Outside the Lines in Ashland

I just completed a week in Ashland, Oregon at a "Design Outside the Lines" (aka DOL) retreat.  Spending time with, as one retreater put it, "the force of nature" that is Diane Ericson, along with the amazing Holly Badgley, the generous Gwen Spencer and a whole passel of gorgeous, talented women, has given me a whole new appreciation for the concept of a "trial balloon."

I've never been much of a 'pattern follower' to begin with, but the approach that Diane encouraged us to try pushed that idea even further.  We started in the middle and worked to the edges, we made fabric first and let it suggest a garment, we stuck our heads through armholes and turned collars into hemlines...No 'right or wrong'...no 'up or down'...no grain lines...just "Yes!"

Me and Holly
Diane and Gwen

Each day we spent time learning about the inventive techniques that Diane and Holly use in their work, we had time to try them for ourselves, we worked on our individual projects, we got help and coaching from Diane, Holly and Gwen, but also from each other.  We shopped in lovely Ashland, we ate wonderful food, enjoyed Oregon wine, strolled in gorgeous Lithia Park, looked out on Grizzly Peak and absorbed...the atmosphere of the place, the inspiration from our mentors and the creative spirit of the group.

Gorgeous Lithia Park
Some shops even let us take photos!

It's not difficult to describe what we did, however, it is extremely difficult to convey what happened in Ashland.  It was different for each person, but in each case it was transformational.

I went to DOL expecting to see wonderfully creative garments, true works of art...and I did!   I also expected to learn new things to incorporate into my work...and I did!  What I didn't expect was to find my tribe!  The emotional connection to a community of makers.  It was magical.  We spoke the same language, we admired and understood each other's work, we explored and celebrated our innate need to create.  It was powerful, empowering, affirming...it was AWESOME!

My lovely room and table mate!
Lately I have been struggling a bit (OK a lot!) with what direction my creative life (OK my whole life!) is moving.  As my time shifts from the obligations of a career and a work life to the less structured schedule of being a 'retiree,' I am noticing a shift, too, in how making stuff happens now and what that process means to me.

When Diane asked us, "How much meaning can you get out of your passion?", it struck a chord.  Making stuff has been a constant in my life.  Most often it has been my respite, my mental health break from whatever crazy was going on in the rest of my life...and that was meaning enough.  Now, with the opportunity to spend more time creating, I am craving a different level of meaning from my work.  I don't know what form that 'meaning' will take, or when it might show up, but right now the question is enough.  Acknowledging the desire for more meaning and being available to receive it...patience...hmmm?

Another 'exercise' that Diane suggested was to look back at our own creative path.  Look at how our work has 'matured.'  I realize that I don't make the same stuff in the same way that I used to, but I attributed it to changing styles, not necessarily to 'changing me.'  The idea of 'maturing' as an artist and creator will be an interesting concept to explore.

I am writing this on the plane as I make my way back to my Michigan life.  My brain is full, I am tired, exhilarated, inspired, chomping at the bit to be back in my own workroom...but mostly I am grateful.

Grateful for the time away, for the challenging questions to wrestle with, for my tribe, and for the invitation to find new meaning in my creative life.

........and... put a bird on it!

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