Embracing the Leap
A week or so ago, my LinkedIn profile informed me that I was celebrating another year at Mia Kaplan Studio. I can still remember the moment I decided to make the leap into the unknown, having had a salaried job during the day and painting at night, working in a place that was ok but far from my dream, and finally reaching the point where I decided that I needed to make some drastic and serious changes.
I quit, I jumped, and I admit there was panic at first, fear that "living the dream" was but a masked nightmare that involved rolling around on the floor screaming in simultaneous terror and delight, unsure of which feeling was real, like falling in love before the lights turned on. It wasn't until I learned how to chill out, and looked around to discover that I had survived, that I got behind the wheel of my ship and found the patience to learn how to navigate my new life.
My "new normal", as I lovingly call it, was created by making a list of what I wanted each day to be like: waking up surrounded by people I love, having positive working relationships based on shared values and a common goal of making the world a little more delicate and thoughtful. I shifted my focus to conversing primarily about things that mattered to me, and worked hard to become a listener.
The Internal Work
This internal work took years, and is best described as a shedding of skin, an undergoing of rediscovering things I had forgotten about myself. On occasion I would assist my husband on his photo shoots, and one of our subjects was a gifted jeweler named Katy Beh. The photos were for an article being written discussing rituals, and we photographed her at home writing on yellow steno pads. Each morning, she told us, she would write without any specific goal, just to empty her mind, and I found this fascinating, much like my own process with sketchbooks in the morning. So I tried it at times when it wasn't appropriate to draw, I simply wrote whatever was on my mind that morning. It was cathartic, and deeply satisfying to empty my thoughts onto the pages and move on. My new writing ritual turned into the inspiration for the yellow notebook page patterns used in "Flowers for Peggy".
The second major change I underwent was unexpected. My cousin Scheherezade in Los Angeles convinced me to join her on a couple of Angelino escapades, two of which were an 8-hour white tantric yoga workshop, and a five day transformational training program called M.I.T.T. (Mastery in Transformational Training). I was just going at first because she asked me to go, expecting nothing aside from my hopes of being good company for her.
It is hard to illustrate the effects of these experiences, but when I was referring to the rediscovery of things I had forgotten about myself, these experiences provided such insights. I had forgotten about the special powers I have had since I was a kid, powers I feel that we all have of clear intention and intuition, but for whatever reason I stopped trusting these powers. So I took them back!
Here's how it happens: you're walking along and suddenly something grabs your attention. It speaks to you. It could be a thought or an image, or the way pine needle trees grow in my case. The thought of managing something so organic as coming across and collecting fleeting moments of inspiration might seem like a buzz-kill, but I see it the way many people have connected to shopping, as a "retail therapy" of sorts whose transaction involves no salesperson or intermediary.
It IS possible and even considered normal among workhorse creatives to develop a system for collecting thoughts, and lately I have expanded my repertoire beyond the sketchbook and yellow steno pads to include technology. Apps like Evernote are an example of how technology has entered the picture to assist in the creative process by allowing one to collect and categorize information, and even share it with others. I was not into the idea of "mood boards" at first, but to manage visual information and reference, Pinterest is like having an endless supply of cork boards to find common threads in a big picture. It wasn't until I added a bunch of pins of my work to my Pinterest page that I was able to see a large volume of my work at once, and it helped me understand what I was doing. Furthermore, Pinterest suggests similar pins to complement imagery, which is revealing to see how something so personal fits into the aggregation of everyone else's imagery. My favorite discovery from Pinterest was the popularity of my line drawings for boards about tattoo ideas. Maybe I missed a calling as a tattoo designer?
The External Work
So I find myself currently in an external phase, having renovated this old mental house, I have been working lately on physical projects. Using technology as just another tool in my workshop. After all, we live in a time where 3D printers can print a bust in marble using fifteen photos of a person. We are not so limited by our physical capabilities, but by our belief in our own potential as human beings. There are less limitations between our ideas and our output now more than ever.