Art


Young Playwrights Festival Banner

The Blank Theater’s Young Playwright’s Festival Banner

Yesterday Ron and I went up to Hollywood to see a play at the Blank Theatre’s Young Playwright’s Festival. My incredibly talented friend Nicole had directed one of the plays.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to say that I was utterly floored by the caliber of the work I saw. The three plays I saw were written by young adults who were all under the age of 19, but they were written with such mature viewpoints that I found myself truly inspired.

Usually, when I’ve seen plays written by young adults who are in high school or their early years of college, I can see their potential. They are rough around the edges or maybe they haven’t quite found their voice or point-of-view. Often, they are trying too hard to emulate a writer they admire (I definitely am guilty of this as a writer). I can tell in a few years, with practice, with care, with work, they could be really good.

But these kids…I wasn’t seeing their potential to be really good; they were already really, really good. And they already had strong points of view and really knew what they wanted to say.

It’s so inspiring. Seeing really good art is always inspiring to me. The ways that art tells truths about humanity–sometimes deeply painful and uncomfortable truths–has always been my favorite thing. And I was really impressed with the way all of the plays I saw let me live in the discomfort and didn’t necessarily offer an ending that made me feel okay.

As a matter of fact, I relished that. In a time when so much art (I’m looking in particular at film and television) is market-tested to within in an inch of its life and is designed to be comfortable, challenging pieces are refreshing. And I applaud the Blank Theatre for not telling these kids that theatre has to be easy and for letting their plays stand as they were. It gives me hope that there will continue to be art that isn’t the same old escapist boring stuff that I see every day.

(As an aside, there is nothing wrong with escapist art/entertainment per se. I love my light and fluffy silly science fiction and cartoons as much as anyone. I just find it disheartening that there is so little challenging work being promoted and funded. I’m trying to go out of my way to seek it more and support it more.)

So kudos to the Blank Theatre, my awesome friend Nicole, these kids who are writing these plays, and everyone who tries to make art. Keep doing what you do. It makes things better.

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It’s a happy day today. Ruth of the blog Kangath Knits has nominated me for a Liebster Blog Award. I’m really honored and happy that such a fantastic blogger and designer (seriously, check out her designs, they are stunning) considers my blog deserving of recognition. The Liebster Award is not an award proper. There is no voting or applications. Liebster is German for “well-loved” and the purpose of it is to bring to light small blogs that aren’t well-known. I will pay it forward and recognize other bloggers I consider great and amazing. I’ll post my nominations some time next week.

The other part of the award involves responding to 11 questions that Ruth has posed to me and posting 11 random facts about myself. I’ll do the Q&A today, and the 11 facts will come in a later post. It’s actually really hard for me to think of 11 facts about myself that are actually somewhat interesting.

1. What kind of music do you like?

I like all kinds of music. Seriously. I can’t think of a single music genre which does not have some artists or subgenres that I enjoy. Yes that includes both the giant umbrellas of country and hip hop. Some of my favorite artists are Neko Case, Tegan and Sara, Lady Sovereign Elvis Costello, Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris, Nick Drake, The Beatles (yeah, that ones a cop out but I love them), The Sex Pistols, and Le Tigre. No, that is not a comprehensive list. I also listen to a lot of classical and musicals (I love Sondheim).

2. Do you prefer the weather to be so cold your nose hairs freeze or so hot you sweat just thinking about moving?

I definitely prefer cold weather. I can always put on a sweater (or seven). There isn’t much I can do when it’s too hot. Being a knitter, I am prepared for cold weather.

3. If you were forced to choose only one knitting technique to use for the rest of your life, would it be cabling, colorwork, or lace?

This is a really hard question, because I love all of these techniques. They all have so many applications and such diversity. But if I had to choose, I would choose lace. I just don’t think I could give up my crazy complicated lace shawls.

4. What was the last book you read?

I re-read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, because seeing the movie made me kind of nostalgic for the book.

5. How do you tie shoelaces?

I use the two loop method and double knot them. They still always come untied.

6. Name one thing you have done that will you never do again.

Start a land war in Asia? No, seriously, I am reluctant to say I’ll never do something, because you never know where you’ll end up in the future and how you may change. But if I can avoid it, I don’t think I’ll be teaching children ever again.

7. Describe your relationship with your camera.

I always forget to use it when something interesting is happening, which I regret later.

8. Apples or bananas?

Bananas. Unless I’m looking for something to pair with cheese.

9. What scares you?

The future. I’m always worried about time running out before I have time to achieve my dreams. Losing someone I love.

10. Name three knit designers whose work you admire.

It’s hard to pick just three. But I love Cookie A, Hannah Fettig, and Alana Dakos. As a bonus, I really love Syvia Harding and Romi Hill.

11. What do you like to do after a hard day?

Knit. Watch really good or really bad television and movies or go see a band a low-key bar with my sweetie and knit.

You’d think I’d never mattress stitched before

When I first started knitting, I never ripped anything back. Ever. I knit it and it was done and however I had knit it, that was right. Okay, if I made a mistake in a pattern–if I dropped a stitch or forgot a decrease, I would drop the stitches down and fix that little part. My knitting was always technically correct. The pattern was right–all the knits and purls and yarn overs right where they belonged. But it never was spectacular knitting. Because sometimes the drape of the fabric would be wrong. Or I had the wrong gauge. Or the colors would pool. Or the yarn was too busy for the pattern. I did not rip back for things like that.

The tiny mistakes, those were okay, because anyone could have a little slip up and miss a stitch. They were easily fixed, and no one would even know they had happened. But the big mistakes…oh, how could I ever admit to such errors in judgment and taste? Those things pointed to the idea that maybe I didn’t have “taste” or “a knitter’s eye” or a real creative vision. Because I had chosen my yarn and my project with an idea of how I wanted it, and if those choices created a terrible project that went sideways, that meant that I had failed. And the finished project would sit in a box, proof that I had no idea what I was doing.

The problem was that I was a perfectionist.

No, that’s not right. A normal perfectionist would definitely rip out the green scarf knit on size 8 needles in worsted weight yarn that had NO drape whatsoever. She wouldn’t persist in knitting this thing that felt more like chain-mail than a nice soft scarf.

The problem was that I was a perfectionist who never wanted to make a mistake.

And I admit it. I still am. I want everything to be perfect the very first time I do it. The first draft of what I am writing should be the most perfect poetical and breathtakingly honest and true words ever written in all of history. The first time I work on a scene, I should automatically be able to perform it as if I were Dame Judy Dench herself. The first time I try a new recipe, it should be the best food anyone has ever eaten. I don’t want to have to edit, or work deeper, or make adjustments.

This isn’t laziness on my part (I swear). It’s just a near crippling fear that if I don’t get something right the very first time I do it, I will never be able to do it right. Ever. And that would make me a failure. No one wants to be a failure.

But lately I’ve been getting the idea that my definition of “failure” might be a little bit skewed.

It all started when I started reading more knitting blogs and listening to knitting podcasts. And I realized just how much trial and error goes into designing and knitting. These were people who I considered really amazing knitters. People like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Brenda Dayne spoke with such ease about projects that had gone totally sideways, about ripping stuff out and starting over ten times.

And suddenly, something clicked in my head. Obviously, they had gotten things to be so good by making and fixing a lot of mistakes. And that didn’t make them failures as knitters. So maybe I didn’t have to consider myself a huge failure either?

Suddenly, I was willing to look at project and say things like “This yarn is not working at all. I have to use a different yarn,” and actually rip it all out and start all over. And even more important, I was willing to not beat myself up for having to start over.

And I find myself at least slightly more willing to not immediately admit defeat when other creative attempts don’t come as easily to me. I know that a few years ago, I would not have been nearly as willing to stick with spinning after the terrible yarn I made. And I never would have survived my scene study class, which involved a lot of going back and trying a scene over and over and taking critiques. I would have been far too fragile about it all if knitting hadn’t gotten me used to ripping something out and starting it over and trying it again with minimal feelings of failure.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t have times when I want to swear off all knitting (or acting or playing an instrument or whatever) altogether. Sometimes it’s so frustrating to try and try and feel like you’re going nowhere. But it happens a lot less than it used to.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pick out some terrible seaming I have done on my Wispy Cardi (pictured above). My mistake: seaming without blocking first. And that’s okay.

Millenium FalconThis weekend was really busy, but I managed to make time to go see the Star Wars Exhibit at the Discovery Science Center. I’m so glad I went, since it was the last weekend of the exhibit. They had a lot of amazing props and costumes and models from the movies. Being the huge nerd that I am, I loved seeing the detail that went into the models and the costuming. I’ve always appreciated the detail that goes into a good miniature. Computer animation is really cool and very beautiful (I loves me some Pixar), but I kind of miss movies that use a lot of stop motion and puppetry and models and miniatures (which is why I was so happy when Coraline so much when it came out a few years ago). There isn’t a lot to say about it, but here are some of the pictures my roommate took.

Naked C3PO

Naked C3PO

Interrogation Droid

Interrogation Droid

Luke's Speeder

Luke's Speeder

Sand People

Sand People

Inspiring pinsSo Craftcation has left me with the desire, inspiration, and motivation to start my own crafty business. It’s something that has been in my head a while. I love crafting, I love hand-crafted items, why not give a go at something I love? But it’s such an overwhelming prospect that I never knew where to start. And now I feel like I do, so I’m going to give it a shot.

I’m always wary of talking about my goals. It’s a scary thing to put it out into the world that you want to accomplish something, because it makes it your process and your struggle very public. And, as a dear friend of mine always says “You can’t get better and look good at the same time.” It’s hard to look stupid/ignorant/silly in public. It’s one of my biggest struggles as an actor, because I don’t want to look stupid, so instead I am boring; and it’s just one of my biggest struggles in life.

To play down that possibility of public failure, I tend to talk about my goals like they don’t matter or like they are not a big deal. I tend to frame my progress and my successes like they don’t matter. I don’t want to be seen as boasting or thinking too much of myself. It’s a big problem for me, because I even talk about myself that way as an actor. “Oh, yeah, I’m in a show,” I say, “but it’s not a big deal. I’m not a very big part. I’m not very good.” And I talk about myself that way as a singer. “Yeah, I sing. I’m okay–there are people better than me. I just do a little thing with my friend, and we sing and play. It’s not a big deal, but we’re performing on Tuesday night.”

Yeah…that doesn’t really convince people to want to come see me act or sing, or to hire me to do those things. And I talk about the crafts I do and the things I make in the same way. Which, call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s going to convince people to buy my things if I can’t talk them up and make them sound great. And they are great. I’m good at what I do. I am a good actor, I am a good singer, and I make good things. Yes, everyone can always get better, but I am good as I am right now. So I can’t be afraid to really set goals, and to be honest about what I am doing. I can’t say I want something and that it doesn’t matter and it’s not very good in the same breath.

With that in mind, I am being brave and putting my goals out there, right now.

Within 3 months I will:
1. Intern with a business to gain skills I need in marketing, branding, etc.
2. Prototype at least three potential products
3. Read up on SEO and Etsy and web-selling and bookkeeping, so I feel prepared once I launch my store

Within 6 months I will:
1. Work a craft fair in someone’s booth so that I can get a handle the best way to do those things (if anyone wants some free labor for a fair, let me know!)
2. Prototype at least 2 additional potential products
3. Take a sewing class or two to improve those skills
4. Have my workspace organized

Within a year I will:
1. Have a business license, fictitious business name, and a business bank account
2. Have launched an Etsy shop and a website with my own domain name
3. Be selling stuff for realsies

So yeah, there they are. My goals, out in the world. With no negative self-talk included. And if anyone has any feedback, thinks I’m missing something, or desires to assist me, please let me know. And by the way, I have accomplished one of these goals already. I will be interning with Steph Cortes of NerdJerk, serving as her social media and marketing intern. It’s gonna be awesome!

This Saturday, I had a free day before rehearsal, so a friend and I drove up to the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary. The weather was gorgeous and I got some great photos.

The wildlife was being kind of shy, so it’s all plants and landscapes. But even without seeing much beyond a few birds and a huge grey squirrel, we had a great hike on the trails and saw some really beautiful views. And it’s only about a half-hour outside of where I live. It was the best Saturday I’ve had in a while.


This is my current favorite song. Amanda Palmer is one of many artists who embodies an aspirational quality for me as an artist. She has this “I don’t care if you like it, here I am” quality about her. She just does thing that are so raw and real and honest and doesn’t seem to worry about what people think of her.

I’m sure she does have her insecurities and doubts–we all do–and I’m not trying to idolize or idealize. But she’s always seemed so fearless. For instance, this story makes her one of my fucking heroes. So what if she can’t play a concerto–she still wins at life and she makes the whole thing work for her by virtue of owning herself.

I am a timid perfectionist. Which is a shitty way to be if you want to be an artist. Learning to play instruments has been particularly difficult for me. I read music and I understand a fair bit of theory. But my clumsy fingers just won’t do what I want them to do. And I don’t want to practice. Not because I don’t like playing, but because I’m embarrassed that people can hear me play so badly. I’m kind of afraid to take lessons, because it means playing for someone on a regular basis, and that is fucking terrifying.

Which is why I like the “Ukulele Anthem” so much. It’s good for me to hear “Stop pretending art is hard” and “Play your ukulele badly” and “Even if your grades are bad, it doesn’t mean you’re failing.” It’s a reminder that there is so much more to life than seeking perfection and trying not to look stupid and worrying about what people think. It embodies what my former partner-in-crime used to tell me. “You can’t get better and look good at the same time.” I probably need to write these things on blackboard over and over, like Bart Simpson.

Part of what I want with this project is to find the joy in what I love again. I’ve had a hard time with my art lately, because so much has not been enjoyable. And a lot of that is due to the pressure I put on myself to be perfect. I want to be more open and specific and fearless and to just do what I love, without worrying so much about how I am perceived. And now, I’m going to quit bitching and go play my ukulele.