Mudholes & Fire Hydrants

A few days ago, in response to “Inspiration – Unbidden Images,” I received a lovely reconnecting email from a woman I met briefly at a women’s conference back East where I was the artist-in-residence. In my reply I inquired about her own life of art-making. She candidly replied that for the last few years she’d felt like a dried up mudhole. She’d immersed herself in other work, setting aside her own creativity.  A woman interim pastor has recently arrived who has been both an art and theological student. Under her influence,  my friend says she’s beginning to feel the mud crust soften. Isn’t that the best! I love this image of enlivening water softly, quietly, welling up from deep within.

That image is in contrast with an experince I had last week meeting with a long-time pastor friend and his director of music who is dreaming of an arts academy outreach for their community. Over lunch, we began to brainstorm about all the different ways the arts might be used. This kind of conversation is right up my alley and sounds something like “and then you could…and then you could…, and then you could….  I was bursting with possibilities and potential. Tom turned, saying matter of factly, “Lori, …talking with Lynne is like trying to sip from a fire hyrant.” …Well, yeah!

But there’ve been times I’ve felt like a dried up mudhole. About six years ago I signed up for a wearable arts retreat a friend had recommended because I was bored making banners the same old way. Since there was no obvious connection between banner-making and wearable arts, I contacted one of the presenters to express my concern that perhaps I wouldn’t be a good fit for the group. She reassured me that I probably would be if I was interested in stretching my creativity.  

I arrived at the retreat center early, sculpted out my little mudhole in the back corner of the room, and set to work painting interfacing for a wall hanging that would be my transition piece into broader banner-making creativity. My crust was beginning to soften. And then the retreat began… forget about sipping from a fire hydrant. Just imagine being suspended in air by a geyser of water gushing from a fire hydrant hit by a car. I was sky high from a collision with creativity like I’d never experienced before.

While there is something soothing about the softening crust of welling up inspiration, there is something to be said about being soaked in the creativity that happens in community – the generosity of encouragement, the abundance of possibility and permission, the emphasis on excellence acquired with assitance, and the valuing of each person’s unique gift to the group. That’s a gusher that’s hard to bottle.

What or who has softened the crust of your mudholes? Have you ever had a fire hydrant experience? If so, what was it and how did it change your life?

I’m enjoying your comments!

PS – check out the links for Diane Ericson and Marcy Tilton  if you want to know more about the wearable art retreat.

3 comments to Mudholes & Fire Hydrants

  • Robin Rice

    Yes, yes, yes. Marcy and Diane are so great for transitions. I met Diane accidentally, and was hooked, switching from quilts to clothing, but not stopping there. There is something about being supported by a group of women. I urge EVERYONE to attend a retreat. This year I made another transition (to writing) and I am on my way to a retreat in Arizona. With the advent of the internet members of groups can “meet” each other on line. I have been writing to the women who will be at the retreat for the past year and I finally get to meet them.
    I found that in the retreats with Marcy and Dianne there certainly was the soaking in of all that talent. At times this could be overwhelming, but the careful, caring and thoughtful way that folks share, help, encourage soon washed away all the doubts. I made life long friends at the retreats.
    xx Robin

  • oh yes, the energy of working in community is very contagious! even frequent hand washing doesn’t diminish the energy.

    sipping from the fire hydrant is commonplace for me. i spent many years reinventing my life after a life-threatening stroke. i think relearning how to live one-handed has taught me how to see all things differently. so, now, when i see something intriguing, my mind automatically sees how it could be different. for example, i see a ball of yarn & i see many ways to use it besides knitting a scarf. my prime time for “seeing” is the instant i wake up in the morning. it’s that instant that i “know” how to solve a sewing problem or how to use an unusual material in my project. this is an incredible gift! my well seems to never be dry. cynthia

  • Martha Jane

    You asked where does my inspiration come from. Well, myriads of places and experiences.
    I get inspired in a clothing shop when I see colors vibrating together on their hangers.
    I get inspired when I walk in nature and see endless patterns of leaves, seeds and blooms
    I get inspired when I open my cabinet doors in my studio and the colors of the fabrics on the shelves stream out to me. and invite me to play with them
    I get inspired reading mesmirizing lines of poetry — Tagore, lately, but also lines from a Celtic source which say “slithers of gold, glory in gray.”

    I get inspired in art and quilt exhibitions when novelty patterns and color combinations seize me and I jot them down in my handy purse notebook
    I get inspired in church with uplifting, heart-warming music that carries me to the heavens
    I get inspired watching the sunlight shifting on my colorful Oriental rug or shifting among leaves outside my window, or candleight flickering against a wall.

    Lots and lots and lots of places, Lynne! Thanks for asking….. Martha Jane

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