March 25, 2011

Creative Process Interview with Dana Treat

Dana Wootton is the amazing cook, writer and photographer behind the blog Dana Treat. She shares recipes for all kinds of vegetarian foods and baked goods. I am always inspired by the diversity of recipes that she shares and enjoy reading about why she cooked something or who she cooked it for. If only I lived in Seattle, I could take one of her cooking classes and learn the secrets to the food that she makes look so good. Luckily for those of us who are far away, Dana took the time to share some of her thoughts on creating with us. This is the last interview in the series (for now?) I hope you have enjoyed it and as always, I'd love to hear what you think!
  
Tell us a little bit about your work space. What works well, what doesn't? My workspace is a large galley style kitchen. I have a large island where my sink is and I can sit 10 people around it for classes. I have a lot of counter space and plenty of room for all my tools. It is, what many people would consider to be a dream kitchen. I have a large Viking refrigerator and a 8 burner Viking stove – the stove I been dreaming of since I first saw one over 10 years ago. The one thing my kitchen lacks is good natural light. The room faces north and there is another large house right next to us. Seattle is pretty dark much of the year anyway and to have a dark kitchen is a bummer, especially since I spend so much of my time in there. But we are about to get some more lighting to try and help.

What motivates you to create? I would say there are several things that motivate me to create. Sometimes I just really want to eat something good! Other times, I will cook or bake something for my blog because I want to share a recipe with people. We are always having some kind of party or dinner party or just friends over for dinner. Everyone we know loves to come to our house for meals, so I have a lot of expectations to live up to! I’ve also been able to donate dinners or classes to organizations that mean something to me and my family. I always want to make the people who bid on my offerings feel special.

What stalls or inhibits your creative process? I have two young boys, ages 6 and 4. I started my personal chef business when my oldest was 16 months old, so I have always had to cook around them and their nap schedules. Even though I am experienced at it, I still find it to be very hard to get all I need done in the time I have. They demand A LOT of my attention, so I like to be done cooking when they are home and awake. As I get busier, this balance gets harder and a lot of the time I feel like I can’t get any “brain space” to think through all I have to do. I know many moms talk about not feeling like they are good at any one thing because they are trying to do too many things and I can relate to that feeling.

What are some of your common mistakes or difficulties? My most common mistake is simply not allowing myself enough time to cook. I am pretty good at managing my time since I don’t have a lot of it free. Sometimes I make a serious error in judgment and then I really don’t enjoy the work. If I’m not watching the clock, I get very Zen in the kitchen. I am efficient and smooth and I feel like a well-oiled machine. If I start to fall behind, I get sloppy and feel like I am all over the place. Another mistake, that goes hand in hand with the first one, is not reading a recipe all the way through or carefully enough. There is nothing worse than realizing something needs to rest in the refrigerator overnight when you need it right now!

Can you tell me about a project or something you have made that you love or find really exciting?Even though I am just beginning my regular teaching journey, I am so excited about this project. Up until this year, I have taught quite a few classes, but on no set schedule. I always thought it would be a great way to use my passion, but could just never figure out how it would all work. And then, I just put it out there. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to teach and how much I wanted to do so and put together a schedule. I emailed everyone I knew and put it up on my blog and my first two months sold out within a couple of weeks. I am really proud and pleased about that. I have some great things in the works and am already looking forward to the spring classes.

March 23, 2011

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Whipped Cream Frosting

chocolatecupcakeswithraspberrycream

I hope the cupcake aprons got you inspired to do some baking. For me, it wasn't enough to sew cupcakes, I needed to bake some, too. I tied on my apron, gathered ingredients and mixed up a batch.  Cupcakes remind me of my elementary school where on your birthday you would bring in a treat for the class. After every child had a cupcake at their desk, the birthday girl (or boy) would pick a friend and walk around the school bringing any extra cupcakes to teachers from years past. I have no idea if this was normal for elementary school or just an odd tradition at the school I went to.

I know that cupcakes became very trendy a couple years ago and although bakeries may have moved on to donuts or pie as the next big I still think of them as a fun occasional treat. They're not just for birthdays any more. Cupcakes are a light hearted, informal dessert that can be dressed up fancy or just simple and fun. Made with dark chocolate cake and a light but rich and creamy frosting these cupcakes bring a little decadence to any occasion. This recipe is perfect for sharing with a group of friends, but there is no obligation to give one to your teachers or every single person in your class, though I am sure they would enjoy them if you did.

chocolatecupcakes

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Whipped Cream Frosting
These cupcakes are best eaten within 24 hours of frosting since the topping is whipped cream and quite perishable. The cake recipe is adapted from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Book. 

3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3 3/4 ounces (1/2 cup) brown sugar
2 1/2 ounces (1/3 cup) granulated sugar 
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 3/4 ounces (1 1/4 cup) whole wheat pastry flour
2 ounces (2/3 cup) unsweetened natural cocoa powder 
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces (1/2 cup) plain yogurt
3 ounces (just under 1/2 cup) water

Preheat the oven to 350'. Lightly grease and flour 12 muffin cups (one muffin tin). With a stand mixer or beaters, mix the butter and sugars until they are fluffy and light, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure it is all mixed. Add the eggs one at time, beating until each one is thoroughly incorporated. Mix in the vanilla.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Add half of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the yogurt and water and mix until smooth. Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix until evenly moistened. Scrap the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove from the muffin tins and let cook on a rack.

For the Frosting:
1 cup heavy cream

1/3-1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

Whip the cream until stiff. Stir in the raspberry jam until it is thoroughly combined with the cream.
More jam will give the cream a stronger raspberry flavor and be a bit sweeter. Start out with a smaller amount and keep adding until you like the taste.

When the cupcakes are completely cool, spoon, spread, or pipe with a pastry bag the raspberry frosting onto the cupcakes. Enjoy as soon as possible.

March 21, 2011

Sweet New Aprons for Baking


I've been inspired by fun baking projects to cook up a new batch of aprons. Perfect for making messes in the kitchen and serving pretty and tasty treats. I made a couple of half cupcake aprons as well as a full one. They are sturdy and add a good layer of protection against flour and sugar that might go flying when you start to mix.

I know not everyone is a messy baker like me. Perhaps you'd just like to show your unique style while you share your delicious baked goods. I'll post the cupcake recipe on Wednesday.


If you're looking for something a little less sweet, I'll be adding more veggie aprons to the shop this week, too.

March 18, 2011

Creative Process Interview with Dani Fazio

 I'm happy to introduce to to Dani Fazio who is a versatile creator and a dear friend of mine. Over the past few years I have glimpsed many of Dani's various creative pursuits and it seems like she always has a new idea or project in the works. I love learning about Dani's unique perspective on her creative process. Each of these interviews has reminded me, taught me new things and inspired me in some way. Soon after Dani answered my questions she wrote and told me that she had completely changed their dining room into a dedicated studio space. We get to see some of that in these photos. You can see more of her work at her website.

Tell us a little bit about your work space. The dedicated space I work in is at home in my “dining room” which we don’t actually use for dining in anymore. I have all my art supplies in there, along with a table and plenty of floor space I can work in. It’s in the center of our house, which can be distracting. But, it’s a large room with two windows and good light. Aside from there, the state of Maine is my studio. I make a lot of work in Maine when I’m shooting.

What motivates you to create? I can be motivated by a fleeting moment- I notice the way something looks in nature and I feel compelled to photograph it, sketch it, write about it- anything to preserve that moment/ feeling I had. I’m often surprised by ideas that pop into my mind at any given time of day… I try to remember that feeling so I can work on that idea again when the time is right.

What stalls or inhibits your creative process? Having a full time job, plus a part time gig, taking courses, preparing for graduate school, being a wife, a doggie mama, a family member, a friend… these things all take up so much time- mentally and in my calendar. I find that if my energy is spent, I just can’t force myself to work. I don’t rely on my art for income, so that hasn’t been a problem financially… but as an artist, it’s frustrating! Thankfully, being an artist is within us all the time- 24/7, so there’s not really a time I’m not in my creative process- I just may not be creating something tactile at the moment- but the ideas are always flowing, and the thought process is always there.

List a few common mistakes or stumbling blocks you run into. How do you avoid these or get out of them?
Sometimes I get excited about a new medium or project and talk a lot about it with others. Then, I feel compelled to finish the work because I said I was going to. Mistake. That means that the project then becomes another thing on my mental “to do” list, and the original reasons I wanted to do it fade away. So, I try to journal out the ideas as much as I can before spilling my guts about the work—this way I can give some information, but I also have learned to say, “…or, I may end up forgetting about the whole thing!” which often happens.

What or who helps to support your creative work? My wife, Jen, and my family all support my creative work. But, really only I can conjure up the desire to make work. If one of them said, “Dani, why don’t you go photograph in the woods today?” or Jen leaves for the weekend and suggests I use my free time to paint, I can’t. It has to be on my own terms.


Can you tell me about a project or something you have made that you really love or find really exciting?
When I was at Haystack Mountain School for an artist retreat I learned how to do gelatin printing- printmaking without a press, just a gelatin plate. I was so nervous to make art in this way- not knowing what the result would be (opposite of my photography) and then I slowly just let myself be taken over by the process. The first series of work I made there was incredible- I thought, “Did I make this?” and yet I recognized the strokes and patterns in paint and I knew it came from within me. Since then, I set up a small print area in my dining room studio and whenever I can I work on gelatin prints. Nothing will ever compare to the first time I used this process, though- nervous, excited, surprised.

Can you talk about some things that you have learned from mistakes or failures?
The biggest “lesson” I’ve learned is that it’s okay to make art for myself. For fun. That other people may never see. When I graduated from art school, I was in the mindset of making work to meet deadlines, and show in galleries. So, when I stopped showing in galleries I stopped making work. Then, I wanted to work again, but I thought “Well, if I do this project, maybe this gallery will show it.” My work always had to have an external process. I found that with crafting, too. I may make something I like, and then I think, “Oh, I should make lots of these, and sell them in art fairs!” but then I don’t. Realizing that I can have a whole collection of work that no one will ever see, buy, or
care about is tremendous.

March 16, 2011

Icing on the Cake

tortilla and black beans

Black beans are a staple in our kitchen. I cook up a batch nearly every week. They're not fancy food, nothing glamorous or particularly photogenic about them. But they taste so good and never disappoint. Often I'll serve them on top of brown rice, garnished with grated cheese, salsa and veggies. I think I love them best, though, with a batch of home made flour tortillas.

Tortillas are high on my list of things that I could easily buy but they are so much better made from scratch. I tell myself I am saving money since we already have flour, water, salt and oil. I'm just making silly excuses. Tortillas are usually inexpensive to buy, but the homemade version are a simple luxury. When we have black beans for dinner these warm floury disks are the icing on the cake, if beans can be called cake and homemade tortillas can be called icing.

I know that most people these days are looking for ways to save time and buying a bag of tortillas and can of beans will make a good meal in fewer minutes than cooking it all from scratch. On the other hand the minutes of kneading, rolling and cooking might give you the time you wouldn't other wise have to day dream, talk, catch up on the day's news, listen to music or a podcast.

whole wheat tortillas


Black Beans and Whole Wheat Tortillas
Making beans and tortillas this way takes extra time but most of that is not doing active work, just letting things cook or rest. Sometime this fall, from a few different sources, I discovered my new favorite method of cooking beans. It requires a bit of planning ahead but no need for hours of soaking the dry beans. I'll list the ingredients and then explain.

1 cup dry black beans
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Turn the oven to 350 degrees. In a dutch oven or other oven proof pot and lid, place the dry beans. Dice the onion, mince the garlic and toss them into the pot. Add the cumin and salt. Add water to the pot until the beans are covered by at least an inch. Cover the pot and put it in the oven. After about 30 minutes, open the oven, take the lid off and make sure the beans are simmering away, make sure the water has not evaporated and add more water if it has. Check after another 30 minutes to see if they are ready -- they should hold their shape but give no resistance when you bite into one. If you are planning on serving them soon, remove the pot from the oven.  If you are cooking them ahead of time, you can turn off the oven when the beans are done and leave them there for a few hours. When you are ready to eat, you can reheat them on the stove.

If the beans are soupier than you want them to be, simmer them on the stove to evaporate some of the water. I love the flavor of the beans just like this, but once they have cooked you could add corn, peppers, chilies, tomatoes. Just make sure you don't add anything acidic (like tomatoes, vinegar or lime juice) before they are fully cooked as acid will keep them from cooking. A few minutes before you are ready to serve them, stir in the cilantro. Yields about 4 cups of beans.

I like to set up a little buffet with beans, fresh greens, avocado, salsa, grated cheese and sometimes rice to go in the tortillas.

rollingout tortillas

Whole Wheat Tortillas
You can make these entirely with whole wheat or with a mix of white and wheat flour. Adding white flour will make them a softer and more flexible. Once the tortillas cool the might become a little bit stiff, just gently reheat them so they can be easily folded.

3 cups (14 ounces) whole wheat flour or 2 cups whole wheat and 1 cup white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil
about 3/4 cup very warm water

In a medium bowl, mix the flour and the salt. Add the oil and stir to distribute in the flour. Add the water, a little at time. Mix the water into the flour to create a smooth, elastic dough. Add more water if you need to, but the dough should hold together well and be slightly stiff but easily kneadable. Cover the dough and let rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Divide the dough into 12 pieces, as evenly as possible. Place a cast iron skillet (at least 12 inches in diameter) over medium-high heat. Take a piece of dough and use your hands to shape it into a small disk, about an inch thick. On a floured surface (or on parchment or other non-stick surface), begin rolling the dough with a rolling pin. Turn it frequently to keep the tortilla fairly round (the shape does not affect the taste!). Roll it until it is about 1/8th of an inch thick and 7-10 inches in diameter. 

When the pan is hot, place the rolled out tortilla flat on the pan (do not grease or oil the pan). When it begins to bubble and puff up a little bit, flip it over. You will see it puff up a bit on the other side, too. Cook the tortilla until the bubbles are just beginning to brown, if you cook it too long it won't fold and bend easily. While one tortilla is cooking, you can roll out the next one. If you get ahead on rolling, don't stack the uncooked tortillas because they will stick together. After each tortilla is cooked, stack in in a clean tea towel on a plate. They are best served warm, but will keep in an airtight container for a few days.

March 14, 2011

Small Things

In the past few weeks I've often thought of people I don't know, in places that I've never been. Triumphs and tragedies have brought huge changes to parts of the world that I only know of through news reports, but I still think of the people there and sincerely hope the best for them. I aim to do more than just hope, but in the meantime here I am in my small daily life where I am reminded that I should take nothing for granted. This is something I often forget when I am busy and tired. Life is made of up small things and they should be appreciated.

Today I am so glad to see the sun and feel the air that is a bit warmer than it has been recently. I am grateful that Ray is home from his week in Chicago and that I have some time today to spend in the kitchen.

I am really excited about the most recent addition to my shop.

lightblueveggienapkins


Cloth napkin sets.

yellowveggienapkins3

Each set is a different color of vibrant cotton. There are six napkins in each set.

orangeveggienapkins2

Each napkin in the set has a different vegetable appliqued on it. When I was growing up we each had our own napkin ring and after every meal we would replace the napkin in the ring until it needed to be washed. With these sets everyone can pick a different veggie to use until they need to be washed. No need to wash them after only one use and no one will have to use someone else's dirty napkin. Just another simple way to make your table a little brighter and a little greener.

March 11, 2011

Creative Process Interview with Kristen Fagan

 Today we get to hear from Kristen Fagan from Creative Stash. Kristen creates in a variety of media from graphic design, to painting to making jewelry. She sells some of her work in her etsy shop and also does freelance design. I get the feeling that Kristen is creating all the time so it's great to hear her thoughts and approaches to all of this making and to finding a balance with so much going on.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your creative pursuits. I'm Kristen, wife to a very supportive husband and mother of two happy and energetic little boys ages 4 and 6. I work from home full-time as a graphic designer and spend the rest of my time at Creative Stash where I freelance small business graphics, design wedding invitations and create as a mixed media artist. I live for time with my family, making art, yoga, can’t catch your breath laughter, road trips with my husband, dancing with my kids and enjoying the natural world. I love to learn and adore anything made by hand.

Tell us a little bit about your work space. I have a few spaces where I create. I design in my bedroom office, I paint in my garage studio and I make jewelry and other crafts throughout my home.

What do you like about it?
Office - I have a desk armoire in my bedroom. I love this thing! It is large enough for my computer, printer, scanner, a filing cabinet, a little desk space. If something doesn’t fit I need to file it, archive it or get rid of it (so helpful for me to keep my clutter to a minimum). I love that I can close the doors and walk away without seeing all my work in progress.

Studio – A few years ago, we moved into a home with a 3 car garage and I was ecstatic! I knew I would carve a little space in there to paint where I can leave my easel up and have works in progress without the stress of little ones knocking into it. My garage door has windows to allow sunlight in
which is wonderful. I placed a small desk in there for organizing and extra counter space to create. I am so blessed to have this area; it has definitely helped me create more just having this space available.

What would you change about it if you could?
Office - I would love a laptop! I am stuck in one place on my desktop computer and really wish I had the freedom to move around or take my work on the go from time to time.

Studio – I would love a divider of some sort to separate me from the rest of the “garage stuff”. I have a rug, a desk and storage bins that help define my space but, overall it’s very utilitarian. There isn’t much personality to inspire me. The temperature isn’t regulated in the garage and it gets very hot in the summer in Arizona so it isn’t useable a couple of months out of the year.

What motivates you to create? My overall well being is directly related to how often I create. When that desire to make something arises from deep within if I don’t acknowledge and honor it I will explode. Haha, this all sounds so dramatic, doesn’t it?! For real though, I think I will.

What stalls or inhibits your creative process? Energy – Being physically or mentally drained can have a dramatic effect on my creativity. When I’m tired, I doubt myself and the work I am doing. I am learning to allow myself to rest instead of forcing work when my energy level is low.

What or who helps to support your creative work? My husband is a huge support. When I need to creativity explore on a whim, or have a deadline I’m trying to meet he gets stuck making dinner
or getting the boys ready for bed and he does effortlessly. Nights when we have family time until the kids go to bed, my husband sacrifices “our time” so, I can create. I am so very grateful that he gives me the space I need, whenever I need it. Being able to create makes me a happier more peaceful person to be around so, I like to think it’s a win-win.


Can you tell me about a project or something you have made that you really love or find really exciting?
Most recently, I made earrings from canvas. I really like that it combines my love for painting and jewelry and I look forward to expanding on this idea and experimenting with canvas in more new ways.

Do you ever have doubts about your creations or creative process? How do you keep them away?
Oh yes, all the time. When I’m overwhelmed I question everything – my life, my process, whether the job is worth it, whether I am a good artist, where I am headed and if it’s the right direction. I can get pretty emotionally worked up when I’m overwhelmed. To keep these thoughts at bay, I need to give myself some space, take a walk or go to yoga and if that’s not an option due to a deadline I try to break the process down into manageable steps and not look to far ahead.

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for people who want to create more or people who are trying to earn a living from creating?
Try not to compare yourself to others, be patient and kind with yourself, find comfort with who you are and what you can do, try all sorts of things, jump at opportunities when they arise and continually work towards realizing your dreams.

March 9, 2011

Reusable Fabric Bag Tutorial

reusablebag

After my discussion about wasting less and enjoying more, I wanted to bring you a way to make basic reusable bags. I make these simple cotton bags for filling with grains, beans, nuts and seeds from the bulk bins at the store where I shop. I have found that it is usually less expensive to buy from bulk bins than to purchase the same items already packaged. Filling reusable cloth bags means I waste even less.

When you purchase from bulk bins, you simply fill your bag and then make note of the product number. Many bulk aisles have twist ties or stickers you can write this number on so that the cashier knows how to charge you. I sometimes use (and re-use) twist ties around my fabric bags. You can also write the number right on the fabric, or have dedicated bags for items that you buy regularly which are labeled with the number of the product. Most bulk aisles have a scale which you can use to figure out the weight of the bag. This is called the TARE and if you let the cashier know, they will subtract it from the weight of the product. Once you have tried it, it is a very simple process. If you have further questions, I'd be happy to answer them in the comments or you can ask your friendly grocery store employee.

These bags also work well for transporting fruits and vegetables, although since they aren't air tight, they aren't ideal for storing perishable produce for several days in the refrigerator (but maybe that isn't important). I also wouldn't recommend them for flours and very fine grains that can leak through the fabric. Still, they are a perfect solution for most bulk foods.

It may seem like there are a lot of steps but they are all really quick, I just wanted to give as thorough an explanation as I could. You can make the bag even simpler by leaving out the drawstring. I think the drawstring is handy, but it is really not necessary for produce or if you are going to use a twist tie. They are easily washable so you can use them again and again.

Let me know what you think!

Materials
Cotton Fabric (I usually use plain muslin, but you can use whatever you want)
Scissors
Sewing Machine (I wouldn't recommend sewing this one by hand because you want the seams to be really tightly bound together)
An iron
A large safety pin


1. Fold and measure your fabric. You can make the bag any size you would like. I make all of mine about the same size so I can use them for anything, but you could make some larger and some smaller. Before you cut, fold the fabric over so that the bottom of the bag is a fold. You will sew the two sides. Folding it makes it easier to cut. I measured a rectangle about 11 by 14 inches.

2. Cut the fabric. The two sides and the top will be cut edges, the bottom of the bag will be where the fabric is folded.

3. I add applique to some of my bags. Here I cut out a carrot. You could add designs to your bags to indicate what you will using them for, or just keep it simple.

4. I appliqued the carrot to the front of the bag.


5. Now you will prepare to sew up the sides of the bag. Turn the fabric so the right sides (which will be the outside of the bag) are together and line up the top and sides of the bag. If you do not want a drawstring, simply sew along each long side of the bag, leaving about a half inch of fabric between the edge and the seam. If you want to add a drawstring, you will sew all the way on one side (with the same distance from the edge to the seam as above). On the other side you will sew from the bottom of the bag and stop about 3 inches from the top of the bag (where the opening will be).

6. Sew the edges.

7. If you are making the drawstring, you will now have one side of the bag where the fabric is not stitched all the way to the top.

8. For the drawstring, starting on the side where the fabric is not stitched all the way, fold the top inch of fabric down and then fold it over again. Pin it all the way around to form a band of fabric at the top of the bag with no cut edges showing.

If you are not making a drawstring, then fold the fabric at the open top of the bag over twice and pin it in place. This will create a finished edge which you will sew around.


9. At the open edges of where the drawstring will go, fold the cut edge of the fabric in, hiding the raw edge.

10. For the drawstring bag, sew around the band of fabric, keeping the stitching just above the bottom fold of the band. This will create an open space for the string of the drawstring to go through.

For the open top (non-drawstring) bag, sew around the folded open edge of the bag to create a finished top.

11. If you are not making the drawstring bag, your bag is finished and ready to use.

12. If you are making the drawstring bag, you now have the space that the string will go through.


13. This is what your opening for the string should look like.

14. To make the "string" for the drawstring, cut a 2 1/2 inch wide piece of fabric which is about two and a half times as long as the width of the bag (in the photo the strip of fabric is folded in half, but by looking at it I can see that it is more than twice as long as the width of the bag)

15. Fold the raw edges of the fabric strip into the middle and press flat with an iron.

16. Fold the now folded outer edges of the strip into the middle and press flat with an iron.


17. Sew along where the folded edges meet to create a solid strip of fabric with no raw edges.

18. Pin a large safety pin to the end of the fabric strip (which is now the string for the drawstring). Feed the pin through one of the holes which will hold the drawstring. Use your fingers to scoot the pin and fabric strip all the way around until it comes out the other side.

19. The drawstring is now ready to use.

20. Don't forget to take your bags with you when you go to the store or farmer's market.

If you have any questions or any of the steps could be clearer, please ask away!

March 7, 2011

Waste Less, Enjoy More.

carrot-market-bag

As part of my interest in vibrantly green living, I want to talk about some of the small things that I think can make a difference. I often feel that I don't know how to make the world a better place on a grand scale, so I stick to my small decisions and hope for the best. While it might not create a huge wave of positive change, I have seen my little ripples touch other islands and get passed on to reach even farther.

Sometimes I think about experiments like No Impact Man and read blogs like Zero Waste Home and One Local Family. While I am often tempted to stick to a regimen of eliminating excess and waste from my life, I am so much more drawn to creating. So I work to make fun, useful and enjoyable alternatives to disposable mass production.

These days it is easy to find a cool, reusable option for the paper and plastic that so often surrounds us. The trick is to find something that you want to use. Do you forget the crumpled reusable bags that are relegated to the trunk of your car when you go in the grocery store? Start collecting bags that you love to use. Nice colors, slogans that provoke conversation or designs that you want to carry wherever you go, even on the most of mundane chores.

Ideally we can all work toward wasting less while enjoying more. Maybe you use a travel mug that holds your coffee perfectly or reminds you of the friend who gave it to you for your birthday. Maybe you cut back on the clutter of plastic bags in a drawer or in the trash by bringing cloth bags to the store. I love the way glass jars look in my cupboard holding popcorn, beans, rice and sunflower seeds.  I fill my cloth bags from bulk bins and then store them in these jars.

groceries in jars


Sometimes these small changes seem so tiny and insignificant, but then I look around. I notice that in so many areas disposable packaging is still the norm. I think about how if everyone made one change to enjoy more and waste less, it would make an impact for good. I have lots more ideas I want to share about small changes that we can all make.

I want to hear from you, too. What are some of the changes you have made, or would like to make? How do you waste less and enjoy more?

March 4, 2011

Creative Process Interview with Caroline Hewitt



EDITIMG_6080This week's interview is with someone I have known for a very long time. This is my sister, the actor. I witnessed many of her early rolls, but I think her first formal part was in a silent movie in first grade. Caroline has been pursuing her passion for theater for most of her life. In the past few years she completed her MFA and is now making her way as an actor in New York. Although we have taken different creative paths, I know that  Caroline's thoughts resonate with all kinds of creating. In this series, I wanted to share ideas from many different perspectives on creating so, of course I wanted to include my sister. I've included a couple of photos from shows that she has been in.  I hope you enjoy!

You can read the previous interviews here. 

Tell us a little bit about your work space
If I am working by myself on a role (as most of my creating happens in “the rehearsal room” with other people).  I generally like to use studio space to explore on my own.  I like a room with as little in it as possible or I will get distracted.  Lots of space and some windows, a wood or carpeted floor, and a chair, bench, and table. 

What goes on in there? I often do work on my own if I’ve encountered something in the rehearsal room that I want to explore more, or if I’ve come up against something that isn’t working. If I am working on finding the character I tend to start with the body first, to walk around the room and try to feel myself inside the physical character. If I’m having trouble finding the emotional depth of a moment, I try to dig deep into my own life to find material to draw on (this is the work I call the “rolling around on the floor and crying” work).  All of the work I do on my own in a studio is a series of potential connections inside me, and whether they are apparent to other people when I rehearse doesn’t matter so much as whether I can connect to them at a deeper level when I need to. 

What do you like about it/why does it work well?
  Well, the room is great because I can’t get too sidetracked.  Of course I have to take lots of little breaks—the work is intense and it needs room to breathe.

What would you change about it if you could? 
Well, at this point I don’t have access to a space like this (without paying), so I would give myself a studio and a key.  I would change my ability to be in this space right now!  Right now I have to use my own room (which is very small) as this space, and it has too many distractions. 
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What motivates you to create?
Other people.  Because theater is collaborative, it is important that my desire to be creative is fed by the people I work with—both inside the rehearsal room and in the world.  I mean this in a broad sense: it can be a text that I read, it can be someone I see on the subway or overhear at a restaurant, a scene partner in rehearsal or a director, someone who makes me upset or happy or tired, or a work of art in a museum.  Basically my work is all a reaction to a stimulus: so my creativity, while it ultimately must come from very deep inside me, is spurred by my surroundings. 

What stalls or inhibits your creative process?

It’s hard to work alone as an actor. Since it is collaborative, my process is stalled when I don’t have people to work with.

Do you ever have doubts about your creations or creative process? How do you keep them away?

First and foremost is the lack of trust in myself and my work: the feeling that I don’t actually deserve to be in the room. But I have to move beyond this or I will be paralyzed.  The next big challenge for my creative process is knowing how much work I need to be doing on my own.  This changes drastically from role to role, and can be tricky to figure out.  A friend used the analogy of holding a dove in your hands: if you hold it too tight (work too hard on a role, a project) you will kill it.  But, if you hold it too loosely (don’t put anything into a role that needs work), it will fly away.  I tend to hold too tight, so I am learning to reconcile all the things I think I should do with what I actually need to do to make working on a role the most successful.
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Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for people who want to create more or people who are trying to earn a living from creating? I think something important that I have learned as an actor is that I can never begin by focusing on the product of the work.  If I do, then the work won’t actually happen.  I need to get rid of any ideas I have about how the character should be performed or how the process will be.  I have to enter into my ‘creative process’ with the willingness for everything I think I know about a role or a play to change and to be changed.  I have to enter it with a sort of childlike innocence and curiosity every time.  To allow myself to be surprised, and to follow the direction that the moment takes me, not to hold onto a potential result.  This is much easier said than done.

March 2, 2011

Just a quick post to say that the new website, changes and updates I have been talking about are finally here! Seedling Design's new online home is ready. I'll probably be making a few more tweaks to this blog but most of the changes I have been eagerly anticipating are ready. I'm back to doing more sewing and a little less planning and designing so I'll be adding lots more to the shop in the next few weeks. I'll be posting more here, too. Let me know what you think!