It's been a little over 15 weeks since I last set foot in my office; since my kids got off the school bus for the last time this school year; since that barista at Starbucks wouldn't touch my travel mug and I didn't clue into why.
Time keeps rushing forward, stalling, going in slo-mo, backwards, sideways. And now it is nearly July.
I was scratching my head all weekend wondering what the hell to write here. I've been trying really hard to get into a more regular practice of showing up to write these posts. I know that if I want to make Ply Studio a reality, I have to do the work. And importantly, I have to SHARE the work, the thinking, the excitement so that when the time comes, YOU will come.
But on Sunday, I could not force myself to write. It wasn't happening. It was an atrocious mix of writer's block, lack of inspiration and just sheer boredom. A lot of kid meltdowns. And one more thing: fear.
As I consider what Ply Studio might look like when it opens (will we be able to sit close to one another as we make art? will we feel comfortable sharing snacks? will people want to bring their own chairs?), I wonder about the conversations and interactions that we will have when we get to the other side of the Weirds. Will we be more inclined to speak honestly? Will we complain less? Will we love more? Will we just be so goddamn happy to be out of our homes (without our kids!!) and sitting anywhere where we can make cool shit, together, while laughing, drinking coffee (if it's morning) or wine (if it's evening), and telling tales of how we made it through the pandemic mostly intact?
And in the same moment that I'm planning how and when and what the Studio will look like, my heart is breaking for the loss of so many awesome businesses and cool things that stitch the fabric of our communities together. It's hard to imagine how to start a new business at this time. That's where the fear resides. And the doubt. What gives me the right to start a business, let alone a creative enterprise, in this time? What makes me think that I can make a go of this, when so many others are failing and closing up shop?
And my honest answer is: I believe the world needs more of what I can bring. Places that are colourful, creative and fun. Stuff that we make with our hands. Ways to connect (whether in person or virtually) to others. More art inspiration and joy.
There is so much to be learned and reflected on right now. Resilience is a buzzy-buzz word all around us. My guess is that for every business that doesn't make it in our current climate of uncertainty, there will be many more that spring up to give it a go. I have always believed that there is opportunity in abundance, if you're willing to do the work to find it. Make it. Show up. Get beyond the fear of 'what if it doesn't work?'. I also believe that we need ALL the businesses and ideas that are willing to rise in order to get somewhere better, economically, socially, spiritually, environmentally - ALL.
So, here I am. Rambling and a little off-centre but trying really hard to embrace all that I believe is possible. I'm showing up so that you come on this adventure with me. Whether Ply is a place you take an outstanding in-person workshop (perhaps 2m from anyone else), plug into for an array of digital learning experiences unlike others you have seen, look to for supplies to support all your DIY-ness, or connect with to find the most amazing, handmade artisanal gifts, you're gonna want to be here.
And there's more. But I can't give it all away here. Yet.
Follow me on Instagram @intheply (and sometimes Facebook and Twitter, same handle). Tell everyone you know. Now is the time to build one another up. Support efforts to rebuild our local economies. Encourage artists and creative entrepreneurs! Ply Studio is coming soon to support all the creative connection we are soooo missing and need so desperately!
And with that (my most shameless and rambling plug yet), I have written what I think I needed to write. It felt hard and not quite my typical style. But there you have it.
I hope you are finding ways to say what is true, honest and positive, too. It feels really good.
Go be you with a vengeance.
- Carmen xo
A few things are on my mind today:
So, here is my pick list for each of these topics so that you can take what you want, ditch what you don't and get on with your day!
The Jealous Curator podcast: I listened to another great episode of one of my favourite podcasts last night. Front and centre was the creation of art, but the conversation also touched on diversity and inclusion and I thought I would share it with you. Calida Rawles makes beautiful, water-y paintings that you will want to hop on over to Instagram to see.
On the Dad front: For those of you celebrating a Dad next Sunday, I found this great round-up of DIY things to make or do for that special guy. Next year, Ply Studio will be there for you with a range of workshops to spark your creativity (or send your Dad to create his own adventure!). Video tutorials and online courses are also in the works! More soon!
Larry Bohn ❤️: And on this beautiful, sunny Sunday (in Ottawa), I am thinking about my own Dad. It would have been his 72nd birthday today if he were still with us. Here's a song for him and for all the Dads out there, from one of his favourite bands. Grab a tissue.
I hope you are enjoying a fabulous weekend.
- Carmen xo
Is there something that stops you from putting yourself out there in the world? Something you wish weren’t the case or that you could overcome?
What I’m about to admit might seem trivial. But it's really not. It has everything to do with how we want to be perceived by others and what we, ourselves, view as 'good enough'. So, here it is:
I suck at taking good photos of my art.
And it holds me back from sharing my work far too often.
I've read tutorials, I’ve practiced, I’ve clicked and deleted. I can SEE the photo I want to take in my minds-eye. I see the sun coming in a certain way and I think, yah, that will be good. But it’s usually not.
I’ve even put the friggin’ succulent next to my piece just like the other Instagrammers.
Truth is, I find my pieces (especially my tapestries) hard to photograph. They are long and lanky and hard to fit in the perfect square dimensions that so much social media calls for. I don't like spending precious time styling them on the right wall, in the right light condition. But I know that if I want people to see what I make, I have to take pictures of it and share it. Even if the photos aren't that great.
So, instead of fretting any longer about the perfect picture, I’m starting my own campaign to #sharetheuglystufftoo and acknowledge that sometimes #goodartbadphotos happen.
Here are some highlights (lowlights)!
I also want to acknowledge that the idea for this came partially from a mother/artist collective I am a part of. We have been working towards a group show under the theme 'I'll only show you the good parts" inspired by Ree Morton. More on that to come in future posts.
I'm going to keep up the conversation on this over on Instagram, so tune in and follow me for more there. And join my movement by taking off your own filter of what is 'good enough' and letting it all hang out - the good, bad and completely sh**ty!
- Carmen xo
My kids and I have been taking quite a few CreativeBug online classes in the last few weeks. One of them was about gratitude journalling. I've been doing a little more writing since the start of this pandemic. Writing used to be my 'go to' to balance and make sense of things. I'll admit, I've lost my way and devoted myself to a lot of other things in the past 10 years. But, for me, there is incredible power in sitting down to think, reflect, draw and write out my thoughts.
So, I thought I would share what kinda poured out of me the other day. I call it the Ply Studio Manifesto and it's a rather stream of consciousness exploration of the core beliefs I hold, which drive my motivation to bring this studio space and programming to life. Perhaps it will inspire you to create your very own personal or professional manifesto ... and if you do, would you share it with me? Please? :) I love seeing what my community is creating, especially right now.
The Ply Studio Manifesto
I believe in the power of making things by hand to heal ourselves and add more joy to our lives.
I believe that spending time in one another’s company (yes, even virtually) while making things by hand and learning new skills is magic.
I believe in listening deeply, sharing openly, creating with curiosity, and encouraging greatness.
I believe that community is all around us, ready to be cultivated and grown with love. I am interested in creating more bonds and community around the things like colour, texture, flow, curiosity, asymmetry and beauty.
I believe that every day is a new opportunity to learn something new or expand on what you already know.
I believe in sharing my love of the creative arts with anyone that will listen.
I believe that learning new things will keep us young forever.
I believe in the power of the arts to create vibrant communities and a deep reservoir of wellness to tap into within ourselves.
I believe in holding and sharing creative space for one another.
Until next time, stay well and creative.
- Carmen xo
Have you been doing a little more spring cleaning than 'normal' this year? Cleaning and purging are making us feel better in this moment. It's something we have control over. It has an immediate benefit in reducing our stress and anxiety. Much has been written about this, but I found this website this morning and think it is rather clever if you can get past the name.
My message today: As you clean and purge, consider transforming those discarded (and found) items into inputs for some great pastimes.
I did the curation for you. Here are my top 6 picks for making old new again.
#1. Make your own t-shirt yarn and then knit and crochet all kinds of things out of it. (Photo/maker credit: Sustain My Craft Habit)
#2. Paint a mandala stone! (Photo/maker credit: Lydia Mae YouTube channel)
#3. Make natural dyes for ... Paper! Yarn! Fabric! (Photo/maker credit: Pop Sugar)
#4. Melt all those little crayon bits into something new. (Photo/maker credit: Martha Stewart)
#5. Make your own soap! (Photo/maker credit: Getty Images/The Spruce Crafts)
#6. Make a rag rug with old fabric scraps! (Photo/maker credit: Master Sergeich YouTube channel)
Ply Studio Update
Construction on the Ply Studio space continues, despite major slowdowns (obviously). The drywall is up and in the final stages of completion. Next comes paint and finishing work. And then the fun begins! Furnishings! Moving my LOADS of fibre and equipment into the space! And creating a place that you will want to visit - when it's safe to do so.
I've been thinking a lot about how I show up for you and all those that were looking forward to taking a creative workshop in the near future. Though my timelines have lengthened, it is still my plan to open an arts studio in the near-ish future. This pandemic won't last forever but it IS making me think about a lot of ways to safeguard my business and even my own creative time in the event of future disruption. Luckily, I have long been an advocate of online learning, especially for the purposes of bringing opportunity to those that otherwise wouldn't have the option to learn in person. Right now, that's all of us. So, I'm working on the what, how, and when of my digital experiences (in combination with in-person workshops - not to fully replace these) and I will have more to share with you in the near future. Until then, hang in there and know that I'm here for you.
Stay well. Stay creative.
- Carmen xo
I hope this message finds you and your loved ones well. We're hanging in there and really, should be grateful for so many things. But some days are hard, and there are just so many long days right now.
So, I've been loving anything that lifts my spirits. Of course, things that are art-y or craft-y always give me pause and put a smile on my face. But there are so many beautiful, light-filled, joyful things to read or look at that I thought I would share some in case you, too, are looking for something to bring a smile.
1. Wool and the Gang (particularly loving granny squares right now but there are all kinds of ideas here so keep making stuff!)
2. The Sorry Girls (how is it possible that watching DIY YouTube stars can be so enjoyable?)
3. Make your own earrings! (nothing will make you feel better than wearing your own pair of kick-a$$ earrings!)
4. Younion Meditation Studio offers amazing virtual sessions!
5. Saana Yoga offers daily classes on Instagram
6. Heather Robertson will kick your butt (in nice, short workouts that you can squeeze in when you need a break from the other things that are kicking your butt, like your kids)
Advice from hilarious (and brash) Moms:
7. Glennon Doyle on IG
8. Cat and Nat on IG
9. Pivot with Jenny Blake
10. How I Built This (NPR)
11. WorkLife with Adam Grant
12. Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel
My kids' favourite app right now:
13. Caribu (a lovely way for your kids to connect with family and friends while not being able to connect)
14. Shira Gill for closet and home organization
15. CreativeLive online classes
16. Julie Nolke explains the pandemic to her past self!
Stay well, calm and positive. And keep crafting like it's nobody's business!
Is it just me or are people stuck in a repetitive loop of answering the question ‘How are things?’ with ‘BUSY!’ Yes. We know. We are all busy.
Let's get on with the more interesting part of the conversation: In all this busy-ness, are we making time for the things we love? Are we making time for creative things?
I’ve written on my blog about how we seem to have trouble taking time out to do something creative. It slips down the task list to somewhere between ‘clean the cat litter’ and ‘organize the freezer’.
When I talk with people about time management, it seems no one has a clue (save a precious and genius few) how to manage their most limited resource … time. We give it away freely and often without asking too much in return. If you work in an office, you may be at the mercy other people’s plans for your day by way of the calendar invite.
So, here are my 3 tips for how to take back control of your time so that you can spend it making more art:
For more on making time for creative ventures by getting more productive with your time, check out this article from one of my favourite magazines, Fast Company. It’s really all about working smarter, not harder. Mantra!
Enjoy the rest of February and the fact that we get one extra day this year to make the most of!
Whether you are a photographer, quilter, ceramicist, knitter or painter, there’s a set of positive feelings many of us have when we are creating something.
How do YOU feel when you are making things by hand?
Generally, making something by hand is satisfying and a nice break from screens, dinner dishes, laundry, errands and more.
I’ve been reading about the mental health benefits of crafting for quite awhile. It started when I got curious about scientific or statistical data that backs up why I feel better when I knit, crochet, spin, weave, paint, etc.
And it turns out, there is. The reward centre in our brain releases dopamine when you do something pleasurable. Dopamine is really a natural antidepressant - a non-medicinal way of stimulating that reward centre. And since most of us consider the act of creating something with our hands pleasurable, we get a nice hit of that natural antidepressant every time we take up our craft.
I recently read about a study of more than 3,500 knitters published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, which said that 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting. More than half reported feeling "very happy." I think this is worth sitting up and taking notice of.
Let’s fill ourselves up with dopamine from making stuff by hand! I’m working on a whole slate of workshops and a roster of incredible artists and makers to help you do just that. Look for fun and 'outside the box' learning opportunities coming soon to my website.
Now get off your screen and go make something.
P.S. if you want to know more about the links between art/craft and mental health, this article as well as this one and this group are super interesting.
Whether you are one of those friends that have a warm winter vacation planned in September (nice work) or actually love the snow and cold that our Canadian winter delivers in spades (I’m writing this on the heels of receiving ~15cm of snow yesterday here in Ottawa), I salute you. As we get older, I think we start to identify either as a ‘winter person’ or not. I like some aspects of winter (skiing is one), but I don’t like the darkness of these months between December and March. Either way, I think it's good to know which one you are: winter or not?
So, as I was working on my website today, I was thinking about colour and light and how much better I feel when I choose to focus on the light. So, I’m sharing a couple of my favourite images of late, in the hopes that this hits you on a day when you, too, are looking for some light. I’m with ya, friend.
How do you get through winter? Are you a winter person or not so much? You can reach out to me on Instagram (@intheply) or reply below. I'm truly curious.
Have a great week, everyone! Keep it light.
I’m a week into the Christmas ‘break’. But a break implies taking it easy, restfulness, getting away from the normal day-to-day. And while some of this is true, it’s also been busy - much meal prep, running around doing errands, taking care of a lot of needs (mostly not mine), flipping over the spare bedroom for our next round of visitors, socializing, late nights and early mornings. My kids are calling out to me from one room and my husband from another. The doorbell is ringing at the same time as the timer on the oven. And where the heck did my daughter’s hacking cough come from?
If this sounds all too familiar, none of us are alone. And hence my pre-occupation with self-care - for all of us. Have you taken some time out for yourself over this season?
I'm taking some time right now to reflect on the year 2019. I'd like to share with you my reflection on the past year in order to set the stage for the exciting year to come. And to introduce you to Ply Studio (a much anticipated haven for self-care in all its forms).
A little over a year ago I was in a state of restless impatience. I was coming to the end of a 2.5 month sabbatical from my day job and feeling uncertain about my creative direction and next steps. Outside my day job, I have been exploring my artistic side and stretching my (albeit limited) entrepreneurial muscles for what seems like my entire adult life. And then 2 things changed my trajectory: I had a conversation with my now business coach, and I went to a cool crafty workshop. Things started to crystallize. Why not start a studio/makery that specializes in great learning experiences (my professional forte) spanning all artistic genres here in Ottawa?
Fast forward one year. Through coaching calls every 2 to 3 weeks, a ton of planning and, indeed, confidence building, I am on the verge of opening Ply Studio - a place for creative connection in the heart of my community of New Edinburgh in Ottawa.
This process has been a little like getting through pregnancy with the birth of one’s precious babe (and only just a little longer). From idea to almost full term, the construction of my ‘non-denominational’ studio is nearing completion. I’m simultaneously taking a big sigh of relief and a gulp of nervous apprehension. This is a leap for me and one I have been navigating while continuing to work my full time day job.
It’s no coincidence that much of what I am planning hinges on the need to create a space that feels good, relaxing, inviting, colourful, fun and happy.
Here's what else I'd like to share with you before I open my doors, hopefully sometime in March. My manifesto, if you will:
Ply Studio is a place for makers and would-be makers, friends and those that will be friends, experiments (both wildly successful and splendidly failed), craft and art and the debate about what is what, good coffee or good wine depending on the time of day, and that song that sets the perfect soundtrack for the workshop you didn’t know you’d take and can’t believe you love.
Ply Studio is about handmade living, creative practice as the pause button for a too-fast/too-stressful/too screen-filled life, mindfulness (or ‘craftfulness’ as was coined by Davidson and Tahsin, 2018), beauty, texture, curiosity.
The atmosphere in the studio is relaxing and yet exciting; joyful and calm; meditative and festive - all at the same time. This is a place where you will marvel at the small touches that create an overall peacefulness, but with an interesting and remarkable edge. This is a place where you will want to come back and bring friends. This is a place you will want to book for your small group meetings or your next ‘girls/boys night out’. A place you will want to sit by the fireplace on a snowy winter afternoon. And in the landscaped dye garden on a warm summer morning.
This is a place devoted to self-care.
Today, I wish it was open so that I could escape the busy for a few hours of craftfulness - to regroup, slow down and take some time for myself. And when the time comes, you’re going to want to be here, too. Spread the word and watch for a a full slate of creative programming, from tapestry weaving to mixed media collage; indigo dyeing to creative writing and everything in between.
I hope 2020 brings you joy and magic in many forms. I look forward to seeing you at the Studio soon.
Happy New Year!