June 9, 2021

What's New (and Some Old) in the Studio

         A couple of weeks ago I shared a bunch of upcoming events, many of which feel as if they are suddenly exploding into life as covid restrictions are eased in my state, but today I wanted to share what’s been happening behind the scenes in the studio.  I’ll start by backing up even further to brush over this whole crazy past year.  For many of us introverts, the stay-at-home restrictions haven’t seemed so bad.  I was pretty much home all the time anyway, and all my art and writing is done at home, so being stuck at home doesn’t leave me feeling as isolated, stir-crazy, or depressed as it does some people.  That’s one regard in which I’ve been extremely lucky.
        But there is another part to all this that may not be so widely recognized, which is that plenty of time at home last year hasn’t necessarily been as good for artistic productivity as you might expect.  Under stress the brain diverts blood and energy toward the more basic fight-or-flight parts of the brain, and away from the parts that work on higher-order connections and creativity.  It is literally harder to be creative while stressed, so if you haven’t been feeling that spark recently, it’s not your fault.  And we can’t blame covid for all of this, either.  Our whole country (and perhaps the whole world) has been enduring chronic stress for quite some time, and for me this has meant that trying to write feels like wading through molasses while wearing a lead coat… Which is frustrating, and heartbreaking, and distressing.  (Again, if you’re feeling like your brain hasn’t been in top form this past year and more, it’s not your fault, and you’re not alone.)
         This is why I’m so delighted that I’m currently at work on a short story.  I can’t think of the last short story I’ve written, and this is sci fi, too, which is another departure for me.  Probably it’s really helpful to shake things up instead of continuing to struggle with the fantasy novel that I’m really psyched about, but which nevertheless feels like wading through that molasses.  Anyway, for this new story, imagine a human adopted by a mycorrhizal network.  I’ve had some beta feedback and I’m ready to get back to work on revision!  So exciting!
        I’m also working on another new writing project: a series of poems for each of the thirteen fairies who come to Sleeping Beauty’s christening.  I’ve been a little all-over-the-place about what I’m doing here, but at the moment each poem seems to be the explanation for the fairy’s particular gift.  Also, I’m fooling around with doing each one in a different form.  I’ve already got drafts of some blank verse, a limerick, a villanelle, and most of a sonnet.  Even if this series of poems never ends up going anywhere or being any good, it really feels good to be practicing those poetry muscles, and my arbitrary goal of working in many different forms is good exercise.
        While the writing has been a terrible slog in the past year, the block prints have not been hit so hard.  (Why?  I don’t know, but I suspect because they are more bite-sized.)  I am currently working on an idea that I’d been mulling for a while, which is Baba Yaga’s house on chicken legs.  I’ve made a little flock of Baba Yaga houses, and a little village full of Baba Yagas old and young.  The carving on this needs to be extremely detailed for the tiny people and the fancy decorations on the izba-style cottages, so I am not at all sure whether it’s coming out legibly.  I won’t know until I ink it up.  In the past few days I’ve been working on it only a tiny bit each day, but I will presumably get some solid carving done on Saturday while I’m sitting at my table during an art show for the first time in 18 months.
        Another new thing in my studio is a collection of tiny metal tubes.  I had two miniature metal thingies that I’d been using for “carving” little circles, but a couple of weeks ago I knocked over my toolbox, everything scattered all over the floor and radiator, and I never could find one of the little round bits.  After scouring the house for any old empty mechanical pencils or pens that might have comparable metal bits I could scavenge, it occurred to me that it might be worth just buying some simple metal tube beads.  And in my search for those I discovered little sets of assorted metal capillary tubes, and in a further search down that direction I discovered a packet of mixed small cut-offs from some metal manufacturer.  When my little package arrived I went through dozens and dozens of bits and pieces of various shapes, and selected an array of tubes of various miniature diameters that may work well for pressing circles into my rubber blocks.  There were even a couple of square and hexagon tubes that might have interesting possibilities.  So I look forward to having these to play with.
        What about you?  Are things reopening where you are?  And does the new season feel exciting and freeing, or are you weighted with dread?  How has your creative spark been faring recently?  Have you found any way to care for it?  Right now I am finally feeling cautiously optimistic about mine, and I hope you are feeling a lightening of spirit.

[Pictures: Out of Darkness, rubber block print by AEGN, 2021;

Carving a new block, AEGN, 2021;

Little tubes and experiments with “carving,” AEGN, 2021.]

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