Monday, April 30, 2012

The Shift

In my adult life, I've experience three major shifts in perspective. Each time I was living in a city that I thought I knew and then a major life event happened, and a whole new city revealed itself to me. The first time, I was 23 and living in San Francisco. I'd been in San Francisco for a year, and I decided to quit my job and move to New York. San Francisco seemed sleepy, lonely and boring to me. In the 2 weeks before leaving, free of my job and responsibilities, I started going late night mid-week clubs and I suddenly understood what was beautiful about San Francisco; its underground culture hiding just below the surface.  I stayed and fell in love with San Francisco.

The second shift happened in LA. I'd been living in Hollywood for 3 years. I hated LA with a passion. I found it plastic, temporary, and lonely. It felt like a place where everyone was working toward happiness by buying things (expensive cars, expensive hair, expensive boobs). I felt like a foreigner for the first time since moving to America when I was a kid. Then in the space of 2 months I lost my job and ended a 6 year relationship, and I found myself free of ties.

I spent 3 months house sitting in Larchmont, trying to figure out whether to move to New York. But the funny thing was, in that interim time it was like I took a pair of dark glasses off, and put on a pair of rose-colored glasses. Where before I'd seen nothing but dirty cement, I was suddenly seeing this lush, rich and glorious culture. I found a little cottage in the backyard of a house in Echo Park, with an orange tree in the yard and window all around. It was glorious. I stayed and fell in love with LA.

I'm going to be honest. For the past 3 years, I've found New York draining, expensive and claustrophobic. But I can feel a tectonic shift happening.  On Saturday night, Jacob and I went to a opening in East Williamsburg in an apartment/workspace of one of his old school friends. We went last year, and I spent the evening feeling like an awkward teenager. The party was populated with the usual opening crowd, what I like to call the international hipster art-elite that seem to populate every opening in every city across the globe. Since we've been in NY, I've dreaded these evenings, always finding myself feeling insecure, grumpy and judgmental by the end of the evening.  But Saturday, something switched in me. All those dark, insecure feelings had sort of drifted off and instead I found myself chatting to interesting strangers. I felt generous, curious and open.
I think I'll stay in New york and fall in love with it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Object Lust

Yesterday, the ceramics studio was deserted. It was lovely being there all alone, making things and really geeking out. I've been into making these tiny bowls, partially because I love the size of them in my hands, and partially because I'm not very good yet. I made a couple bowls for my god-daughter and niece, who just turned one. It was funny because both their parents remarked that they were obsessed with touching them. I think there's something really intrinsic there that we forget about as we grow and words push the more intuative senses aside. Seeing through touching.

It's taken me a while to come to understand that I love the object-ness of things. I lust over the materials. In fashion, I nerd out about the fabric, the shape, the fit, more than the trend. In ceramics, I want to make things that have a direct relationship to the way they feel in my hand not just the way they look. I don't know if everyone experiences this.  Perhaps this is what separates those people who identify as craftspeople (like me) and those who identify as artists. I don't know.

Art that resonates to me does so because it feels organic and somehow connected to physicality. It's hard to describe exactly, I don't know if there's a word for it. The first time I saw Louis Bourgeois' work I literally cried because the forms and materials spoke to me so strongly (they even smelled!). On Friday at the open studios, I found an artist called Anna Miller, who's work I just wanted to lick it was so organic and visceral.

I'm making these little ball objects in studio. I love these little creatures that have sprung from nowhere. They fit in my hand, and have a weight to them that satisfied me deeply. I have object lust for them.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Creative Space

The Den Transaction

Last night, Jacob and I went to the MFA open studios at Hunter college. It was a really fun flash back to Art school for me, and made me not a little nostalgic for those days. I was so earnest and optimistic back then about making art and being part of the conversation of art. I really wanted to be a working artist, but when I graduated I was hit with the hard reality of needing a job and having no community. Back then in 1996, there was no social network to connect people like there is today. I'm sure that recent grads still have a similar feeling of free-fall when they get out of college. Jacob and I often talk about how we'd like to teach a class on building your own community. He's done such an amazing job of bringing together a community of people he admires and respects since we've gotten to New York.

We were at the open studio to visit with Jacob's friend, McKendree, who he met at Skohegan.  McKendree's about our age, so I find it really inspiring that she's back in school and following what she loves. She's also doing this really interesting project in her home. The project is called The Den Transaction and she describes it like this, "The Den is a one room cabin in the backyard of a townhouse in Brooklyn... The Den Transaction is an experiment in which the space is bartered for services or goods. Services such as gardening, composting, painting, repairing, chicken coop construction..." I love this idea.

I've been thinking this week a lot about the fear of failure. On hearing about my project, many of my friends have enthusiastically said to me 'I can't wait to here what you do!'.  The dark-sided snarky voice inside my head replies 'Yeah, what ARE you going to do Isobel? What if you don't have anything to do or say? What if you are publicly making an ass of yourself?'

I think everyone has this snarky voice, and one big challenge is telling it to shut the fuck up.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rules of Improv

If you've read Tina Fey's book, Bossy Pants, you know about her “Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat”;
Now, obviously in real life you’re not always going to agree with everything everyone says.  But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and to at least start from an open-minded place.  Start with a Yes and see where that takes you.
As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no.  “No, we can’t do that.”  “No, that’s not in the budget.”  “No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar.”  What kind of way is that to live? (Bossy Pants)
I always thought that I was a 'yes'-er but lately I've begun to accept the fact that I have a pretty bad flinch problem. My heart says 'yes!' but my critical mind comes up with all sorts of logical rational reasons for saying no. But one of my rules of engagement was to be open to the possibilities, so I'm going to need to change that big-time.

My friend, Ryan, is an inspiration to me on this front. In addition to having his own branding company, Ryan made the resolution in January to make 10 films this year. 10. Seriously. Ryan's one of those guys who always helps out and has fun with it. He's the living embodiment of saying 'yes'. Since January, I've seen him collaborate on a documentary style short for my boyfriend's new gallery, Field Projects, as well as direct a sizzle real for our friend Chip.  Ryan's not just making films, he's literally helping his friends reach their dreams. It's pretty wild. And he does it all with this sort of humble dude, of course I will, it'll be fun attitude that makes it easy to ask for his help.

I'm going to try to embrace a little of what Ryan's got, to say 'yes' and see where it leads.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dude, you're harshing my mellow.

It's a raining day in Brooklyn, and after waking up a little too late and moving slowly around the house, I finally got myself out the door and on my way to the ceramics studio. I've been taking a wheel class at the Painted Pot since January. Hidden in the basement, under a store-front filled with screaming children making ceramics ashtrays, is my secret zone of zen. On the weekend when I usually go, I have to walk through a gauntlet of birthday balloons, traumatized children and crazed looking parents. Today I walked in and it was deserted. Oh, peace.

When I got downstairs to the basement studio there were a couple other middle-aged ladies (like me) busy at work on their wheels. There's a sort of unsaid understanding down there that this is everyone's special time... that this shit is better than yoga. I set myself up at my usual spot, and started to wedge my clay.

And then it started. The woman across from me, who I now notice is wearing a blue-tooth in her ear, takes a call. And she starts talking. And talking. She's giving some seriously personal, loud advice. So personal that it crossed my mind that she might be a part of the psychic network. Nobody says a word or even exchanges a glance, but I know this has to be disturbing everyone. This is our special place, god damn it!

Our friend talks for over 45 minutes, at one point actually taking a second call.

And then I realize that I'm letting this lady ruin my special happy place. In a city like New York, it's so easy to spend your entire time being annoyed by other people. Riding the subway, getting honked at, someone actually shoved me the other day on 5th Ave. But you can't let it get to you because if you do, you'll go crazy.

After she had left, I spent an amazing 3 hours throwing tiny little clay marbles while the German woman across from me played some hilarious polka music. It was awesome.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In our own back yard

Last night, I met up with my old team for a farewell drinks, and I have to tell you I love and respect those ladies so much. They are such a smart, funny, and creative group of people who I feel really blessed to have gotten to know. In my life, I spent a lot of time being the little sister, but with this team I eased into the position of being big sister. In Korea (where I often traveled for work) they use the word "언니", pronounced awn-nee to describe this relationship. Awn-nee is a term of love, respect and sisterhood. I think that sisterhood is something we could use more of and spend more time cultivating in our culture, and I'm happy to have found it with that great group of women.

One of the real blessings of working with my team was getting to know women in so many different age groups, spanning from their 60's to just out of college. I feel really humbled to be in a position to help younger women navigate their careers and choices, and to be there as a mentor to them. Last night, some of the girls were talking about how they wished the could do what I was doing, but that they weren't in a financial position yet. I suppose what I wish for this blog is to show how you can re-direct and re-focus your life without running away from things. This isn't Eat, Pray, Love, and you don't have to travel to India or Italy to discover what your values are. We can do it in our own back  yard.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Switching off Auto-Pilot

I'm a pretty straightforward person.  I've never really given much thought to my priorities, other than Try to be nice to everyone.  But if I'm going to really re-align my path, this means working out what's important to me, what inspires me, what is the creative fuel of my imagination. It also means working out what's not worth my time.

I started that process with a small step: unsubscribing. Working in fashion, I was signed up to so many newsletters, catalogs and emails. The thing is, I don't care about what Intermix is saying I must have! or where DailyCandy says I should go on vacation. And the best part is, now I don't have to care. It's not my job.

I spent yesterday ridding my email box of all those messages telling me what I must buy, do and be, and instead researched composting in my neighborhood. There's a whole world out there of people doing interesting worthwhile stuff.

Auto-pilot turned off.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Week 1: Just don't look down.

The beginning of any project can a intimidating. When I was a designer, I had a similar terrified gut feeling at the beginning of ever season (The voice usually said something like, 'Shit, I have nothing left to give!'), and I'd handle it by doing a big clean up.  Physically tidying and ordering the space gave my brain time to wander. I'd find ideas I'd forgotten about or samples I'd saved for later. It's like in movies when the hero tells the love interest not to look down as they crossing a giant gorge on a rope ladder, to just keep moving forward. It's just like that, except you're the hero and you've got to tell it to yourself.

This week the steps are comfortably mundane.... going to the DMV, getting my car registered, applying for unemployment, signing up for New York Cares, and the all important, mapping out how our new household budget is going to work.

Just don't look down.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day 1:
My name is Isobel. Like many of you, I've been working hard since I graduated towards my career goals.  In my 20's it seemed so important, but as I got closer and closer to my goal, I felt less and less like me. On Friday, I gave it up in the hopes of connecting back to my path. I spent the last 3 years living in New York, working at a huge teen clothing retailer as a design director. My job was well-paid, I had amazing benefits and an awesome team. So, in a sense, what I'm doing right now isn't really rational or grown-up (I should be buying a condo and having babies right now). But the corporate life felt inauthentic.

I know I am so privileged to be able to make this leap. That our country is in the middle of a recession, that people are struggling to make ends meet, and indeed even being born in the first world is an incredible blessing. I don't take it lightly. That's part of the reason that I want to share this experience with people... to show the fear, the trepidation, the excitement, the exploration, and to hopefully show that it is possible and that it does make a sort of illogical logic.

I'm not going to be talking about money on this blog. For me, this was the biggest road block to quitting, and I gave myself so many 'grown-up' excused for why it was stupid to walk away from a well-paying job. My situation is unique to me, as yours will be to you.  I am more interested in exploring the great white canvas that is life when you take away your barriers and work out what it is you want to make, do, and be.

I hope you'll come with me on this journey.