and ‘inspiration’ to the masses.  It is only $25 dollars to participate and receive a sketchbook. Even if you don’t ‘feel’ like an artist, you should totally give it a try.  You can use almost any materials and you can get really creative.  The deadline is quickly approaching so check it out soon!  Wouldn’t it be cool if we were all able to document our graduate wife journeys in different ways through this project?

Image, word, photo, poetry, color, shape… 

-M.C.