Art and creativity are deep, critical parts of my soul. I find them in photography, woodworking, jewelrymaking, writing and reading, contra dance, and music.
Photographers I admire do beautiful, real, engaging work. Their portraits show the people behind the faces; their landscapes are more than postcards.
Susan over at Visual Voice
I wouldn’t say my work is anywhere near theirs, but you can mosey on over to flickr to see some of what I do with cameras and pixels.
Woodworking is so much more than making stuff. A fine woodworker engages with the wood and lets it tell her what it wants to become. Fighting the material gains nothing.
Kellogg Creek Woodworks is the fine establishment that repaired the dining table made by my great-grandfather. They were slow and gracious and careful, and the table is in good shape. I like them.
Garrett Hack is one of the fine craftsmen of our age. One time I saw him working at a small woodworking festival at Canterbury in New Hampshire, and as he worked he spent nearly as much time sharpening as he did scraping and planing. From this I learned what really sharp tools look like.
Taunton Press puts out Fine Woodworking, my favorite publication on the subject. It is beautiful and glossy and tempting and pushes me beyond my limits, as only a good inspiration can.
Jewelry, or more specifically silverwork, got my attention when my woodworking tools got left behind in one of my many moves. Of course one thing led to another, and now I’m curious about silversmithing in large form, and pewter, and copper.
Here is a very helpful page about the properties of sterling silver, including some annealing information.
The Orchid Forums are an enormous, extensive set of bulletin boards tending to every possible nook and cranny of jewelrymaking. There’s a good sense of humor and a strong ethic of camraderie, and everyone from beginner to seasoned pro is welcome.
Wikipedia’s sterling silver article has a good deal of useful information in it, although it holds that fine silver is considered too soft for common use. Fine silver is soft, but is increasingly popular among jewelers, since it can be annealed and even melted down as much as one wishes without the problems of heated sterling.
Writing and reading go hand in hand. I could list books and authors forever, so I won’t. But writing resources include:
The Minnesota Center for Book Arts, The Loft Literary Center, and Milkweed Press are the anchors in the Open Book, a remarkable collaboration between institutions that work with the written word. If I still lived in Minneapolis, the Open Book would be my second home.
Fiction Fix is a great email newsletter designed to inspire and encourage you from the comfort of your own desk. What’s more, it’s free! If you need a little pick-me-up prompt, be sure to check this one out.
The University of Minnesota offers a robust MFA program in creative writing, which was what I would have done had I not gotten sidetracked and ended up in seminary. Unlike many programs, it is funded, meaning that salary, stipend, and health benefits are provided (usually through teaching assistantships). It’s one way to get rigorous training without getting over your head in debt.
If you’re not ready to move lock, stock, and computer to Minneapolis but you do want that intensive training, consider the Goddard low-residency MFA. Located in Plainfield, Vermont and Port Townsend, Washington, they offer intensives interspersed with time spent at home, writing and refining your work. It’s not funded, but you don’t have to abandon your day job, either. The program includes classes, tutorials, and a teaching practicum.
Writing groups aren’t in one spot on the internet, but they are an incredible tool, and fairly simple. Find four or five committed writers whom you trust, and who are about as good as you are. Take a critique-based class together if you can. (Or find people in your current class). Plan to meet weekly (works best for me) or monthly or online…and write, and read, and discuss, and be confused. My year and a half in a writing group was one of the best things I ever did for my ability to express myself, and it was stellar preparation for sermon classes.
Contra dance seems to have been a coastal phenomenon that spread across the US, at least in the north. I’ve seen it in Canada and on the coasts, and in major cities, but not in small towns in the Midwest. Then again, maybe I’m just not looking properly. It is a fabulous, no-training-required way to use the toe tapping that usually comes with listening to Cape Breton, Celtic, and other similar music. Instruments include tin whistles, bodrans, fiddles, flutes, upright basses, concertinas, and accordians. Dancers come in all ages, shapes, and sizes.
Wikipedia has a description and pictures which are best when digested together, and it sounds much more complicated than it is. The best way to know what it is is to experience it.
To that end, here is one of several definitive contra dance link collections. Find your region. Find the nearest town. Find a dance. Go prepared to be exhausted. Have fun!