Saturday, September 24, 2016

Design The Life You Love by Ayse Birsel: Book Review

I absolutely loved this book, Design The Life You Love: a Step by Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future by Ayse Birsel. 

I am all about redesigning one's life. That's exactly what I did after I had my kids, only I call it reconstructing my life. That's what this blog is called, right? You can see why I was attracted to the title. 

Anyway, my life as an artist and special needs mom really resonated with the following four principles that Birsel lays out in the book: 

1)Turning a constraint into an opportunity 

Ayse says, 

"Life, just like a design problem, is full of constraints—time, money, age, location, and circumstances. You cannot have everything, and if you want more out of it, you have to be creative about how to make what you need and what you want co-exist." 

Hello! that's actually the premise of my upcoming book, where I talk about how I crafted my creative business as a special needs mom.  


Using soup as an example Birse talks about the idea of deconstruction/reconstruction. Birsel lays out the ingredients of chicken noodle soup so we can see what it is made of. She then goes on to say, 
"what I like so much about deconstruction is that looking at the parts, I feel like I have complete freedom to change them" 

I adhere to that same concept when I remake my clothes, I turn them over and see where the seams lie and figure out how I can change the shape by shifting seam lines. 

Continuing to use soup as an example, Birsel then shifts the ingredients and makes a new "reconstructed" soup. By shifting seam lines, I do the something similar when I reconstruct clothing. 

The same idea is then applied to life, deconstructing elements of your life and then shifting your perspective to reconstruct a new one. 

3) Heroes/Icons

Birsel has a chapter on heroes, in it she says,

 "we are inspired by people - real or fictional - people we know personally or not    at all. These heroes ell us something about our values, beliefs and the kind of life we aspire to live." 

Hello again! If you have been following me on this blog or social media, you know that this is the entire premise of my t-shirt line, Nelesc Designs. I screen print Latina/African American cultural icons onto slightly re-consructed tops, aprons, and cuffs. 

She asks the reader to list their heroes and qualities that endear these icons to them. "Then", she says, 
"cross out their names and put yours as the values you recognize and admire in your heroes are your values"
I have experienced this myself in my own journey to reconstruct my life as I also own the same values and principles as my screen printed icons. 

4) Metaphors

Last but not least, Birsel mentions metaphors as her favorite creative tool! I love metaphors too. She invites the reader to think about a metaphor to define the present and one for the future. This also helps the reader shift perspective towards the life they desire. She offers different examples of metaphors to help the reader along. 

These four points are just a little taste of this 254 page book.  The tome also contains many creative exercises and lots of blank space and templates to get you thinking and started on the journey to design the life you love! 

I enjoyed this book and recommend! Go buy it! 

Big Ups to Hand-Me-Downs: Clothes, Connection, and Memory

Soon, Dan's name will be crossed off when he grows out of it, and we give it away 

I grew up with two sisters so, hand-me-downs were the norm. I was the middle child so I didn't have it so bad, my little sister, not so much! Lol. 

But a couple of months ago, Dan was wearing a shirt that used to be his brother's, pants that used to be his cousin's, and a jacket handed down by my hubby's friend's son. He was a walking hand me down machine and he looked great! (In all the hand-me-down excitement, I forgot to take a picture!) 

There is no shame in this. Micah saw the shirt and immediately remembered it was his, it put a big smile on his face. When I saw his cousin's name in the waistband of the pants, I remembered that I had to make sure I planned for babysitting. We would be attending his High School graduation ceremony in two weeks, we're so proud of him ! And when I took the jacket out and saw that it belonged to the boy I mentioned earlier, I remembered what a wonderful time we had when his parents invited us over to their home. His kids had a tree house and a swing set, my boys, Jon and I enjoyed ourselves so much that day! 

Hand me downs are about helping to preserve the planet so clothes don't end up in land fills, it's about creating connection and memories, and yes, let's be real, it's also about saving money, nothing wrong with that, right? 

But there's still that little embarrassment that people feel about admitting that their kids are wearing clothes that were previously owned by others. I still have a jacket that belonged to my mother, and when I wear it, I think of her. It's time we remove the stigma of hand-me-downs. If we can envision what we wear as connection/memory symbols rather than status symbols, it would change the way we relate to clothing.

So, yes, big ups to hand-me-downs! Feel free to comment and share your hand me down stories! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Creativity and Community: I'm Here to Make Friends

"I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to win. " 
-Project Runway contestants. 

When contestants are making their one on one interview during these reality competition shows, this is what is said  over and over again, and frankly, I'm tired of it.  

Can't you do both? Can't you win and make friends? When you are a friendly human being, isn't that winning! 

I say yes!

I know it's a competition but there is real joy and friendship in the midst of true creativity. Creativity is community, not competition. And if you notice, the winner of these shows is usually a relatively nice guy. No one wants to give awards to assholes, no matter how creative or talented they are. 

In Ink Master, The Next Food Network Star and, yes,  Project Runway,  the asshole gets voted off sooner or later. If you're going to win, you're going to win because you are good at what you do.  You don't have to step over bodies to get the prize. 

You'll win fair and square with a few friends along the way because creativity is not competition, it's community.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Sensory Friendly Art Activity: Handmade Paper

July 4th was truly Independence Day for me! It was the day I decided to liberate myself from the paper clutter in my house. So I took to my file cabinet to get rid of all unnecessary past bills, documents, and paper from 2012 and down. Yes! I even had paper from from 2002 in those dang things!

But now what? I need to shred these things and my shredder broke a long time ago.  I had an AHA! moment. I remembered two things;

1) I had recently talked about an art piece at the museum I work at, where the artist used paper pulp.

It was this work by Glen Ligon titled Self Portrait at Age Eleven. It's actually inspired by the image of Stevie Wonder on his 1977 greatest hits triple LP album “Looking Back.”
Ligon enlarged the image and used a stencil to create clustered circles of black linen pulp.

That work was fresh on my mind so I know it influenced me and 

2) We also did not have a shredder growing up so my mom would simply wet all of the documents she wanted to throw away, making it easier to rip up and then she'd put it in the garbage.  Probably not the best thing for the environment but at least no one was going to steal her identity!

So there it was, I  decided to make paper with all this stuff, instead of putting it in the recycling bag. I'm all about transformation so if I can transform all this bill paying into something beautiful, I'm all for it!

This also made for a great sensory art activity for the boys especially on a hot day, so I got them involved as well!

Here's how I did it!

 I took all the paper, put it in a bin and proceeded to rip them into the smallest pieces possible. Then I put water in the bin to soften the paper so it would be easier to rip it further.

You usually need a blender to make hand made paper, I didn't want to ruin mine by putting paper in it so I researched how to do it without a blender and found this great tutorial by Jessica Tremblay.

Dan was a bit apprehensive at first

But it didn't take him long to be ALL IN, literally! He even dunked his head in the water. He just wanted to play with the paper, he didn't help me rip.

My older son had fun too! 

You also, usually, need a metal screen, or what they call a mould, to lay the wet paper out to dry. I didn't have that either, so again, I improvised and used the top of my husband's unused fish tank that was out in the yard.  That's a metal screen right? You have to use what you have to make art, that's my motto, don't let anything stop you!

I laid the paper out on top of the fish tank screen the best I could. As you can see, the edges are irregular but I didn't mind that. 

Here's a close up of the soggy paper. I love that you can still see traces of junk mail like barcodes and text.

I then put a towel and pressed, to absorb the extra water

I also used the plastic mesh thing that I use for cleaning my printing screens. M said this looked like a map, I agree. I only put a little on this one because I didn't know if this plastic mesh thing would work. Well, it did.

This is how I dried the paper, fish tanks, shopping carts and plastic screen supplies. Very non- traditional way to make paper but I did it!  I just used what I had, you can too!

I started the process at 10 AM and by 6PM the paper was dry. It helped that it was breezy, although hot day!

Here's the final product, I love it so much!

Love the traces of text and flecks of color

The other side took the form of the screen which looks cool too.

I cut it into 4 x 4 ish squares

Just to experiment, I cut a heart out of one. I could easily make collage cards with theses.

My husband sent me an "I love you" text as I was admiring the paper so I quickly wrote "I love you too" on a test piece with a sharpie and texted him this very photo in response. I thought about the irony of it all as I sent him the picture;  the art of handmade goods and technology meeting over love. I know, I'm a little corny.

I absolutely enjoyed this process so much! It had a combination of the best elements of my life. My museum practice informing my art practice, the fact that I could incorporate my boys in the process as a sensory friendly art activity, and the possibility of making collage cards with this paper and perhaps selling them on my shop. I don't know yet but who knows!

As always, let me know what you think and if you have any ideas to simplify the process, please share!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Arts Heals: Riffing Off of this Van Gogh Quote

I am about to teach another round of the NYC Craft Entrepreneurship course. These classes always get me excited as I love to share all that I have learned in my creative entrepreneurship journey. 

The best part, though, is hearing my student's stories, how they came to crafting, and what led them to take this next step in entrepreneurship. More and more I am convinced of the power of art as a tool for healing. In light of recent events, I know that it is indeed one of the weapons we can use to  offer hope. 

Last year, I posted this Van Gogh quote on Instagram (by the way, follow me there if you like, @nelescdesigns) with a caption. I'd like to share that IG vintage post with you here, now. 

"Last night, during my craft entrepreneurship class, several people shared that they came to crafting after a traumatic experience in their lives. Creating helped them through depression and pushed them to go on. 

I have been there. I started my shop seven (now eight) years ago after my youngest son was diagnosed with autism. I know what it is to run to my sewing machine in moments of brokenness, sadness, and loneliness thinking, ' if I can only make something then I have something to show for the pain.' You would never know it but some of my creations: re-constructed t-shirts, jumpsuits, fabric cuffs,etc., have a story behind them. I am so grateful to God that I have that outlet. 

What's your outlet what's your coping mechanism? Find something that re-creates you, because sex drugs, and alcohol are so overrated"

Feel free to share some of your crafting stories in the comments! 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

New Arte Sana T-shirts

I'm so excited about this new shirt design... Arte Sana

I released a limited edition of these shirts to celebrate my 8th year in creative entrepreneurship

 "Arte Sana" means "art heals" in Spanish. But if you put the two words together, "artesana" it means artisan. 

Also available in black with white letters. 

In essence, this t-shirt embodies who I am and what art does. Art heals, I have experienced that first hand. As a mom of a special needs child, art is my therapy, and as a human being living in a world, full of ups and downs, I know that art heals.

I hope this resonates with others, if it does, check out more sizes in my shop, These are a limited edition so when I run out of them, that's it, they won't be replaced.  

Have a great day! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"We Will Try Again": On Trying to Have Nice Things When you Have a Special Needs Child.

Sorry for the dark picture.

The other day, after having a blank wall for months, Jon came home with this beautiful work of art and said 
"we will try again." 

The last couple of paintings displayed in our living room were destroyed by Dan. He either broke the frames or peeled paper or paint (depending on the work's medium) off of them. As a person who works in a museum, I felt physical pain when I saw this happen and resigned to not having any art work in the house. "I work in a museum, I can see art there", I told myself. 

The other day, a friend told me, "you must be someone who loves beautiful things." Well, I do, but I know it's difficult to keep them in tact in the house with Dan running and jumping everywhere. My house is pretty plain. I have no grand displays of art,  picture frames, or beautiful objects. 

When hubby brought this work to the house, it was like he was bringing a new baby home and I was hoping and praying  my older child did not hurt it. Art IS my baby! Don't hurt my baby! Dan needs to be taught. 

I love my husband because he refuses to give up on us having a house filled with the things we love. For me it's paintings and for him, fish tanks. He constantly asserts that  we will not play down to his autism. "Autism shmautism", he says, "he has to learn." I have to learn too. With Dan, repetition is key, and I tend to give up too fast.

I'm grateful for his persistence. If art is my baby, I need it close to me. I don't want to settle for visitation rights. 

Now hubby wants us to get a dog...hold up man! One beautiful thing at a time.