The Creative Home

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The Creative Home

Welcome to the favorite room in our house...the activity room! You would laugh if you could overhear me trying to tell my 15 yr.old son where to put something if it goes in that room.."in the computer room, I mean the sewing, I mean, the office, I mean the activity room.  When we first got the dream to live in the country, we thought we were going to buy land and have a house built. So we poured over floor plans and brainstormed, as a family, about what we most wanted our house to have.  By mutual agreement, the only room we really all agreed was absolutely necessary...was an 'activity' room.  A place with lots of shelves and cabinets for science projects, model building, art, and sewing supplies, a table big enough for several of us to work together at the same time, a place for computers for photography, writing novels, movie-making, school (and of course group online games with all the males in the family!). It had to have room for both Rebekah's and my sewing machines and our fabric, yarn, embroidery thread, and all of Jacob's speech and debate papers. I drew the line at musical equipment..we wanted to have that in there too..but we just didn't have room for it. And I wanted windows..all the way around the corner.  (We have a 'music wall' in the livingroom for one piano, one cello, two guitars, one violin, and a trumpet.)
  Sewing and craft cabinet on back wall. We remove the table cover for messy projects.

Well..we dreamed but it we didn't get it all.  Our house has about 1700 sq.feet. When we moved in we had four teenagers who all have lots of hobbies.  It's a lot like living in a ship...everything does double duty and has to fit or it's out!  As it is, we ended up with a 14 x 16 room, but we made it work! I've wanted an activity room ever since I first got married and read this book from our local university, How to Keep House.  The author said, every home should have 'an activity room'. This photo cracked me up...but this was the room I wanted for 23 years...and I finally got it. I've always wondered what people did with that 'extra' room...I guess they call it a 'sitting' room or formal dining...or something. But we know what it's really for!

Psst! I have a little secret to tell you...I love homemaking not only because I love making a comfortable place for the family and I to relax in at the end of the day, but it also gives me more free time to develop my artistic abilities (such as they are-ha!). And the really great thing is that as I develop my gifts and talents,  I can use those same abilities to beautify my home and the lives of my family. Can it get any better than that? Well, yes because, I've not only worked very hard over the years, in my free time, to develop my natural abilities like writing poetry, guitar playing, song-writing, quilting, cake-decorating, and designing fabric art...but I have been able to teach those same pursuits to my children. In fact, art-- the making of it, the pursuit of it, and the encouragement of it--is one of the principle things that I see as my purpose as manager of our home.
        The boys' side...for photography, movies, science projects, novels, models..and the occasional computer game of course. (oops!)

My childhood home was filled with art and we were often busy with creative pursuits growing up. To me, that was just one of the things that I assumed would characterize our home when I was raising my own children. I watched my parents, helped them, and learned without even realizing what was happening. Music, art, textiles, drawing, painting, acting...these were the 'stuff' of every day life.  I do know one thing that I think helped promote our artistic tendencies and creativity. One was that my father chunked the TV, when we were in junior high. He didn't want us sitting in front of the tube wasting the afternoon hours when we could be outside (hanging out in the trees like monkeys--we loved tree climbing!). We grew up 'deprived' because we didn't know what 'nano-nano' with the pinching fingers meant..(Think Mork and Mindy--70's era).  So with tons of time on our hands, we found other things to do. The other reason for our creative energy was that Mom was constantly making, creating, and encouraging art in our lives. Messes were far as she was concerned!
  This took me six months to make...I was offered a $1000.00 to make it again for a French lady...I said, "No thank you!"

If you have any aspirations to encourage your children whether artistically or academically, you will want to consider putting them on a stringent diet of as little TV or computer as is humanly possible! I consider TV watching at best 'junk food' for the mind, and at worst. 'poison' for the soul. (Just my personal opinion of course!) I don't want to start a debate, I'm just explaining why we all ended up so creative. My sisters, though not as geared towards the musical or artistic, were very skilled and creative according to their own natural bents.  Heather is the craft queen--She knits gorgeous hats, makes feathered fans, puts together herbal gifts, and makes beautiful organic homemade soaps with all sorts of lovely designs. She teaches me lots of new stuff when I drop by. Lisa does hair, is a master seamstress, paints glass, and decorates cakes. (She doesn't think she's artistic, but I know better!  Thanks to her, I can cut the boys hair, and began pursuing cake decorating years ago. (So so so much fun!) Trisha is a 'how to' person like me. We both have this weird need to make how-to manuals.  And she is a very creative writer, when she puts her mind to it.
                 Dad's Sculpture                                                   My fabric banner..soft sculpture... 5 x8 ft.

My father, as some of you may know, was a sculptor, painter, and drew..charcoal, pen, ink.  My earliest memories, as a child, were of working with my own little lump of clay or drawing on scraps with pencils he wasn't busy with at the moment.  This was the real stuff..not play dough!  I loved making little things (I was infatuated with turtles and gaudy buttons) or watching Dad carve on some big chunk of something on his wooden base. When I was a young mother with toddlers, I had plenty of play fact,  play-dough time or finger painting or drawing was always part of the daily schedule. But sometimes I splurged and picked up some real clay for the kids to work with. I love the smell of clay!
 My third original design --an ocean themed quilt row (except for the block pattern) drawn, colored and embroidered by me.
I remember vividly, Dad, working on developing his own negatives and making black and white photographs. And I loved seeing him draw my mother,sisters and I.  They were really beautiful portraits. Thanks to him, I loved drawing as a girl..and my favorite implement, was not the artist pencils that were so plentiful around the house, but the grey fuzzy rolled paper tube that you used for shading.  From him, I learned that drawings had shape and form and that shading brought that out.

My artistic goal for this year is to teach myself knotted Persian rug tying.It took a lot of research and staring at poorly done videos to figure it out.  Certainly no one else is going to teach me-Ha!
Mom and I played duets on the piano and we all cleaned the house to boisterous classical music.  We both loved to write poems too. She was the one who could quote "Little Orphan Annie.." in a way that sent scary shivers down our spines! I can still hear her voice reading her own stories of cartoon characters she had illustrated...Slinky and Slim--they were sort of ghost like little characters -- more like seals without flippers.
She fascinated me with her rendition of the little old woman who swallowed a spider..I don't know why she swallowed a fly..poor old lady..I think she'll die!  (I have to say, I felt the threat to the woman's life was quite real!).  Mom loved costumes and sewed them by the basketful!  The whole family jumped whole-heartedly into any opportunity to dress up and act in a play.
              My Pacific Northwest Indian button blanket that won best of show at the GCC Art Festival in 2008.
                                                                      Mom's Painting

And she made beautiful jewelry and homemade gifts like those acrylic clackers on strings. Boy, our school friends were so envious of our clackers! We had some made of some kind of glass stuff that didn't break easily.  We often sold the jewelry to friends, taking orders to bring home to her.  She taught me how to crochet, and make beaded crocheted necklaces, how to embroider, and cross-stitch. She also painted very well and she sang almost in an 'operatic' style.  I always wished I'd had her voice...ah well...we can't have it all--Ha!

          I reproduced Andrew Reith's 8 x 11 watercolor in fabric using techniques I learned from the Cuna Indians' mola making methods, reverse applique, French boutis' methods and American trapunto. This is all stitched by hand.  We won one of three awards this year-- the 3 Dimensional Division in 2009.  I love Andrew's watercolors..and this was the most varied and colorful...91 pieces...32 shades of color.

Our family loved books..especially old ones. I read absolutely everything I could get my hands on! Dad poured casts of Paris of Plaster for his statues and I was fascinated to watch the process. Mom made candles and cooked yummy concoctions which she often made up herself.  Some good...some required a timer..not so good..Ha!  Dad and Mom both loved to garden and grew amazing things. Dad taught himself to make leather. Mom did macrame and taught me too. We had long chess tournaments in the evenings which I reveled in.  Art was the atmosphere that we breathed.  Creating was as daily an activity as eating, cleaning, playing and sleeping.
  I learned French boutis' quilting from Diamont Berger..well known in France, the Houston Quilt Guild, and the International Quilt Festival in Houston. I made these wedding pillows for my son, Andrew, and his wife, Elisabeth for their wedding.

Mom was our biggest cheerleader...always encouraging us in the pursuit of our dreams. So of course, I do the same thing in my home. When I learn how to do something new, so do the kids. When the kids want to learn how to do something that I or Tim don't know how to ...we all learn together.  Tim, my husband, also comes from a family of 'artists'. His father was a painter and a pilot. And his mother played the harp..concert level playing. She had a beautiful harp that her parents gave her. Regrettably, they live in Washington, D.C., so we didn't get to hear her play before they had to sell it--the result of an economic depression in their area. Tim grew up playing piano as I did, and taking tons of photographs. I would say that all the kids and Tim are great photographers. For some reason, I just don't have the eye that they do. But I sure admire their ability.

      This is one of my entries for this year's art show...The Colorado Rockies.
Thanks to Tim, the connoisseur of classical music--we all have learned a lot about the different composers. Thanks to me and my love of art, we know about my favorite painters at least.  While I was reading Dickens (everything...he wrote several times over) in the evenings (the kids were weaned on Dickens' exercpts), Tim was listening to WRR in Dallas and memorizing every musician, his style, his era..etc. He's a walking encylopedia and definitely an auditory learner. :o).  My greatest thrill was to give him a cello for Christmas this year. (He's always wanted to learn to play the cello.)And five months of lessons!  I saved up money from my craft sale and the sell of a piece of fabric art, plus other sewing jobs.  I wish I hadn't lost my camera at the hospital caring for Dad in January, so I could show you the priceless look on his face when I gave it to him!

Sadly, this picture is pretty blurry..It's one of the first quilt rows I designed myself and the only time I ever did beading. What else was I going to use to make 'fireworks'. That's what my friend wanted for her patriotic quilt!

Thanks to all of our various pursuits, we have taught the kids pretty much everything we know. And they've picked up a bunch of learning that we didn' flying soar planes! (engine-less airplanes). All of the kids are very talented photographers, in fact I think everyone but Jacob has a photo blog. Jacob is a gifted writer who inherited my gift of gab..(poor thing)..but he puts it to good use going straight to the out-rounds (quarter, semi-'s and finals in speech and debate competitions. He is the dramatist in our family. He loves making silent movies and is very good according to one movie production teacher that we know. Rebekah sews better than I ever did..and now designs her own 19. All five kids play guitar and three play piano..and Christian and Matthew compose. They all write poetry.

The crazy thing is that I did so little actual teaching!!  But I think between our 'modeling' and the fact that the kids never got to see 'real' tv except at Grandma's, the creative activity was the natural result. The computer and movie time were heavily budgeted and we never had any hand held electronic games.  Now that everyone is an older teen..that is somewhat different--but we still keep a wary eye on everyone. Thank goodness, they were raised on creativity..and they get tired of the electronic variety of entertainment pretty quickly.
                                    Ron de' Fleur...maybe for next year's show. (Round of Flowers in English)

To me, the home is the perfect place to foster the creative arts. That is why I wanted to write this post-- to encourage you in how and why we should be helping our kids (or hubby's) find what it is that they are 'good at' and then providing the supplies, workspace, and opportunities to pursue those things.  We have an activity room and we make sure that it is 'easy' to create. From their earliest days, there was plenty of paper, paint, and clay. Art is on the wall, classical music was played from their toddlerhood, and art was a required part of every home school subject--as critical as writing or reading and integral to the expression of what they learned in science and history.

If you would like to get more ideas on how to encourage creativity in your home, I would really encourage you to check out Shona Cole's book, the Artistic Mother, because, she does the same thing that I've just described.  And she will  literally hold your hand and show you what to do to get started step by step. She will also help you start developing some artistic ability if you are new to this and don't feel you are 'artistic'.
           This won the Route 66 Challenge contest. It's the first completely original quilt I ever designed. All done by hand but the piecing.

If you have ever visited my fabric art/sewing blog,DC's Creations, you will know that I have tons of projects and things that I have posted. Shona, embarrassingly, calls me prolific--and I normally do get a lot done, but it's really not that hard to work art into your life. Just trade the evening hours that you spend in front of 'the tube'...for a little time with paint and brush, or needle and thread.  I know, it's hard to learn something new at the end of the day. That's why Shona encourages 'baby steps'.

For me at least, I've discovered that if I will buy the supplies, and make a place to leave it all out handy, I'll eventually start working on something.  It's kind of like advertising to yourself. It will draw you to the spite of any tiredness you might feel. And the best thing about creating something is that it really re-energizes you, rather than sapping you the way too much electronic entertainment does.   I'll talk later about how to really make space for this. But my two secrets to working art into your life and the life of your family are time (less electronic) and don't need two living areas! Make an activity room instead...where spills are OK and mess is allowed and supplies are easily available.
Shower cake I made for daughter-in-law's shower--I was in a hurry that day.
The family togetherness and unity...even the couple togetherness will be so encouraged if you are all hanging out together making something new and fun.  A half an hour or hour a day goes a long ways to learning or making new things.
  This baby quilt, I designed for my granddaughter, Lena, all made from scraps in my stash.I worked on the hand applique during Christian's 30 minute trumpet lessons. By the end of the summer, it was ready to quilt. I quilted it while hanging out with hubby and the SEG Oil Convention. By the time the art show rolled around, it was ready to enter. Use bits of time!

And when you have started something new...send me a picture for Friday's Show and Tell!!(  I want to Oooh and Aah over it!!Consider me your personal "Creativity Cheerleader".   That is the whole reason I started Show and Tell--to encourage creativity in your your life and in everyone else who lives in your home.

PS. Thanks Lorraine for mentioning that you had seen artists on the blogroll. It got me to thinking, that it would be good to talk about my vision for art in the home! You are an inspiration!

Happy Homemaking!

I'm so shy about my mediocre singing that I don't really like sharing my music publicly, but this song is my very favorite one. It's called, "Let Your Children Dream.." about encouraging and mentoring our kids. Sorry about the 'unprofessional' son Christian was videoing me. He kept making me giggle...  I do have a good recording on my music blog that was done professionally if you are interested.


Trudy said...

Donna, this is the most amazing post I have ever read. No kidding! You had the best childhood and have given your children the best childhood ever. I just hope I can do at least a little of what you've done. Thank you for the time you took to write this. I am going to do a post recommending that everyone comes and reads your post. Everyone needs to read this! I look forward reading more about this subject.

Trudy said...

This song really ministers to me.

Donna said...

Hi Trudy, Thanks for the sweet comments! I really appreciate them. I do have to say though, that though my childhood was wonderful in terms of creativity...and for me personally..I reveled in it, we also had a pretty trying time during the teen years. My father was very gifted but wounded. Letting go was very difficult for him. He caused tremendous pain in the lives of we girls which we have all had to work to overcome over the years. I don't think anyone has a perfect childhood. I really wrangled in my mind over whether to go into it, but it didn't seem pertinent to the topic. I am glad though that you gave me the chance to mention it. :o)

It is something for me, that I can remember all the good in the midst of so much that was bad. My mother was the strong and loving person in our home and we all love her for it. She is still our cheerleader and biggest fan. I learned to love my father and built a relationship with him for the sake of putting the bad part of our past behind me. If anything, this post is simply evidence that I have. But that is simply God's grace..He helped me to forgive and to love. I'm afraid creative types aren't always the easiest in the world to 'live' with. For the creative and artistic atmosphere in our home, I will forever be grateful. It made me what I am in many ways. It is a privilege to have lived with those influences!

Colleen Rieth said...

Donna, I just have to comment that your "Colorado Rockies" textile is lovely! Your post is inspiring, and that cartoon is hilarious.

Diva Kreszl said...

found my way here via Trudy and have so enjoyed reading this post. you are indeed blessed to have been raised in such a creative environment and to offe rhte same to your children is a wonderful legacy! I was not exposed to art until I was nine years old and met the mother of a friend, it changed my life! I can still vividly recall her standing at her easel, I was awestruck! It's been many eyars now and my life's course was changed that fateful day, I thank God always for opening that door.

Donna said...

That is exactly what happened to watch my father sculpt and my mother paint...just made me want to do it too.. I never painted or sculpted like they I thought I'd missed the boat somehow..but I just had the wrong medium. my paint! But inspiration is all you need to give you a vision. I'm glad your neighbor did that for you.

Lorraine said...

just been looking at all the great photos what a huge idyllic house you live in...I suppose there is lots of land in Texas hence the big homes...really like the post about your parents influence with their art..thanks so much for your side post about my blog..must dash as off to pick up eldest from cub scouts then he can watch The Simpsons

Mandy said...

sent to here from trudy...thvnks so much...i realy enjoyed this post....loved it..our life will never be like yours, but i will certinly aim to try and make it a little morelike it...we have started the artistic mother thre little kids love doing it and have started to do art by 3 big ones, teens are not inclined...they hve donetheir growing...wish i had guidence in this when they were growing up...oh well...such is life...take

Angelique said...

ohh, great sharing! It is always super great to hear all the beautiful ways families integrate or better yet live out the artistic life. Although our homes are different I think it is so cool the way we have been blessed with the freedom of creativity in all it's forms.


Lissy said...

fabulous to read and food for thought...thank you :)

Unknown said...

What a fabulous post! I love seeing the mess of creation in your home because my home looks the same way! Fabric on the kitchen counter, paint on the kitchen table, etc. So great.

“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster

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