Creative Beings Series: Andrew Steinbrecher

Observing and learning from other artists is a huge form of inspiration to me. Artist is a broad term here, because I don’t necessarily mean painters, dancers and writers. I mean ALL “creative beings”; people who follow their heart and do what they love. Enter: The Creative Beings Series! (#creativebeingsseries)

I’ve decided to regularly highlight amazing creative people who do creative amazing things. So without further ado… I introduce a friend of mine since childhood, Andrew Steinbrecher. I hope he inspires you as much as he has me!

drew_latteWho are you and where are you from/where do you live?
Hi, I’m Drew. I live in an old neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio called the Clifton Gaslight District. I moved here to attend college where I studied graphic design. I was born in Pennsylvania but grew up in a small town in Ohio. It’s very easy to live in Cincinnati. The low cost and easy living allow me to live a more bohemian life, have a savings account, and travel, which are all important to me. I wouldn’t be able to do that living in California or New York.

What is your medium? Tell us about your work.
I currently work with fiber, primarily fabric. Most of my pieces are art quilts which are meant to hang on a wall as opposed to a traditional bed quilt. I’m currently interested in how my surroundings, environment and nature can inspire me and how my male perspective affects my work relative to the female-dominated fiber art scene. Because I am self-taught, I often intentionally use the “wrong” techniques and processes. This brings a freshness to the finished pieces since I do not worry about creating a piece the “correct” way.

Why Art?
I have been crafty all my life. I was always cutting and pasting and making things. In high school art classes I discovered I had an interest and talent for design. I wanted to study fashion at university, but someone dissuaded me saying it’s a difficult and crowded field (I shouldn’t have listened). So graphic design was the next choice.

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“Art Line Study 1” by Andrew Steinbrecher

When did you find your specific creative/artistic calling or are you still searching?
At some point 5-10 years ago, somewhere on the internet, I discovered art quilts. Their deceptively simple aesthetic created by fabric caught my crafter/designer’s eye.

I knew the basics of sewing and using sewing machine, but art quilts scared me. I wanted to make one but didn’t know where to start and was too worried it would go horribly wrong. One night, after a few years of self-doubt, I decided to just shut up, let go, and finally do it. What I began that night became my first art quilt titled “Letting Go”.

Making quilts is the one and only thing I do where I don’t worry about or question my choices… it comes naturally and easily to me. It just took me 40 years to find that one thing.

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“Letting Go” by Andrew Steinbrecher

What are 3 things you do everyday? Feel free to expand.
– Drink coffee… one of my favorite things to do every morning is walk a few blocks to the coffeehouse and get a cup of coffee. On the weekends I usually make it at home or get a latte at one of the hipster espresso places in town.
– Knit… I usually find time each day to knit at least a few rows of whatever project I’m currently working on. Right now it’s a cardigan for a friend’s baby who will be 1 year old in October.
– Waste too much time on the internet… at some point each day I get sucked in to the internet and before I know it way too much time has past.

studio_dirtytableWhat are your fondest memories as a child?
Any time my family would travel… from seeing relatives in Pennsylvania to several weeks in California… I loved it all. Traveling at a young age really gave me an appreciation for experiencing and appreciating different locations and people. It taught me important travel basics and gave me confidence to travel and live internationally by myself when I was in my 20s.

What is your favorite form of inspiration?
Traveling, urban decay, huge cities like NYC and London, crisp autumn days, dramatic coastlines where mountains meet the sea.

Best piece of advice for creative people or those searching for their “purpose”?
Just go for it and start. Don’t worry if it’s not good. Nobody has to see any work you don’t want them to. Don’t compare yourself to other artists… remember that you are seeing everyone’s self-edited best work on social media… you don’t see their mistakes or disasters.

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“Tidy Towns” by Andrew Steinbrecher

Quote of the day or Favorite food/meal, you choose:
Korean is my favorite cuisine. I love dolsot bibimbap and kimchi.

If you weren’t an artist you would be…
A personal assistant for a celebrity.

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“Triangle Quilt” by Andrew Steinbrecher

Thanks for sharing your work and life Drew! You can check out Drew’s work at andrewsteinbrecher.com and follow him on Instagram @drewsteinbrecher. (Wish him a Happy Birthday, he celebrated this past week!) Also, if you are a “Creative Being” or know a “Creative Being” who should be highlighted, please send me a note at hello@poeticfood.com!

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The importance of routine

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Artwork from my kid’s school. Uncertain of the artist, but loved it.

So, over the last two months, I’ve had “blog block.” I just made that up. I don’t know if its a common term, but you know… like writer’s block: where you sit down to write and NOTHING comes up? Well for me, plenty of ideas have been popping into my head, but what has blocked me from sitting down to write, is my complete lack of routine.

A few posts ago I spoke about time, and how important it is to make time for creativity and for the things that you truly love; that nourish your soul. As summer came to a close and all things school began, once again, my groove that I had just gotten comfortable with, changed. Our routines can evolve every season, every year, possibly even more frequently depending on what’s happening in our lives. Particularly if you have little kids, routines are like bouncy balls sometimes, reacting differently with each surface they touch and eventually bouncing further and further away. With constant experimentation in new activities, volatile emotions and people falling asleep in weird places, schedules and expectations seemingly vanish like that first, delicious glass of wine.

What do we do?

I decided to make routine building a priority. Awhile back, a friend of mine told me she was getting up at 5am and doing the miracle morning routine from Hal Elrod’s book The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM). I‘m a morning person, so this intrigued me. If you don’t know the book, it basically outlines a morning routine that the author came up with after experiencing some major trials in his life. After reaching rock bottom both financially and emotionally, he decided to take healing into his own hands, and integrated several proven, personal development methods into an hour long morning practice. The routine includes things like affirmation, meditation, visualization, reading, exercise and writing, all based on 10 minute increments (or whatever you decide for you.) Don’t get annoyed, but it totally works. I wake up excited, make tea or coffee, and focus on ME and organizing my thoughts for the day, before anyone else is awake. That is the key, being alone with your thoughts so you can actually process them before the hurricane of the day hits. I did this for two whole weeks straight!

Then… we all got sick. Oh, and I traveled. And then I was tired. Poof, my magic routine vanished again. But, that’s ok! I’ve just realized that this is an ongoing, lifelong project. We experiment with routines, we embrace what sticks and let go of what doesn’t. We evolve. We also forgive ourselves if we don’t do the exact same thing, the exact same time everyday. What’s really important, is carving out a basic structure, or routine, that allows us the time to do the most important things in our lives while providing a sense of ease to ourselves and our families. This includes flexibility and time to get lost… as long as we find our way back again.

For me, coffee with friends, yoga, creative thinking (insert reading, art, writing) and time with my kids is non-negotiable (and they all spawn creativity!) It may not happen all in the morning, it may not happen everyday, but it does happen over the course of every week, and I fight for it. As for the book, I decided to alter my “miracle morning” and try out this precious early time for blogging. Truthfully, (for me) I feel that writing encompasses most of the personal development practices he mentions, anyway. So bam! I’m getting it done!

Summary: routine can change your life. It can keep those things most precious to you close, and allow you to let go of the extraneous. It can save you time from trying to remember what to do each day. It can make your brain work better. It can improve your outlook on life and the world. It can allow your creativity to expand to its fullest potential. Many successful, creative people were/are avid routine followers: Maya Angelo, Benjamin Franklin, Sigmund Freud, Oprah Winfrey, Beethoven, and on and on… check out this fun article showing some of their morning schedules.

And as the sun is coming up, I’m done. Whatever your routine is, “keep calm, and use the force.”

Are you flexing your Imagination?

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Welp, it’s been an amazing summer… full of fun, exploration, transformation and activity. It has also gone super fast and I’ve had little time to dedicate to the blog, or much of anything else for that matter. Kids take priority of course, keeping them busy, enthusiastic and providing those sticky, warm, never-ending summer memories. Or, at least I hope I’m doing that.

I’m sure that many of you share my sentiment about summer. It goes something like this: “Oh, I love summer! It’s so much fun with the kids and they are just growing so much. This time with them is so special. I love vacation and wine on the porch and s’mores and well, I just can’t wait for school to start again.”

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Ahh, yes. Truly it is a battle of emotions. If, as adults, we could play all summer long and had no work, chores, projects, or to-dos, we could completely immerse ourselves in this season of intense play and imagination. We could live right in the moment, in every moment. But, it isn’t like that. So, finding the balance between work and play is key during the summer. It’s definitely a place I haven’t discovered yet, but I’m trying.

One way I’ve been finding balance is by flexing my imagination. I certainly live in the moment with my kids when we are playing, talking or figuring things out, but during those in between times, when I start to feel frustrated that something isn’t done or I can’t get to something… I just dream about it. Yep, good old day-dreaming. (Some may call it visualization.)

I know that when September rolls around, both my kids (for the first time!), will be in school full-time and my days will open up. I’ll have more than enough work to fill the time, but I’ll have the choice and the quiet to think and organize my days as I wish. If I am super productive, I can even tackle a home project or at least plan it appropriately. I literally day-dream about things like:

  • cleaning out my closets
  • creating art for my walls
  • refinishing furniture
  • going to yoga 3 days a week
  • getting a morning routine back in place
  • making fall treats and crock pot meals
  • updating my websites
  • having clean laundry put away in actual drawers

Yep, totally exciting stuff like that fills the void in my creative brain. However, it works. Suddenly, I feel more in control of my life and my plans and I get excited rather than frustrated. Within seconds, I am then back in beautiful chaos land and everything is messy, loud and coated with sticky, summer smiles… but its OK. I took a trip for a few minutes.

We actually all do a lot of imagination flexing around here. My kids are pretend pros and make up worlds all day long, methodically destroying any type of cleanliness or organization in my home, thus, my day-dreaming. At least they’re flexing! My husband recently started playing the piano again. He is teaching himself to play “Imagine” and hearing the music flowing through the house is such a treat for all of us. Everyone wants to play or sing or ask questions about music; pretend play takes off.

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Both kids attended Imagine Camp at Denver’s First Unitarian Church a few weeks ago and loved it. They discussed peace, equality and acceptance while making wish boxes, writing letters to nursing home residents and making tie dyes. There was a lot of imagination encouragement there and I adore that.

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As for me, aside from my day-dreaming, I do have a lot of creative projects stirring around up there in that head of mine. I dabble here and there in notebooks until more time is available, and it will be soon. I’ve also been soaking up ideas from blogs, printed publications and radio. Have you heard about Idea Boxes yet?

The Ideas Box provides individuals and communities isolated by disaster the tools to read, write, create and communicate. Each box unfolds to create a customized library and media center, with internet access and its own power source. Easily transportable, sturdy, and simple to set up, the Ideas Box empowers communities to construct an informed civil society and to pave the way for a self-reliant future.

Isn’t that amazing? I’d love to learn more.
What about you, what kind of imagination flexing have you been doing?

Artwork Wrapping Paper

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We celebrated a birthday this week. It was Dad’s! Well, not my Dad, but the Dad in our house… of my children. I love birthdays. We tend to extend them over the week and do as much as possible to over indulge and make the birthday boy or girl feel extra gooey special.

However, birthday celebrations have gotten a bit “Pinteresty” for my taste. Not that I don’t love decorations and fancy matching name cards (for 3 year olds) and all that designy stuff  that looks amazing. I love it so. It just gets so expensive and time-consuming, both of which are on my “do less of” list, at least during this stage of my life. There’s also a strange phenomenon going on where Moms, who should all support each other, compete against each other on who can make the most Pinteresty party. Haha… ha.. ha……….Sigh. It’s not funny, really.

I must admit, I do get sucked into this Pinterest world at times. We all do. But for the most part, I just try to remember that the only thing that really matters is time spent with one another. Friends, family, tasty food, music and splashes of simple creativity are what truly make a party good.

Which brings me to gifts. I LOVE unwrapping gifts, but feel sad about all the resources used to make wrapping paper when a majority of it doesn’t get recycled. And gift bags, well… I kind of hate gift bags. (No offense gift bag people.) But isn’t it more fun to unwrap a present? And can’t we take the teensy amount of time to wrap a gift for someone? Or if not, just be honest and say, “Hey, I didn’t have time to wrap this, but here!” What’s wrong with humility?? I have gift bags hanging around my house everywhere and I just stare at them, uncertain of what to do. They are too nice to get rid of and I forget to use them so they just add up at their $2-$4/bag price point. Hmm, what could we do with all the money spent on gift bags?

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So how do I handle gifts? Years ago I started purchasing a huge Kraft Paper butcher roll from Amazon. Let’s talk about the cool aspects of owning a big kraft paper butcher roll:

1.) Having a big butcher paper roll in your office is artsy. I love this. It looks cool and is full of possibilities.

2.) Kraft paper is recyclable, uses no inks and always available, for any event or season. Add a ribbon and voila!

3.) It enables creativity. For every gift we wrap, another activity is created for my kids (and me.) They draw, decorate, practice their writing, cutting and dexterity.

Ours may not be the prettiest gifts, but they certainly are the most enjoyable. And of course, sometimes I do use wrapping paper if I see an amazing print for a special occasion. It’s hard to resist. But, I do look for recycled brands like Wrappily. Have you seen them? Simply wonderful and lovely prints! Grab your tissue box to read about the trash statistics, though…

Hmm, maybe I should start a line of eco-friendly wrapping paper…

Disclaimers: I give credit to my sister for this idea. She has used kraft paper for over a decade and is an inspiration for many of my “ideas”.  Also, the Nordstrom bag below was our ‘box’ for the shirt we purchased. I call it “gritty”.

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Ignite Your Creativity | Spark 5: Time

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Hello friends! It’s been about three weeks since I’ve written and I can honestly say that I have no idea where the time went. Well actually, I DO know where the time went, but it just doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. Do you know the feeling?

Suddenly, you take a step back and seconds, minutes, hours, days just… evaporate. POOF! I remember my parents always saying that as we age, time moves faster and faster. Now I completely understand. The question now is, how do we manage this most beautiful, treasured, valuable “measure of events”?

Spark 5 in Carrie Bloomston’s book, The Little Spark: 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity focuses on Time. She says “Ask yourself this question: What am I willing to move out of the way to make room for my joy, ecstasy, and passion?”

Excellent question. For me, time management has always been a bit of a struggle. Not that I haven’t been able to complete tasks and get things done in an efficient manner, but in the sense of my state of mind while doing so. Historically, I have always gotten myself in a bit of a tizzy when approaching deadlines, meeting times, to-do lists, etc. The looming sense of consequence if something wasn’t done “on-time” or even missed, has always been a lofty weight on my shoulders causing anxiety, stress, and an unnecessary tightly-wound me.

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And that was before kids! Having children adds an entirely new level of time management woes. Now, I’m managing four lives instead of one and the daily tasks alone can fill up a full 24 hours. I know you know what I mean. So, what happens to our soul-nourishing stuff? Or even the work that we love and want to spend time on? How do we fit in our personal desires, our joys and passions, with family time, work AND the piles of laundry, bills, dust bunnies, and soccer games?

“Forever is composed of nows.” — Emily Dickinson

What WE choose to include into our 24 hours either fills us up, depletes us or leaves us wanting more. Time is really an illusion, different for all of us, composed of our unique succession of “Nows.” It’s figuring out what those “Nows” are; events/people/projects/passions/work that we want to spend our precious time with in order to feel complete and ultimately, happy. A friend of mine quoted from a book about simplification the other day. The author asked “When you think of your childhood, what are your fondest memories? What you were doing then is probably what you should be doing now.” Think about that. Some of my fondest memories revolve around swimming. That day I put on some goggles and swam some laps. Just me. No kids. Just flowing through the water at whatever pace I wanted… floating, breathing, moving. I couldn’t believe how I felt. It was like someone plugged me in… it was like doing something for the first time. This simple question has really got me thinking about what fuels my creative source and what will fuel my kid’s.

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So what do I take from all of this? That it’s a process. Discovering your routine, your essentials and your “creative happy places” can take time and focus. That’s why I’m three weeks late on this blog and finishing my post at 11:30pm on a Sunday night. I had some unexpected work come up today, but I NEEDED to make time to write about this. The moment a creative spark hits can be unpredictable and it’s our choice whether or not to follow it.

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I also learned a few things on vacation (where I thought I would totally stay on top of the blog!):

– Take vacation and mean it. No obligations or pressure. Really leave it all behind.

– Use social media or photography as a way to notice the little things. I didn’t want to take time to blog, but Instagram kept me looking for moments, images, and interesting subjects I probably wouldn’t have searched for otherwise.

– Only create teasers when a post or project is finished. (See? I’m a couple of days late on this post, geesh.)

– Time away from work is inspiring. Look at everything.

– Spend delicious, rich, deep, juicy, messy time with your family. When it’s time for your personal, creative time, everyone is supportive.

– Listen to your body. React appropriately.

– The Badlands, SD really is one of the coolest places on the planet.

 

 

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Coffee + Creativity

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I am in love… with coffee.

You could say I’m addicted, and perhaps I partly am, since caffeine is a component. But, I know our relationship is much deeper than a surface buzz.

I love everything about coffee. I love the shape, the color, the process, the aroma. I love the routine of making coffee, alone and quiet, with the sun just rising. I love local coffee shops and the people (most of the time) that own them. I love working in a coffee shop and absorbing the energy flowing through it. I love drinking coffee with my husband, on our back porch, while wearing pajamas. I love talking about coffee with my friends: who makes the best in the city, the atmosphere of a shop, flavor profiles, how much we’ve had today, the excitement of waking up tomorrow and drinking coffee…

I love the simple JOY a crafted-with-love cup of coffee gives me. I love being part of the coffee tribe.

My preferred drink is the Americano, black. If not that, espresso roast in a french press. I like it bold, rich, and aromatic. If it’s not that, I’d rather not drink it.

So, why are we talking about this? Because, lately I’ve been wondering how my coffee fits in with my ability to create. I’m sure you’ve seen the contradictory studies on coffee. Some say it’s super healthy for you with tons of antioxidants and focus power! Some say it will make you into a nervous, nutcase and affect your general wellbeing.

Well, I believe there must be a nice, fat happy place in between those opinions/studies, just like with most everything.
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When I drink coffee, I feel empowered, emotionally and physically. When I work in a coffee shop I am much more productive than I am in my home office. I feel like a good coffee shop is like a mini New York City — hustling and bustling with diversity, culture, determination and interesting subjects. Ok, that may be a slight exaggeration, but actually, there is research on the coffee shop atmosphere and how apart from consumption, the sounds alone can boost creativity. Check out this article in the New York Times that describes how the level of noise (about 70 decibels) in our favorite java joints allows just enough quiet for focus and just enough noise for our mind to wander, stimulating imagination and creative thinking. Huh.

The article also mentions a website/team of creatives called coffitivity.com. Coffitivity “recreates the ambient noises of a cafe to boost your creativity and help you work better.” You can download an app that streams coffee shop noise directly from your device, and they even have a premium library that includes sounds from cafes around the world like Brazil Bistro and Texas Teahouse. Say what?

I’m actually doing it right now while I write this. It is kind of nice! Not sure it replaces the actual thing, but I’m willing to give it a try. If only they could stream smells…

What about you? How does coffee fit into your creative life?
P.S. Fun fact: Beethoven counted out exactly 60 beans for his coffee every morning. Maybe he was onto something.

 

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Ignite Your Creativity | Spark 4: The CRAZIES

pf_crazyheadSo I’m behind on my Ignite Your Creativity series… BUT… lucky YOU, because now you’ll get two “Sparks” in one week! Yahoo!
See how I did that? I just turned lemons into lemonade. So satisfying.

The last several weeks have been pretty crazy with the end of school, work and preparation for our two week jaunt across the country. I am so looking forward to traveling, sleeping in and just doing whatever the heck I want while my kids run barefoot in the backyard and the grandparents dote on them from morning till bedtime. One of the things I plan to do is blog more, that is, if I have enough time.

Rut roh. There is that crazy voice again. (Crazy voice: you suck.)

Which brings me to Carrie Bloomston’s book, The Little Spark: 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity. I am highlighting a way, or “Spark”, each week for 30 weeks, and this is week 4 (well really 5 because I’m a little tardy.) The fourth “Spark” Carrie mentions is what she calls “The Crazies”, or rather, the letting go of them.

You know when you get a really good, creative idea and you start to work on it/implement it/explore it and halfway through you start saying to yourself, “Why am I doing this?” or “This isn’t good enough.” or “I could be doing something more practical right now like grocery shopping or dusting the blinds.” Well, all of these things are barriers to the creative process. Sylvia Plath said “The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt.”

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And we all do it, don’t we? So, what should we do? Carrie has a nifty idea. She recommends writing these self-limiting thoughts down on paper so they become physical objects that you can see and touch. Each time you have a case of “The Crazies”, write it down and store it in a container on your desk or work table. Then, the moment you have a sparkly, creative session reach in there, tear up a piece of “crazy paper” and watch how they slowly disappear. Crazies gone forever. Creative You, here to stay.

So I did just that. It’s a wonderful exercise in mindfulness as well. Only when you truly pay attention and reflect on what you are thinking do you realize how much you are thinking about something! And as my yoga teacher says… “Where the mind goes, energy flows.” Ponder THAT today.

See you this weekend… On the Road.

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