My sister, Shenandoah Davis, released her third album, Souvenirs, earlier this year. Shenandoah (or Shenni, as she is known to her family and past acquaintances of her pre-20s) asked me to create an illustration inspired by the lyrics from her album; she sent me all of the words to her songs and left me to sort through the poetry and see what image I would pull out.
I originally posted this project on Instructables for their Lazy Life contest (I won!) and wanted to also post the instructions here: however, there was a lot of amazingly creative and productive discussion in the comments over on Instructables, so be sure to check out the notes from other makers who tackled this blanket and found some other fillers/ideas. See the Instructable -->
Targeted advertising has me pegged--I was recently scrolling through facebook when an ad for a "relaxing gravity blanket," claiming to be "like Advil PM for your whole body," grabbed my attention. The blanket, weighing in at 15, 20, or 25 pounds, promises more restful sleep, to ease stress and anxiety, and help your mind and body relax...all by laying under the heavy blanket.
Weighted blankets have long been used therapeutically for people with sensory sensitivity or restless leg syndrome, as well as to increase focus (particularly in classroom settings). Newer studies are finding that these heavy blankets increase serotonin and melatonin levels while also lowering cortisol levels. Your mood improves, and because the weight minimizes movement during sleep, it helps your body stay in a deeper sleep for longer.
I have several family members who struggle with sleep and/or anxiety, so weighted blankets sounded like an amazing solution. I was sold--but yikes! This blanket carries a price tag of nearly $300. I set out to make my own with a budget of $50, using plastic pellets for the weight.
The inside of the backyard artist studio I built is my new favorite place in the world, and I am so excited to finally share my space with all of you! Taking pictures of it was super fun; when I was looking through the photos, I had this moment of Wow, I really made this? How did that happen? Is this real? The studio took a long time--October '16 to June '17--but now that it is finished I am in disbelief. I still feel like I don't know how to build a studio, yet here I am sitting inside the studio that I built.
If creating a space like this is one of your dreams, I want to say right off the bat that you can do this. I had a professional run the electricity and family help with the framing and foundation digging, but other than that this entire structure and everything in it was finished with the hands of willing friends and with skills learned from the internet and library books. The permit office also offered tons of wisdom on what wood to use and specifics of local building code.
The studio build has been consuming my spaghetti brain for well over a year now, and look! I built this! With the help of a few lovely friends, my backyard art studio is finally complete.
Originally I had planned to keep posting detailed progress updates throughout building my new studio, but, oh man, life. It has its own ideas about things.
If you are hoping to build a workspace on your property, I would be happy to give you more step-by-step thoughts and instruction--just shoot me an email email@example.com or comment here. Otherwise, continue reading for process pics and good times.
PERMIT was this monstrous, scary word I had avoided in all of my previous home projects. At our home in Florida, I would research residential code and skate just underneath the requirements for permitting (or, in the case of running electrical to my backyard shed studio, seek help from genius friends and plan to claim official idiocy if the need arose). My permit-avoidance strategy worked until my current big project: designing and building a backyard artist studio from the ground up.
When we bought our lovely little brick home in Arvada, the backyard was outfitted with a rusting metal shed flanked by gnarly tree bushes and lined with diagonally-embedded bricks. Now a spoiled backyard artist, I knew this metal tetanus heap was sitting on the hallowed ground of what would one day be my new den of creative wonders. I also quickly discovered that in order to create this palace of art, I would need to get permits.
While I am sadly without an art space (I can only do so much at the kitchen table), I've been seeking creative ways to put out some work and still feel productive (instead of just depressed that my paints and brushes are literally in a crate marked "ART: IMPORTANT STUFF" in the garage).
This time with no studio space has been equally just as terrible as I thought it would be and not nearly as terrible as I expected. It's so frustrating to be hit with a sudden inspiration for a creation only to write it down as one more concept on my long "to make in the future" list, knowing that as the list grows, the probability of ideas coming to actuality dwindles. I am actively creating an archive of IDEAS NEVER REALIZED, and that is depressing.
Without my usual mediums, I'm turning more to my computer and fleshing things out more as "brands" than art pieces--my semi-recent creation of Ironic Baby is a good example of this, where I had this idea spark and was able to bring it to the world with nothing more than my laptop. I had to get creative and think of ways to continue towards my artistic goals without actually creating any new art, so I've been using some old pieces of mine with new methods of promotionby sharing it on Instagram and/or Etsy under different "brands," like Scratch Encaustics and 300 Drawings.
It has been a good stretching of the ol' creative muscle to work on these projects that are more related to branding than anything else (and I've had a schedule packed with all kinds of graphics work in a wide spectrum of fascinations), and while I have no interest in being some sort of social media wizard, I've learned a lot about how to successfully promote my work to these online communities.
You are our greatest adventure, so please don't ruin it for us with the "terrible twos" or teen angst or by being a bad person in general.
Oh boy, I have been gone for some time, haven't I? In November, our family moved to the Denver area, and in January we moved into our new, absolutely darling new home in Arvada, Colorado. I plan on staying here for a very long time. Moving sucks.
One of the most wonderful things about returning to Colorful Colorado is that I've been able to spend time with many old friends from college and earlier. One of these lovely classmates, Royce Roeswood, cohosts (with comedian and all-around neat person JD Lopez) a monthly live edition of the podcast Left Hand Right Brain. The year-old podcast is a light-hearted discussion with local creative types, and Royce asked if I would be the guest for February's live recording. I said yes! Now you can listen to me talk to other humans about art and other things.
I think that JD might regret telling me "don't feel like you are talking too much. That's what we are here for, to promote you" before recording--I just talked and talked and talked.
Around the start of the new year, Free Expressions Seminars and Literary Services asked me to design a postcard featuring a quote from author Annie Dillard. The intention was to start the year off by inspiring Free Expressions's vast network of aspiring and established writers to make 2015 their best year yet, filled with stories, fables, and fiction. After the first postcard went out, the lovely women at Free Expressions had a genius idea to keep their clients engaged and motivated: each month, they would mail out a postcard featuring an inspirational quote from a beloved author. The back of each card offers writing tips and encouragements, and a random handful of the postcards gift their receivers with free literary services.
I have had a blast these first four months coming up with beautiful ways to represent the wise words of Vera Nazarian, Pablo Neruda, Ray Bradbury, and Annie Dillard--it is like a monthly assignment to get creative juices flowing. These postcards are fun experiments. I get to play.
Past and Future Travels of Here Right Now is a collection of 300 pen-and-ink drawings I started in April 2010 and completed in April 2011. To see the full collection and to purchase works from the project, please visit 300drawings.com.
After I graduated college, I was a newlywed woman with an art degree. In the epic post-university scattering of 2009, my community fragmented out across the country. Dave and I wound up in Florida--a state where we knew no one, with foreign streets and monolith clouds and a country between us and the familiar.
The first several months in Florida were a new experience in loneliness. My life had been spent in a large network of dear friends, each supporting and fulfilling different needs and affections; I was a woman created of community, now expecting one other human to satisfy my need for society. It was an unfair, impossible task for me to place on my new husband, particularly on introverted Dave who was deep in his own worries of providing for me despite a heartbreaking career change.
My days were spent exploring the alien city on my bicycle, and at night I created little gifts to mail to faraway friends, crafted needless trinkets for our home, and made art that simultaneously felt wonderfully self-important and utterly insignificant--which, overall, is mostly how I viewed my life.
One evening, I drew two little landscapes that demanded fondness--the style was as foreign to me as the Florida landscape, and the pieces felt like a new adventure. I instantly ran to the store, purchased a stack of cardstock (150 sheets) and a paper cutter, chopped the paper in half, and decided that I would create 300 of these grayscale drawings. I considered myself to be a serial abandoner of large projects, and it was with a deep distrust in my own ability to complete anything truly time-consuming that I committed to the work. I will make five drawings every day, and it will only take a little longer than two months to finish.
It took me one year.
A lot of things happened in that year. I got a job at a local health food store, which plunged me into a community of misfit toys and outdoor wanderers. Dave and I stumbled onto Felicitous, which turned out to be a stumbling of gargantuan significance. We moved into a house on the Hillsborough River. We moved out of the house on the Hillsborough River. Dave lost his job. We traveled to Colorado, Massachusetts, Key West, and Palestine. We went out on boats into the ocean. The ocean filled with oil. We used a ragtag menagerie of free or borrowed vehicles that constantly broke down, only to be replaced with another free or borrowed vehicle. And as I worked through all the changes that were rapidly veering into our still-newlywed relationship, the landscape served as an ideal subject for coping with it all. Everything appeared in the work.
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