Do you ever try something out of chance and discover a great love for making/doing it?
Such is the case with collage for yours truly.
My friend Mullein, of The Monster Ducky Press, hosts occasional Mail Art Club nights. At these gatherings, we help her put her zine mail together and do creative projects with the leftover time.
Due to my job, I end up creating a lot of pretty paper from paint experimentation. As an artist, I love collecting paper. Much of the paper I have is collected from my travels, snail mail, and clippings that inspire me (what you see in the above image). I also am the go-to-girl for dumping your unwanted magazines, especially National Geographic. I ended up bringing a bag of these for making a collage. After a day at work, I didn't feel I would have the mental energy or will to compose and create a new ink drawing, so pasting together found images seemed doable. It would also be a more "useful" role for my collected paper. How fortuitous! What I didn't expect was the concentration and joy from the making of it. It was like a meditation. I was careful, but fluid. In the moment, but thoughtful. Each piece I made that night developed a mood on its own, through the cooperation of text and image.
Since that night, I've made around a dozen collages, each begun without an objective or goal or story. In my normal creative process, I turn over a theme or story in my head and sketch it out several times to see what new drawing I can make from it. It is an energizing process, but requires clear focus and long stretches of time to complete. Collage, on the other hand, is like piecing together a dinner from whatever ingredients you have and being pleasantly surprised by the taste. Everything you needed for a good meal was right there, and it only took thirty minutes.
I've recently read a short book on an interesting concept: ikigai. Ikigai is essentially the Japanese concept of our personal 'reason for being'. In looking for your purpose, an experience to seek out is one in which you feel "flow". The authors of this book reference the ideas of various psychologists helping people live a better life. They describe the findings of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who researched the experience of being completely immersed in what we are doing. "Flow", according to Mihaly, is the "pleasure, delight, creativity, and process when we are completely immersed in life." I see this in small children, being completely absorbed in tracing their hands along a fence they pass by. I think back to my own childhood, to sunny memories of me building small "rivers" and "houses" for imagined fairies in my backyard out of mud, moss, and water. I think to my father, tying flies for fly fishing for hours in the basement. I think to that look in any musician's eye as they are playing, especially when playing spontaneously.
When feeling this way, the wholeness that is being in the moment, it is clear just how important it is. Joy, peace, energy, connection, (all the things that can be hard to experience during this dark & hectic time of year), are one activity away. I plan on putting down and turning off the activities that distract and numb me as this year comes to a close, in order to carve out time for collage, poetry, drawing, and the time with family and friends. What helps you connect and find joy? What is your flow?