Guest series 2012

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Lilly Blue and Jo Pollitt are the makers of BIG Kids Magazine.  Lilly is a visual artist and Jo is a dancer and writer. Together they work in a collaborative way where lines get blurred in a continuous feedback loop of creative exchange. When they make something together from shared ideas, they are never quite sure exactly where it came from and ownership is swiftly displaced by unexpected discoveries in form and practice. They become co-authors. [Coauthored work here.]

 On the 2nd of September 2010 Jo sent Lilly a message sharing an idea she had for a creative children’s magazine with an adult and child editorial staff, featuring contributions of poems, stories and artwork from kids, and offering an alternative to the current high fashion focus dominating the market. In this innocuous little note Jo invited Lilly to contribute an illustration or two for a mock up of the magazine. The rapturous, poetic and unbridled correspondence that ensued over the next days and weeks, often after midnight while their babies slept, gave birth to a bigger vision, and in the space between the two artists BIG (Bravery, Imagination, Generosity) Kids Magazine was born.

“I do believe we are starting a collaboration without uttering a spoken word”.

After a full year of working, the first actual sighting of each other was by Skype the day Lilly showed Jo the First Flight edition of BIG Kids Magazine just back from the printer. The acceleration from initial sketching of ideas to holding the first ever magazine in our hands was fast and full. It was certainly a surreal moment to turn the first BIG page.

Of course there were moments of difficulty in sorting roles and differences, at times like a storm in Narnia, all drama, dark wardrobes and late nights! But I think it is a mutual respect and trust of the other as well as a shared understanding of creative practice as rigorous, personal and poetic that makes it possible to navigate the challenges. We always come back to trusting the other will spy rock and steer us well.

Now that we have clearly established BIG as a co-authored page we continue to invest and create worlds in the spaces between us, and tend not to work with the traditional collaborative approach of writer and illustrator. It is a responsive dialogue that finds a different form depending on the demands of each new world we collide in; Jo writing worlds and words for stories Lilly has dreamt forever. Lilly responding to a choreography of lines on an unexpected page.

Our words begin to overlap. Even the paint starts to run between us.

We both hold on, and we both let go.

It all happens, all at once, all of the time.

The co-authorship of this BIG magazine provokes, prescribes, demands, dares, expects and cajoles a days work from each of us and also makes room for tiny glimpses of the hilarity, niggling, messing, playing and firing of our everyday lives. We work in the between hours: between children, between sleep, between work, between cities. BIG exists in all the available spaces but it is the collaborative space between us that ultimately supports and propels the magazine making, side by side.

The BIG info: Treasure Maps edition 2 is currently available. BIG is currently accepting submissions for their 3rd edition Game On! Keep up to date with BIG news on our BIG Facebook page.

Image credits: The top hoto is of Jo and Lilly working on the 2nd edition of BIG – Treasure Maps. The second image is the cover of the current issue.

Downloadable print: The owl pic is a co-authored print: Cross My Heart and Hope to Fly by Lilly Blue and Jo Pollitt) featured in the Treasure Maps edition of BIG Kids Magazine. You can download a free hi-res printable version of the print here. For a short time only (offer now closed) – after that please support this great mag by grabbing a copy from newstands or via their website.  BIG Kids Magazine


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Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Lisa Siebert, is the designer and owner of Looploft, a small, fiber arts business. Looploft is conveniently located as a backyard studio in East Grand Rapids Michigan, a short walk to Gas Light Village and Reed’s lake…a cozy little neighborhood, one hour from Lake Michigan and three hours from Chicago.  

When I started Looploft a few years ago, it was mostly a hobby, exploring designs and specializing in natural and repurposed fabrics. I was determined to evolve it over time, into my own business. My creative interests and background is varied and I hold a graphic and advertising design degree. When I became a full-time mom, helping to raise our three children, I was always seeking ways to exercise my creative outlet with them. I would sew halloween costumes and Easter dresses, decorate and re-decorate their rooms, and no matter how small our home was, we always had an art room for creative ventures.

In my initial years of Looploft, I was making mostly one-of-a-kind softies out of repurposed wool sweaters. However the thrift store inventory for wool sweaters was dropping as others also found those useful, and I was finding that I had less time do the hunting. My product collection has evolved toward simple designs that include my own printed fabric and printed graphics. I’ve found success with these and now have a full ‘linen line’. About a year ago I added a custom ‘wedding ring pillow’ and a ‘tooth fairy pillow’ and they are among my top sellers these days.

I was excited to find spoonflower as a resource that allowed me to design and print small batches of fabric I use on some of my products. Another time saver (I read about somewhere) has helped me with all of the fabric appliques I do: use a glue stick to affix the applique to the linen instead of pinning, it is so fast and easy and works like a charm!  

A good day for me at Looploft: I wake up, make coffee, check Etsy and respond to customer orders. I retreat to my studio where I work until late afternoon when school gets out. I have a postal scale in my studio and a laptop so my orders can be boxed and labeled conveniently. I head to the post office and the coffee house next door for a raspberry and white chocolate scone. During really busy weeks I may have to go back out to the studio in the evening to fulfill orders.

When I have free time, I can be found getting creative inspiration from my favorite current or back issues of Anthology Magazine, Selvedge, UPPERCASE and Domino. I love pinning things on pinterest to get my creative juices going and also sharing my latest creations from my shop. Pinterest, as much as a source for inspiratio, has also been a very effective marketing tool for me, driving nearly a third of the traffic I get at LoopLoft. Over time I would like to launch my own blog and focus a bit more on social media as a marketing tool as well.

This fall both of our girls will be in college and I feel fortunate to have a business now to bring me fulfilment and to help us afford that. For me, I feel it’s a gift to live a life with a creative spark and to enjoy sharing in the process along the way.

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Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Kay Gardiner is co-author, with Ann Shayne, of Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters’ Guide and Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines. Kay and Ann can be found blogging at masondixonknitting, which has been going since 2003 and shows no signs of stopping. Kay knits and chats on Ravelry and Twitter when she is not writing songs.

I started free-range knitting –making things without patterns — almost 10 years ago, when I saw a quilt by Loretta Pettway on the wall of a museum and felt sadness, anger, solidarity, and an overpowering urge to make that beautiful thing myself. But I was a knitter, not a quilter (then). Like the man with a hammer (to whom everything looks like a nail), I wanted to knit Loretta Pettway’s powerful log cabin. In translating the quilt from pieced strips to a continuous series of interlocking loops, and from workclothes fabric remnants to cotton yarn, there were many changes, but the knitted blanket was recognizably rooted in that specific quilt, which was itself steeped in the long tradition of the log cabin quilt pattern.

I called the blanket Courthouse Steps and included instructions for making it in the first book Ann Shayne and I wrote together, Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters’ Guide (Potter Craft). A meander through the pattern’s project page on Ravelry shows that in the years since then, knitters have made this blanket hundreds of times. Sometimes they replicated my version to the letter, but often they changed yarn, colors, the layout of the strips, or the relative proportions of the elements, changing it into something fresh that answered to their own impulses (or their stashes). They made something from something, just as I had. Now it was something else.

I believe that’s how all art, and all craft, is made: something comes, transformed. From something that preceded it, or from a combination of somethings. Thousands of years ago in Southern France, an early human was bored after dinner in a smoky cave, and noticed a natural formation on the rock wall that, by firelight, looked like an animal. This ancient marked on the wall with charcoal, changing it a little, and then moved to another spot on the wall–because once you start seeing animals on the wall, the wall is full of possible animals– and did it a little differently the next time. This process has continued over the ages, to the point that today, Damien Hirst sticks a whole animal in a glass cube so we can look at it. (I’m not comparing my knitted blankets to the work Damian Hirst, but I know which I’d rather have on the living room sofa.)

Loretta Pettway’s quilt started me on a path — nearly 10 years long, now — of finding ways to translate traditional patchwork methods from quilting to knitting. While it’s hard for me to define it, I have strong opinions about what feels right to me when knitting a quilt. Although clearly a knitter can use the intarsia technique to create, visually, the blocks, strips, and sashing of patchwork, I don’t do it that way. To me, that would feel like using “cheater cloth” (fabric with a preprinted patchwork design); when an intarsia blanket is done, it is, essentially, a whole-cloth quilt, or a tapestry. It’s one piece instead of many pieces joined together. (Hey! I love cheater cloth, by the way. But I wouldn’t try to pass it off as patchwork.)

Placing the intarsia technique off-limits yields big payoffs in fun and puzzlement, because it forces invention. What happens when I don’t want to design with ever-lengthening strips, as in log cabin? If my knitted strips leave square or rectangular holes at the corners, how do I fill them in? Should I just knit a separate piece to fit the hole, and sew it in? You can make a good argument for doing it that way; patchworks are, after all, sewn. But I’m knitting this quilt, so I want to use a knitter’s methods. If there is one valid generalization about knitters, it’s this: knitters don’t like to sew! My preferred solution: pick up stitches along the edges of any square or rectangular space that needs to be filled, and knit a miter into that space. A miter precisely fits the space, stitch-for-stitch; to me, that’s elegant. Best of all, I don’t have to sew.

Two other “rules” I’ve made, over many knitted quilts (mind you these are rules that can be broken, in quilting and in knitting quilts):

Whenever possible, join blocks, and strips of blocks, without sewing. Again with the knitter’s aversion to sewing, but this time for the additional reason that a knitted seam, using a technique such as a 3-needle bindoff, will have the same tension as the knitted pieces you are joining. A knitted seam will be strong and flexible instead of taut and subject to snapping when stretched in use. It also looks a lot prettier, so that the concept of a “wrong side” nearly disappears. I have been known to do my seaming on the “right side” of the patchwork, so that this structural element becomes a visual feature, like the mortise-and-tenon joinery of a Gustav Stickley chair.

As every quilt needs a binding, so every knitted blanket needs an applied i-cord edging. I don’t care if the blanket is in a stitch pattern (such as garter stitch) that lies flat and makes its own tidy edge–it needs i-cord, and I’m going to judge you if you don’t put that i-cord on it. Sometimes the i-cord is in a contrasting color so that it makes a visual frame. Sometimes it’s invisible from 10 feet away because the color blends in, but when a knitter sees a loved one wrapped in a blanket, she notices the refinement of that edging and feels pride of workmanship. It doesn’t hurt that applied i-cord looks exactly like the double-fold binding of a quilt.

Under the influence of the Internet and under the spell of quilts, I eventually took up “real” quilting. Now I sometimes make a fabric quilt, and then knit it. Or I switch my somethings around, and start with a knitted patchwork blanket, and then make a fabric version. But something always comes from something.

Photo credits:

Images #1, #2 & #3 are a Noro log cabin blanket with odd strips. There is a green patch of intarsia, where I broke my anti-intarsia rule to get a pop of contrast to make a strip appear “pieced”.

Image #4 is a knitted linen blanket I have in progress, based on a combination of at least two sources of inspiration: the large Conran Habitat cushion (which clearly itself draws inspiration from the Gee’s Bend improvisational quiilts), and the paintings of Sean Scully.

Image # 5 is my version of Denyse Schmidt’s quilt What a Bunch of Squares, and my knitted improvisation on that quilt, which I called Buncha Squares; it’s also a pattern on Ravelry and others have made amazing versions of it.

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Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

John Adams is a husband and father of 3 who enjoys sewing and quilting in his spare time. Inspired by the growing number of crafting blogs and the emergence of vibrant, modern quilting fabrics in the textile industry. John convinced his wife to teach him how to use her sewing machine in 2004, he started his blog, QuiltDad, in 2008, since then, John has become very active in the online quilting communities and is a co-founder of the popular e-magazine for modern quilters, Fat Quarterly.

OK, it’s about time I ‘fessed up. My blog name – and, to be honest, the “handle” by which I am most widely known within the quilting community – came about as a total fluke.  I decided to start my blog almost on a whim, but didn’t realize that choosing a blog name would be the very first decision I’d have to make. It all seemed so … so permanent. I felt like I was making a big commitment.  It may be because I work full-time in branding in marketing that I felt that the title of my blog would be responsible for carrying such a burden, and that it would be a direct reflection of me and the voice I would be putting out there into the world through my blog.

So, in that short moment, as all of these things were flying through my head, I simply mashed together two things that were in the forefront of my mind, and that both represented things very important to me in my life: my budding passion for the art of quilting, and my role as a father to my three beautiful young children. And that’s how QuiltDad was born.

What has become evident (and most interesting) to me over the course of my nearly five years of blogging, however, is not how meaningful these two facets of my life are independent of one another, but what happens at the intersection of the two. I think I’m only beginning to realize how important it is to simultaneously embrace myself as both a creative person – on my best days, I might even use the word ‘artist’ – and as a parent. Because by doing so, I think I can be infinitely better at both.

First, allow me go back a bit and comment on my ability to follow a creative path as a child myself. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York and, as a student in the always-crowded New York City Public School system, I had to choose between receiving art instruction OR music instruction at a very early age. Although I would consider myself to have been a very artistic child – drawing and painting was something I both enjoyed and had some natural skill at – the lure of the music program and learning to play an instrument was too strong. Besides, all of my friends were joining the band. So, at age 9, I decided to learn to play trumpet and never again received a minute of formal art education.

Throughout high school, between sports and academics and music and college admissions and, of course, having a social life, it was way too easy to neglect seeking out creative opportunities on my own. And so, by the time I started college, it seemed like the time for doing anything of substance with my creative talents, sadly, had passed.

I soon embarked on a successful career in the business world, went back to school for my MBA, got married, and started my family. But the need to re-introduce creativity back into my life was too strong to ignore. Through a series of events following the birth of my third child, my son Sean, I discovered the rich online modern quilting community – a community that embraced this novice quilter with a most unexpected demographic profile with warmth and open arms. (This series of events and how I started quilting is a story – and blog post – unto itself!)  I decided to start a blog, selected the QuiltDad name, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I started QuiltDad when my twin daughters weren’t quite three years old, and my son had just turned one. In many ways, my blog and my identity as a quilter has grown up alongside them. And here are some things that I love about what I have observed:

My children have a role model to show them that your job does not define who you are. As I mentioned, I earned my MBA from a top school and work full time in Corporate America. I know from experience that there are many, many people in my situation for whom their work consumes their lives. We live in a society that too often defines a person by their occupation and, in the business world especially, it’s very easy to let your job eat up every free minute of every day. The notion of work-life balance can seem like a fallacy. And I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always easy to fit your hobbies, pastimes, and creative endeavors alongside work and family commitments into a 24-hour day (just ask Kathreen, to whom I delivered this guest post late!). However, I force myself to maintain that balance, and to carve out time to do the things that make me complete. It makes me a better employee, crafter, and father.

My children have a father who is not ashamed of being creative. Let’s be real: being a “manquilter”, I’m a bit of a novelty in the online blogging and crafting community. I’m thrilled to see that other men have emerged as amazing talents and strong voices in the modern quilting world but, to outsiders, it’s still considered to be a strange hobby for someone like me to have pursued. I still choose who to share my hobby with very carefully. At best, people think it’s interesting and want to hear more about it — to a point. But at worst, it’s perceived as weird, unusual, and — to be honest — quite feminine. That’s why I think it’s important for my children to see that I am proud of my craft — not just in a flag-waving, “look at me” kind of way, but in a way that’s important enough for me to continue to pursue despite what others might think.

My son, especially, is learning to challenge gender stereotypes. Yes, among the uninformed, quilting still carries the burden of being something that grandmothers do. And even in the modern quilting community, I think it’s safe to say that it’s still largely a female-driven craft. Why is this the case? I believe, in large part, that this has to do with long-standing gender roles that have drawn (pushed?) women towards sewing, needlework, and the like. And really, I don’t have much issue with that except when society dictates that it’s not OK for boys to express themselves through the textile arts. I’ll be honest here: I am not sure that my own father, when he was alive, truly understood my passion for sewing and quilting. I have a heightened sensitivity to the remarks of others, the sideways glances of co-workers, the attitude of the ladies at the quilting shop when I tell them no, I’m not shopping for my wife — and I hope I can raise my son to develop a different perspective and set of values when it comes to art and creativity.

I am teaching my children to follow their dreams and their creative calling.  More than anything else, I hope I am exposing my children to a lifestyle in which creative expression is not only appreciated, but is present each and every day. All 3 of my children — my son included — have informed me that they want to learn how to quilt. I have helped each of them make a mini quilt for their dolls and stuffed animals, and seeing their sense of pride and accomplishment was invaluable. Recently, they all wanted me to teach them to hand embroider, which they picked up very quickly. Most importantly, I want to ensure that they aren’t forced to make a sucker’s choice that will divert them from the path of following their hearts and their passion.

I couldn’t have scripted the course of my life over the past couple of years – the formative years both for my children and for my artistic self – any better.  And I’m excited beyond belief to see what the years ahead hold for us.


Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Jen, and her blog partner, Autie, are stay-at-home moms living in Southern California, who love to create all things handmade. They joined forces little over a year ago to document and share their creations on their blog: iCandy handmade

Hi, WhipUp readers! I am so excited to be here today. Kathreen has created such an interesting series! My name is Jen, and I am one of the creators behind the blog iCandy handmade. At the beginning of last year, I asked my friend Autie if she wanted to start a “craft” blog with me. I had wanted to start a sewing blog for a long time, and couldn’t seem to get going on it. (I’m such a procrastinator!) Autie already had a little craft blog of her own that she would occasionally post a project on, but I thought that if we joined forces, it would be a huge motivator for me to actually WORK on all the projects floating around in my head. Having a partner would keep us accountable, and help make the workload manageable. She loved the idea and our baby blog was born!

Not to be dramatic, but in that moment, my life changed very much for the better.

About a year before all this happened, I started reading sewing and craft blogs. At that time, I didn’t really sew all that much, just VERY occasionally. (I had a spurt when my daughter was born, making bedding and a diaper bag, but that was about it). The blogs My Momma Made It, which turned into Made By Lex (She isn’t blogging anymore, sad!) and Grosgrain Fabulous were daily must-reads! (among others…). I would read these and feel so inspired. I would think to myself, I could make things like that! And so I started thinking about sewing. All the time. But I still didn’t do anything about it. Finally, when we started iCandy, my thoughts and ideas began to transform into something tangible. Since then, Autie and I have gotten into a blogging groove, and make sure to each have one new project completed each week.  

Now how has this changed my life? Well, quite a bit.

In the prior ten years, I had struggled at times to feel fulfilled with my life. I usually felt “fine” or “ok,” but I really didn’t have anything I felt passionate about. I worked at several different jobs, but never really found a career that I loved. I graduated from college with a BA in English, but didn’t find a fabulous career using that degree. I liked to do a lot of things in my spare time but none that brought me the feeling that I was seeking. Looking back, it seems so simple: it was creativity in my life that I was lacking. All you fellow creative people/artists can probably relate to the feeling of incompleteness when you aren’t able to create.

With each creation made, photo taken and posted on our new blog, this feeling of incompleteness began to dissipate. I don’t know when exactly I noticed the change within myself. Sometimes the deadlines are hard to meet, and being the procrastinator that I am, sometimes the nights are long, but every moment spent creating is worth it. The feeling when I finish something that began as just an idea is the greatest – it brings such a sense of accomplishment. And when my daughter loves what I make her (which isn’t always…) or when I receive sweet comments of encouragement from readers… WOW.

I can now say that I have found that something that I am passionate about. It isn’t just sewing, it is the design process from start to finish. It is my art. It makes me happy. It is doing what I love. It adds sparkle to my life. And, incidentally, it adds quite a lot to our wardrobes, too!

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