Ecuador has allowed me to evolve as an artist in ways I hadn’t thought possible.
However, in the past creativity involved more sweat and effort than I bargained for. Joseph Campbell tells us to “follow [our] bliss,” but sometimes that happiness is an illusive devil, one who plays a game of hide-and-seek with artists—offering a smoke-and-mirrors, difficult-to-grasp promise of meaning and beauty.
Inevitably, the creative process gets going with a glimpse—one that takes my breath away—but only for a second—gone almost as soon as I see it—almost before I see it. Sometimes I see it from behind just as it turns away—departing—leaving—gone. Sometimes I see it obliquely—out of the corner of my eye—illusion, phantom, dream.
For me, creativity involves chasing that illusion. It means making that fleeting image real, actualizing it, so it stands still long enough for me to touch it, feel it, know it in a tangible and transformative way.
And I’m learning new techniques for accomplishing that.
So, in light of what I’m learning and remembering about myself as an artist, I thought it important to share a few photos of how that transformation has happened for me in the past—especially since Sara and I are getting ready to teach a workshop here in Cuenca, a class about applying the creative process to transform furniture, especially pieces that might otherwise be considered more trash than treasure.
I hope you enjoy the photos below, because, you too, can undertake these kinds of projects, most of which are sustainable and good examples of green design.
More than two years ago, I found this table on the side of the road. It had been left out for garbage collection. I was able to upcycle it into something semi-amazing.
With some sanding, painting, and decoupaging, I transformed it into this.
Another coffee table I designed started out looking like this.
And in the end, it looked like this.
When we lived in Haiti, Sara purchased a raw wood table from a man selling them along the side of the road. Again, using the same techniques, I created this.
Sara did the next two tables, creating the checkerboard pattern from paint and photos of flowers from our garden.
Sara transformed unpainted wooden stools (purchased at a market in Cuenca for around $5 a piece) into stunning pieces of art.
(Note that this kind of project is simple. If you can hold a paint brush, cut out an image, and glue it in place, you can undertake something similar. And even if your hand isn’t steady, using masking tape to protect adjacent areas while you are painting the surface of another will create clean, crisp lines.)
Originally, the stools looked like this one.
But here they sit, in our Cuenca home, today.
Also in Haiti, I transformed a “bar” that had survived the earthquake. At least part way through the creative process it looked like this. (Sorry. I can’t find a photo of the bar in its original state, but it was entirely white.)
But I remade it into this.
A number of years ago my first furniture transformation project tackled an old, classroom chair that, when completed, was donated to a fundraising auction for an arts organization in Lexington, Kentucky. In the end, I called it “Meowy Christmas.”
Finally, and more recently, I recreated two raw, wooden chairs we purchased in Haiti, brought back to the US, and eventually transported to Ecuador. Originally, the chairs looked like this.
However, I transformed them into this.
Remember. You, too, can enjoy the transformative power of art. And these kinds of sustainable pieces can decorate your home, as well, whether you live in Ecuador or not.
(If you live in Cuenca, however, we hope you’ll consider enrolling in our April 14th-18th workshop, as it will teach you how to undertake these kinds of projects. If you’re interested and would like more information, click here. And to LIKE our idiomART Facebook page, click here)
Have you ever undertaken any kind of creative project that was especially meaningful for you? How has the creative process worked for you in the past? Are there any unexpected ways you’ve been creative or had creativity impact your life?