Rearranging A Room For Creativity

I have always been a furniture re-arranger. As a child my parents would hear bump and scratch noises coming from my room late into the evening. They always knew it was just me rearranging my furniture again. I tend to get visually bored fairly easily so I like to rearrange my visual field regularly. It can be as simple as changing a table top layout—moving nick-knacks from here to there. Other times I need to really mix things up and I move furniture and redesign the space.

My most recent rearranging took place yesterday. For my birthday on Sunday my husband Andy surprised me by making me a large wood painting easel. It’s not quite finished yet but on my birthday morning it was waiting for me in my office. My office is already a multi-use space for me. I write here, I meditate here, I workout here, I bead here and I have been wanting to paint here too. So motivated by the beautiful large easel I decided to turn my office into a office/studio. Actually I prefer the term studio. My dad would go to his studio in the attic to work even when he had his computer up there to write. So I now formally designate this space as my studio. That’s important because it conjures up greater creativity. And the goal for my rearranging project was to facilitate creativity.

Designing a space as an artist’s studio has different elements to explore like lighting, table top space and storage. I had the additional constraint that the room is also our guest room and I don’t want to get paint everywhere. So I tried a couple of different configurations. I first moved some stuff including my art caddy (that Andy made me last year) into the middle of the room so that I could clear the way for the new design. Then I futzed around with placing the easel in one spot or another until it seemed to give me enough room to work. Of course that meant that I had to get rid of some items and move other things to different spots in our house. I tried to keep all of my creative work on one side of the room and the guest bedroom on the other but that didn’t work. So I pushed furniture here and there and finally I found the sweet spot—for now at least. No doubt I will change it many times at different points in the future.

I feel renewed. I have distinct areas for different purposes, though when I exercise or do yoga I am kind of sprawled everywhere. There’s my desk for writing, my round table for beading, my new easel next to the be further developed dresser top for art supplies. I love the new location of my meditation cushion. As I was rearranging I discovered that the wood pedestal that Andy made many years ago is perfect as an altar to help define my meditation space. My sense is that with the redesign the creative flow of the room is much better. When I stepped into my new studio this morning I wanted to write. I felt that the creative energy was pulling me towards the computer. I have to admit that I keep eyeing my beading space thinking about how I can increase the ease of access to the beads to facilitate my necklace creations. Yes, for me there is always more to go when it comes to organizing. I love the rearranging process and of course I also enjoy the feeling I get when I look at the end result of whatever I have created. I am so grateful for my new studio space.

xoxo Rachel

Robert Mueller "Fronds"

The Splendor of Colors

Colorful spools of thread from Cotton and SteelThis past week while I was in Denver tagging along on my husband’s business trip, I visited my friend Sarah who is a fabulous knitter. She needed to pick up some buttons and yarn so I joined her on a yarn trek. The first store we went into was sweet but very small. Then we went to a yarn and other craft store mecca called Fancy Tiger Crafts.  All I can say is wow!

The main thing that captured my eye was the abundance of color and texture in every direction. There were shelves of yarns in colors of all the rainbow. The bolts of fabric that lined several walls had small prints, large prints, in rich colors and in pastels. The ribbons and trims were like strips of candy that I wanted to devour. One of my favorite racks was of every-color-imaginable spools of thread produced by Cotton + Steel. But what made them even more spectacular was the fact that each spool was a contrasted color to the thread.  Just delectable!

I found that I had a huge smile plastered on my face the entire visit to the store. And everyone there seemed happy too. I attribute it to the color (and of course all the lovely woman working there and shopping there who were into crafts of all sorts). I know that color is important to me but what I forget is how color impacts me viscerally. I feel color melt over me and bathe me in bliss.

Yarn ColorEvery October for the past several years since I gave knitting a try, I have been going to the NY State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. It turns out that knitting wasn’t the craft for me—perhaps one day I’ll try again—but I am grateful that I learned about this fair because of having taken knitting lessons with a sweet young woman who knitted herself a different sweater each year to wear to the event. The fair is a delightful combination of crafters and furry animals and of course color! Set in the fall against the backdrop of trees turning magnificent hues, the rows upon rows of yarn skeins in every color and weight imaginable are indeed eye candy.

Goat loveTaking in everything visually is a way to boost my happiness. Because how can you not smile when you get to pet an angora bunny that is a giant white fluff ball? And how can you not giggle at the variety of unusual looking goats and sheep with their coats that range from curly locks to soft long fleece. And don’t forget the sometimes silly and yet beautiful llamas. And the range of natural colors: browns and creams and golden hues and blacks and warm shades of all sorts. The lovely animal’s downy or coarse fur is the starting point for the beautiful and colorful yarns. Whether the wool that gets spun into yarn remains natural or gets dyed in every color imaginable, the result is a kaleidoscope of joy.

Robert Mueller "Fronds"I get lost in color. I revel in it. One of my favorite activities is staring at one of my Dad’s large acrylic abstract paintings. Sometimes I dive into the middle of the painting. Other times I start at an edge and follow a color as it shifts into different shades and meanders across the canvas. Although he painted with oil for years and the colors are deep and rich in those pieces, when he shifted to acrylics the colors exploded for me. I live to float through the world with my eyes open while I absorb all the magnificent colors.

xoxo Rachel

The Serenity of Symmetry

The Zen of SymmetryThis morning as I entered into the already quite serene space of the Meditation Hall at The Garrison Institute I was taken aback by the arrangement of the meditation cushions. The zubuton and zafu pairs were arranged perfectly symmetrically throughout the vast space making me feel at once both breathless and calm. I couldn’t stop looking at the space and smiling at its awesomeness. We usually meditate in a small room, the annex to this large space. But surprisingly the larger space on this cold winter morning was warmer than the little annex room. So our small group of five meditators gathered in one corner of the large hall and rearranged the few cushions and chairs we needed into a small circle. I couldn’t help feeling the entire 45-minute meditation that we were somehow out of whack with the rest of the space and that we were not respecting the symmetry. And yet the calmness of the surrounding area held us beautifully.

As I meditated and focused on my breath, my periodic thoughts—among the usual monkey mind flicking around—would come back to the symmetry of the space. I live very spatially (see The Contours Of Time In My Mind Map for some more on that note), so I was quite aware that my body was at a 45° angle to the symmetrical layout. I wasn’t parallel or perpendicular—no I was exactly 45°. Had I been sitting at a different angle like 10° or 20° it wouldn’t have been a problem; it just wouldn’t have been as soothing.

Deconstructionists love to play with unpredictability, randomness and non-symmetry for good reason. Because we humans love symmetry, when things aren’t symmetrical it causes us to be jostled a bit and re-think what we are looking at. It causes us to question the laws of the universe because although there certainly is plenty of randomness in nature, there is a remarkable amount of symmetry too.

Fractal and bilateral symmetry

There are different forms of symmetry though bilateral symmetry is what we commonly recognize as symmetrical. There is something so reassuring about the bilateral symmetrical form of humans and animals and many plants. When we decorate rooms we often rely on bilateral symmetry, like having matching bedside tables and lamps to create a calm sleeping oasis. There are many different forms of symmetry in nature and fractals are one of my favorites. They are also called expanding or evolving symmetry because they are iterative and appear infinite. Crystals, mountain ranges, plants, shells, snowflakes, cloud formations and even shorelines exhibit fractal form. With so much symmetry in nature, is it not surprising how universally quieting we find symmetrical forms.Romanesco Broccoli Fractal

At the end of our morning meditation I couldn’t help but exclaim how lovely the space was set up. The leader of our group explained that their wonderful keeper of the space arranged it for a Zen group that stays at The Garrison Institute every year between Christmas and New Year’s. “But of course it is for a Zen group,” I thought to myself. Zen is calm, Zen is soothing, Zen is exactly what this symmetrical space embodied. I am so grateful to have had such a glimpse of symmetrical perfection on this day of Winter Solstice.

xoxo Rachel

I Love Cosmetic Shopping

Hmm you think, “What a strange topic for Rachel to write about.” “Not at all,” I say. Because there is so much more to cosmetics than meets the eye. I love perusing cosmetics for so many reasons. And what I mean by cosmetics is anything that would be roughly categorized as health and beauty products in market research parlance. I love creams, lotions, potions, for face and body and hair. I love make-up too, though I use makeup so little that I don’t get to buy make-up that often. Or I should say I have less of a reason to buy makeup though I do find a way to shop for make-up anyway. I love everything about all cosmetics.

Face CreamsSo let’s talk about creams. Here is my ode to creams. Well what’s not to love about silky and smooth and caressing and dreamy creams? Maybe they will make you younger—not too likely—maybe they will improve the glow of your skin—possibly when they first are applied. But really who cares if they have no miraculous properties as long as I get to experience smoothing on the lotion or potion over my skin. It’s sensual, it’s self-care, it’s self love so I say go ahead and enjoy the process. Surprise—I love the texture of lotions (as I love the texture of everything—see Texture is essential).

And don’t forget fragrance! I love sniffing the bottles of hair care products because I love their fragrance. I love lotions and creams and even make-up because of their scent. Some of my most vivid memories are of the smell of lipstick. There are certain brands (including Maybelline) that have scents that take me back to childhood when I played with my mom’s make-up. And I love another brand of lipsticks (L’Oreal) because of a friend in college who wore that brand religiously (and she even handed down to me some shades that she didn’t like on her). Now that I think of it I also fell in love with a tinted face lotion (Ultima) because that same friend wore it and gave me a bottle (it’s been gone for years and unfortunately the brand is no longer available in the US—even abroad the product I love isn’t made anymore). It goes without saying that I love to shop for perfume.

But really, do I love shopping for the face and body stuff just because I am anticipating how it will feel on my skin or how it makes me smell? Those are fine reasons, but not the only reasons. I love shopping for beauty products because I adore the experience of looking at all the shapes and sizes and pretty containers. I love cosmetic packaging! Their packaging? Yes, I love design and I particularly love the design of cosmetics and make-up. These days, designers have gone bonkers with amazing designs for perfume.

Make-up!When it comes to face creams, I love jars more than bottles. Then think about all the various shapes of make-up—wands, sticks, round mirrored compacts, brushes, blushes, pots of gloss or balms. They are all so wonderful. Maybe they are made out of glass and have a nice heft to them. Or perhaps they have cool mechanical details like the Avon lipstick that opens with one hand (no longer available) or the Guerlain Rouge G lipstick that has a beautiful mirror built in.  Don’t forget the great packaging of YSL Rouge Volupte.  Or maybe they are really shiny packaging, or maybe the makeup is just adorable like everything from Paul & Joe including the one that got away—anything in their 2012 cat collection. I love the packaging of Soap & Glory, Benefit, Too Faced. What beautiful packaging!

Part of the thrill of shopping for cosmetics is seeing how much I can reduce the cost with using manufacturer coupons, and store coupons and any other kind of special pricing. I am a bargain shopper for sure. But probably the best part of shopping for cosmetics is that I can go to any store to find them. Yes, it can be fun to go to a department store for the upscale products or Sephora for a total immersion experience. But most of all I love visiting drugstores like CVS, Rite-Aide, Target or Walgreens that can be found anywhere and everywhere.

Beloved Eau De RosesI have been known to stop at a drugstore in just about every city I have visited on business. I will go up and down the aisles and look at cosmetics for hours (even if I don’t plan to buy anything). In foreign countries, I find that some of the best souvenirs are international cosmetics like those found at Monoprix in Paris and Boots in London (though now you can get Boots products at Target in the US). I still have a beautiful bottle of Rose Water from Prisunic (Prisunic was acquired by Monoprix and no longer exists).  So I suggest the next time you are in a drugstore, take a look at all the fabulous cosmetics. Maybe you will see the beauty of cosmetics as I do!

XOXO Rachel