Toward the beginning of my serious calligraphic studies, I took both of Reggie Ezell’s year long workshops. Veteran calligraphers had long dubbed Reggie’s year-longs as trial by fire via dip pen and ink (and dry pigments, watercolor, gouache, gold leaf, gum Arabic, real vellum, etc.). As a total newbie, I kept my head down and pretended I knew what I was doing when I had no idea, which was most of the time. Whenever our in-class work time or our painfully brief breaks were nearing the end, Reggie would announce what was coming next by channeling a bit of his West Tennessee roots and teasingly say, “Ok, class, we’re fixin’ to get ready, so put away everything on your desk and get out the following tools…”
“Fixing to,” or rather “fixin’ ta,” if uttered in the true colloquial form, is among an extremely long list of Southern oddities. A friend of mine once told a friend of hers from France that she had to end their telephone call because she had to fix dinner. Her friend from France asked, “What’s wrong with your dinner?”
Every culture has its somewhat untranslatable expressions. My favorite is the French “Je ne sais quoi,” which means “that certain something” in English but which literally translates as “I don’t know what.” Another is “Mai pen rai,“ an all encompassing Thai expression used like the Spanish “de nada” to indicate “your welcome” and also meaning, “Don’t worry, everything is ok.” The French “Que sera sera,” (what will be will be) reminds me of the Arabic, “In sha’Allah,” (God willing), which was always one of the most well meant but annoying things to hear over and over whenever I’d try to make dinner plans in Cairo. I always bit my tongue in half not to impolitely reply, “Yes, got it, but fatalism aside, can we meet at 7:00 PM?”
But I digress…
“Fixin’ to get ready” is such an integral part of my creative practice that I could turn it into a near full time job, coupled with my vain attempt at a zero email inbox to round out that 80 hour work week. – But, please don’t stop emailing! – One day this week, I spent more time book shopping online than I ever get to spend actually opening and studying any of the 800+ books in my studio, which is what got me thinking about my time tendencies.
What I term “studio nesting” (this includes book, tools, and supply shopping) runs a close second to painting for the visceral thrill of pure process enjoyment. Some people build better mouse traps. I find better ways to organize more books, supplies, and tools in small spaces. My earliest recollection of doing this was around age five or six. I carried all the cardboard kitchen appliances and furniture in my playhouse to a space outside it in my backyard and only kept the things inside that would support my pad of newsprint paper, tempra paints, chunky brushes, crayons, and pencils. From that moment until I was too tall to fit in the playhouse, every day I spent in my childhood art studio began with rearranging my supplies, if not the whole arrangement of small furniture that was left. Fixin’ to get ready was my ritual.
There is a point, like with the book shopping, that fixin’ time usurps making time (should that be “makin’ ” time? Yikes, perhaps not.), and what is it about my spacial relations super power that makes organizing pencils, pens, and dapping blocks and punches such a deep and satisfying thrill? Did I miss a career as a closet organization consultant? If you saw my bedroom closet, you’d probably say that’s a resounding no.
Perhaps it’s that finding a better way to organize things within reach secretly triggers the knowledge that I’ll have room for even more of my beloved tools of the trade. Perhaps, it’s because moving them around triggers ideas of what I could make with them that I might not have otherwise thought of. Perhaps the ritual embodies my delicate balance of chaos and order that lies at the heart of all I make. Perhaps all of the above. Perhaps the ritual simply fixes the fears of getting creatively suck. As long as there is so much stuff in here, stuff I can reach and find easily, a scary blank page will always be dwarfed by the endless possibilities of what I might make of it.
I’m fixin’ to get this post ready to go out now.
In Other News from Lake Victoria
If all has gone according to plan (does that ever really happen?!?), then you may notice a slight refresh of this website. No major changes on the front end, but 4 long days worth of back end customization that, going forward, will be far easier for me to create more changes you can actually see. Translation, I changed my WordPress framework from a Genesis child theme to a Kadence child theme.
When you’re looking for things, in the menu bar, their locations may have shifted a bit, but hopefully this will soon make things more streamlined. Not in the sense that PayPal decided to make creating shipping labels easier a couple of weeks ago and made me fire them in favor of other payment and shipping gateways. Eek! Why is it when people make tech easier, they usually just make it harder to use?
If I’m guilty of that, please forgive me, and email if you can’t find something. I absolutely do not want to be responsible for anyone’s urge to hurl a device out a window.
The main changes are on the home page, and if it’s confusing, it’s because I haven’t learned where everything is yet either.
When I haven’t been painting, book shopping, or rearranging things, I’ve been teaching Eastern Repousse online to a fabulous group of people who have embraced all things hammered in relief. Teaching online has freed me up to offer so much more information and demos than I ever could even in a week long class. I’ve always said that learning from me is like taking a sip from a fire hose. However long I’ve got, however much people absorb, I will cram in more as long as I think they can utilize it.
For longer formats like Eastern Repousse, which I teach in 6 sessions over 3 weeks, I can get an idea of something else I’d like to include, put together the images and video footage, and share it the next session. The downtime between sessions and the ability for students to access and rewatch my class demos for 30 days after the class ends, means I can tailor the topics each time I offer them to help students level up even more than in person.
That’s a long winded way of saying that I have no plans to go back to teaching in person. Yeah, I know. Some people will be disappointed. Others may be thrilled to know that next year is full of workshops with new and more advanced classes planned for the future. Another session of Eastern Repousse Online will happen in February via Silvera Jewelry School.
Three cheers for the big silver lining of my staying home, and if I have any travel ability left in the future, Italy, Spain, and the Caribbean, here I come.