Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Travel Journaling: 101

When I used to make a sell travel journals at craft shows, people would always tell me how they never know what to write in a journal. I'd often hear that they sit down at the end of the day to write and fall asleep. Not at all surprising! If it feels like homework, it's not going to be enjoyable.

Travel journaling is never going to be successful if you're treating it like an assignment that you need to complete each day. Rather than thinking of your journal as a record of your itinerary, think of it as a series of snapshots of your trip. Print out your itinerary and tuck that into the journal to remember that you went here on Tuesday and there on Friday. Use the pages of your journal to write about what you're feeling about the trip, what senses are being awakened, and what ideas you're having in this brand place new.

If you save your journalling for the end of the day, you'll never remember all the small details. Instead have your journal on hand and write snippets throughout the day, little snapshots of what you're thinking and feeling. You can always go back and expand on some of those thoughts and experiences later when you have more time, but writing them down will press pause on that moment in time.

For those of you scared of the white page or not sure where to start, here are 5 of my favorite travel journal prompts to get the wheels turning.

Start each day with the same oberservation.
I love this exercise as a way of getting into the journalling mindset each day. Note the view out your window, or from your breakfast table. What's different? What's the same? What details shift a little each day?

What do you smell? 
Sit in one place and smell your surroundings. Look around you, can you figure out where that smell is coming from? Is it different from anything you smell at home, the same? What memory does this smell conjure for you?

What do you hear? 
Close your eyes and just listen. Where are those sounds coming from? How would you describe them? Are people talking? Listen for a snippet of conversation, and if you don't speak their language try to imagine what they're talking about by intonation and gestures. Are any of these sounds familiar to you?

Note the environment around you. 
Is it cold, warm, humid, dry? Write down the time of day and weather. What is it about the physical environment at this moment that sets the season? How do you feel physically right now? Comfortable?

What boring details about ordinary life are different? 
Go to a supermarket, pharmacy or post office and note how it's different from at home. What items are sold differently than they are at home? How do the prices compare? How is this experience different from home, and how is it surprisingly the same?  Travel isn't always just about taking in the sites, it's also about seeing how other people live in a different country.

Sometimes all it takes in something quick to get you started, and words and sketches will start flowing. Like anything, it takes a while to get into a new habit. If you're not a daily journal keeper in your day to day life, pick up a little notebook and start writing before you leave home. Added bonus: you'll be looking at your regular routine and environment with new and fresh eyes.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Weaving Kind March Challenge

Back in February, I came across The Weaving Kind on Instagram, and it fast become one of my favorite accounts. Weaving isn't a portable activity for me. My loom is a huge piece of furniture, and it's something I do alone. While I do love the time alone, I often miss the energy of a room full of weavers like those I learned to weave in back in college. In a way, finding this online community of weavers has helped me feel connected to other weavers, in their studios around the world.

Photo by Andy Riley

While I used to run a handmade business, I've changed gears in recent years and am trying to remember what it was like to just make stuff. Make art just for the sake of it, without a price point or end use in mind. Last year I completed an online course, The Weaving Workshop, which was so liberating and I was excited to push myself again with a weaving challenge that The Weaving Kind hosts each month.

Photo by Andy Riley

I laughed when the theme for March was revealed: Function. Here I was trying to get away from function, and it became my design challenge. I went with it. Truth is, I love that weaving in functional. I love that weavers across time and the globe didn't simply make a piece of cloth to serve its function, but also to be beautiful while doing it. I love that what we wear or use in our daily chores can involve thoughtfully made, beautiful items.

For the challenge, I decided to focus on making something for my home and settled on dish towels. Not decorative ones that would never get used (we actually don't have any in that category!) but towels that will stand up to regular use, and that can be washed over and over.

I pulled a cone of cotton from my shelf and decided to focus on a honeycomb structure. A classic structure for towels, they add bulk and absorbancy. I added plain weave selvedges to help keep the shape and have clean edges that would function well in a kitchen. For one design I mixed in some contrasting cotton for effect, but for another I used the same yarn as the warp in the weft. I forgot how nice it is to let a structure speak for itself without adding any other elements. Honeycomb looks so different off the loom, it was so fun to wash it and see how it changed.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

2017, we made it.

After a long hiatus, it seems there's a lot going on, and I'm suddenly feeling inspired to share. To take the pressure off of blogging, I've become totally comfortable in saying this is my occasional place to share. I'm releasing myself of the (self-imposed) pressure of either blogging full throttle or not at all. I'm giving in to the sporadic and allowing myself to post whenever I feel the urge.

Truth be told, sometimes I just want to make stuff or go places and I don't want to also stage nice photo shoots and come up with ways to talk or write about it. Do I really need to document my every project or fun thing? No, I don't, and if I'm the only one reading my very sporadic posts, I'm totally cool with that.

Still, I do feel compelled to share a few things since my last post was May of 2016.

First, David and I got married last summer! We'd been together 10 years, and on our 10 year anniversary we eloped on the top of a rooftop in downtown Providence. It was amazing, and perfect. I got a lot of questions about eloping, which inspired Eloping: FAQ, a post I did over on the Lady Project blog. Are you thinking about eloping? I love chatting about it! (Photo by Brittanny Taylor.) 

Second, 2016, damn, what a bruiser. Prince, George Michael.....the election. Ugh. I know we're all still living the results of that particular nightmare, but hopefully with a renewed sense of activism. We can change the course of this, the midterms aren't that far away.

Lastly, 2017 kicked off with a trip to Spain and I've been doing a lot of weaving. Two things I'm feeling inspired to blog about, so stay tuned for more pieces about the country I keep falling more in love with, and the weaving that is helping to ground me and keep me sane in this bizarre moment in history.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hawaii Underwater

With each trip to Hawaii, I get a bit more comfortable in the water. I have nursed a pretty steady fear of water for most of my life, mostly it's of the being "swept out to sea" variety. Still, I tried snorkeling when we were on Maui in 2011 because David is so passionate about it. While it still takes me a while to get used to the mask, I do love seeing life below the surface and it's always worth my initial anxiety.

The Kona Coast is known to have some of the best snorkeling in all of Hawaii, and the trip out to Kealakekua Bay was incredible and I was excited about the quality from our new underwater camera.

The Kona Coast is also known for the opportunity to swim at night with manta rays. The thought of this terrified me, but I have never heard anyone do anything but rave about the experience. I became slightly less terrified when I learned that we wouldn't actually be swimming around in the open ocean in the pitch black, but holding onto a raft that was attached to a boat. Stepping off the boat was terrifying, but after seeing the first manta ray, all my fears evaporated and I just looked down in awe and watched their magnificent show.

It was hard to use the camera for any still shots, as the seas were rough and we had to hold onto the raft with both hands, but in movie mode we were able to catch some great shots of the action. In an effort to improve my video skills a bit, I played around with iMovie this weekend and put together some highlights of the experience.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Weaving Workshop

I'll admit, sometimes it's really hard for me to just sit down and be creative when I finally have a chunk of time. For months I'd been feeling creatively blocked, especially in my weaving. After a few months of weaving scarves, I was feeling uninspired and didn't know where to start. It had been a while since I wove anything with no end purpose or price point in mind, and I felt like I didn't remember how to put those considerations aside and be creative just for the sake of it.

Around this time, my friend Brittany McLaughlin launched her online course, The Weaving Workshop. Brittany and I were both textile design students in the 90's at Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science (now Philadelphia University). We both had had jobs in the textile industry after college, but like many designers in the industry, those jobs shipped overseas and we found ourselves switching gears.

When she asked if I would be interested in participating in her first ever online class, Ground, Path, Fruition, I jumped at the chance!

The online course begins with putting a warp on, and experimenting with basic 4 harness structures. I can't remember the last time I'd done anything besides plain weave, it was fun to be setting my loom up to weave a crowfoot and a twill again. In addition to playing with structure, we were also encouraged to play with a variety of materials.

The second part of the course was taking images of texture that we'd compiled on a Pinterest board earlier, and using those images as a starting point to interpret them into woven cloth. I decided to use only my own images, that I'd taken during my travels. Here are some examples of my swatch side by side with the inspiration.

This photograph was from a rocky beach in Maine. 

This image was a landscape in Monument Valley from our October 2012 trip.

You can see all my samples over on Pinterest.

The final part of the class was making a book from all the materials in the class. Personally, as someone who makes books, I loved that this project connected those skills also. Also appropriate for me since the first bookbinding workshop I ever did was part of my first handweaving class in college.

It was liberating to weave, and not be thinking about price point or who would buy this. No one even had to see it except for me. This class was the perfect antidote for feeling creatively blocked and the added surprise was how it perfectly combined many different parts of my life: my love for weaving, bookbinding and traveling.

Throughout the course, Brittany didn't focus on technical details, but more on the meditative quality of weaving, which was so refreshing.

If you're a weaver looking for some creative direction, I highly recommend checking out Brittany's class at The Weaving Workshop. I was so inspired by it, I promptly put on a new warp, this time threaded for 8 harnesses.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Nana Sydney

The lovely ladies over at The Lady Project blog invited me to write a post about an inspiring woman in my life for Women's History Month. I wrote about my amazing Nana Sydney, who passed away in February. 

Please head over there and read the full post. 

Here were are in 2006, on our way into New York to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, something we did every December for about 15 years. It was always a highlight of the year for both of us. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Travel 2016: Prepping for Hawaii

2015 was an incredible year for travel, and I'm hoping that 2016 will be just as exciting. We're kicking off the year with a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. I first visited Hawaii in February of 2004 and loved it (obviously). The power of the volcano, the beauty of the beaches, and one of my top 3 spa treatments I've ever had.

Me on the Big Island in 2004.

This year David and I are heading there, the first time we've visited this island together. David lived there until he was around 9 years old, and it's a special island to him.

As we dive into our guide books, and booking our tours (snorkeling with manta rays!), part of my prep is to make our travel journal.

For this journal, I decided to keep it similar in feel the ones I made for our previous Hawaiian trips to Kauai, Maui and then Oahu. First I made book cloth out of cute tiki drink fabric (confession: these had once been pajama shorts, until I ripped them and couldn't wear them any more.)

Next, for the title page I kept in the spirit of the Maui and Oahu journals and cut out a map of Hawaii from a vintage atlas, and embroidered the contour of the island by hand.

This journal has a pocket in the back where I've stored envelopes that I can glue in as needed while I'm using it, if I have some ephemera I want to save. Travel tip: always have a glue stick on hand.

As I pulled out previous journals, I was flipping through them, and love how each has a list in it near the end of things I don't need to pack, or wish I had packed. Handy info for prepping for this trip. It's mostly stuff like "you don't need nice shoes" and "you don't need make up" and "you only need one sundress."

Bottom line is, bring fewer clothes so we have more room to bring home Hawaiian snacks in our suitcases.

Want to make your own book cloth, check out this tutorial I put together a few years ago.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Reflecting on 2015

Recently I was using one of my favorite travel apps, TripIt, to update details for an upcoming trip, and noticed a new feature: travel stats for 2015. According to TripIt, in 2015 I traveled on 8 trips, for over 40 days, across 16,138 miles, to 14 cities, in 3 countries. So. Cool. 

It gave me pause, and made me reflect on 2015. This time last year I remember thinking, “Bring on 2015, 2014 was nothing special, one of those transition years. I want to settle in and chill for 2015.” Little did I know that nothing would settle, in fact 2014 was just the preamble. 2015 was the real transition year and would be way more stressful. Looking back, I realize that it was actually a year of incredible extremes. The highs were soaring, and the lows were exhausting. 

2015 kicked off with the worst winter of all my years in Rhode Island. Spring surprised us with having to move from a place we really loved because of an asshole landlord. Summer was spent trying to feel at home in our new place (and honestly, I’m still working on that). Fall brought the realization that all my work stress needed to end and I quit my job (a relief, but also terrifying). 

On the flip side, we kicked off 2015 by visiting Portugal and the gorgeous city of Lisbon. I took way too many photos of people’s laundry hanging out to dry, and I ate more pastries in a week than I did the entire rest of the year. 

In the middle of unpacking boxes from our move, we kept our travel plans made long before we knew we’d have to move, and went to Acadia National Park. Seeing the sun rise on Cadillac Mountain was the perfect, restorative break to bring us temporarily out of the stress and back to reality.  

In the summer, I saw U2 twice, which included making eye contact with Bono while he sang Sunday Bloody Sunday ( ! ). U2 has the most tracks on my personal soundtrack, and tours are always touchstones for me. A reminder that art heals, and each of us can make the world a better place with the tools within us. 

In August, I turned 40 in Peru and saw Machu Picchu with my own eyes. I’m still coming down from that experience and often find myself speechless as to how to even begin to explain it. 

2015 was a bit of a weird ride, and I’m happy to be ringing in 2016. Looking back I realize just how much travel means to me. Letting stressful situations take over is easy to do, and for me, traveling is what puts things back in perspective. I’m so thankful I had such a great travel year, and have such a great travel partner for the journey. 

Cheers to new adventures in 2016.