Steps to Focusing
Once I decided to focus on eco-staining, a sense of relief set in and a direction began to be planned. The steps to getting in focus were not straight-forward and structured for me. I struggled with the traditional techniques of planning. Scheduling, list making, and goal/objective planning were steps to focusing that often caused me to trip.
My steps to focusing had to be ones that fit into my natural way of being. Sustainable within my life as an artist, wife, and mother.
Deciding the Focus
Deciding on what to focus was one of the biggest challenges we faced. I say “we” because it does take the support of those closest to you to make this kind of commitment. My husband and I had many conversations about which door to walk through…pottery, mixed media and intuitive painting, or eco-staining. There were pros and cons to all, and of course, financial risk.
It eventually came down to very basic statements about each. Pottery is my personal release and it always felt like creating for volume was intrusive to that feeling. Plus, I broke a ton of pieces traveling back and forth to shows. Mixed media and intuitive painting were mediums that seemed like everybody was doing and, even though each artist created their own work, in my mind it was becoming a medium that was homogenized. I admire the artists and appreciate mixed media and intuitive painting, but they don’t ring true to my artistic spirit.
Door number three, eco-staining, was by far where my heart was, after pottery. Eco-staining is an age-old medium with minimal exposure in the art world. It was personal and ignited my artistic passion while connecting me, as well as my audience, to nature. I had cultivated this art for years when we lived on our farm and it was the perfect time for me to take it to the next level. I never thought we, my art and I, would grow into this amazing journey. It only did so, with focus.
Lessons are learned the hard way.
I remember sitting in my studio early on in this focusing journey and looked over at my glass kiln. It was calling and beckoning me. I had beautiful dichroic glass I added to a recent supplies order and it just was itching to be made into something pretty. I got it out, scored, cut, and designed a beach scene tile. Then I did a tree tile. Then I thought, “Oh this would be a great class!” So then I put together a class…pictures, class description, scheduling, promo ad, etc.
If I had thought before I did and asked myself if the time I would spend putting all that together for the glass class would be worth taking time away from eco-printing, I would have said no. Instead, I went forward like I used to; excited to teach the class and have others enjoy it, but with no purpose toward my goal or bigger picture. It was a lot of time distracted.
I sold my glass kiln after that class.
Then I got rid of a lot of other things. Some things were banished to the garage; out of sight, out of mind. Some things were sold and some things were given away. Boxes and boxes of fabric were given to a local teacher so I wouldn’t get distracted and teach a “Sew Your Own Backpack Class” again. Old fashioned washboards for wet felting were tucked way back in the closet behind winter coats, something us Floridians do not need often. If it wasn’t out in the open calling to me, I was better focused on my goal.
Scheduling and structure do not equate to focus in my world and that was an expensive lesson for me to learn. I continually bought hard copy planners, books, and activity journals that were specifically orientated to achieving creative dreams. Nothing helped and I found myself wasting more time trying to fit my life into those little boxes instead of living my life my way but with my style of focus.
I had to identify qualities of myself that were authentic and learn how to gear all the energy of those qualities to my goals. So I went back to my journal and reflected. It was okay to “rachellesque” the situation because I am the one accountable. It’s not school. I do not have to show my planner or lesson plans to anyone. The only one that has to be able to function successfully to attain the goals is me.
Through reflecting and writing in my journal, I found confidence in my traits, whether or not they were considered good by others. For example, I do not like time. There aren’t any clocks in our house. If you want to know the time, look at your phone. Because we are not allowed our phones “on stage” at Disney, I wear an iWatch when I show at there for the single reason that I get notifications if my kids call or text.
Me trying to fit into an hourly schedule, or breaking tasks into 2 hours slots, is ridiculous. It just doesn’t work. I work from my home studio. I do not punch a clock. I can work when I want, however long at a time I want, and I can break away to go get coffee or a cocktail with a friend, whenever I want.
Mind mapping is another technique I put back into play. I taught mind mapping as an organizational tool to writing essays and doing projects when I taught middle school English. As a homeschooling mom, I used mind mapping to intertwine themes and topics across disciplines. We unschooled and didn’t use set curriculum, text books, or workbooks. We believe the world is our classroom, and engaged in authentic learning. Mind mapping helped me make sure that the kids were exposed to certain elements while they were naturally learning.
Once again, in my journal, I would start by writing a keyword somewhere and branching out my thoughts. I could add, cross out, rebranch a direction, etc. It is a working technique that allows me flexibility for the continual flood of ideas but plots them into play with my focus. If those ideas don’t fit, then they don’t go on the mind map. If after a while, some ideas don’t make sense, they get replaced. It works much better for me than a linear plan with concrete steps. I am a creative, after all.
My Eco-Stained Journal is a useful tool in more ways then I have already mentioned. It is my sounding board, my brainstorming companion, and it is my voice from a different perspective. When I write, I change. I evolve. Never again will I be the same as I was when I wrote those words. By having those thoughts written down, I can look back and see what I was thinking and analyze the path I took between then and now.
Since I began this journey of focus, I have grown. My journal is my evidence of growth. I don’t write diaries. They are not word for word accounts of what I do. My journal writings are reflective and descriptive. I get inspired to write and when I return to read them, I get inspired in a different way. That inspiration keeps me focused on my goals.
Getting Off Track
Then there were times when I got off track, even more so than the glass class episode. After two years of showing my eco-stained art at Walt Disney World, one of the merchandising consultants found out that I was a potter. It was over a casual discussion about a display piece I wanted for my journals and I said I would just make it out of clay. “What?” he said.
Well, after I told my history of being a potter, the merchandise buyer then got wind, and asked me to do a production of pottery for the next EPCOT International Festival of the Arts with live demonstrations on the pottery wheel. And still present my eco-stained art.
I know better. I really do. But, I said, “Yes.” And I was excited about it. Really excited! Until a couple of months into creating all those one of a kind vessels while still finding time to switch creative gears and make my eco-stained papers. Without my undivided attention, creating in both mediums resulted in pieces I was not completely proud of and I felt like I sacrificed my artistic integrity.
From January to May, I showed seven days a week, with only a break of 9 days between festivals in February. I was playing constant catch-up trying to complete pottery pieces and eco-stained pieces to display. I was stressed, exhausted, and more than ever, felt defeated. Needless to say, they were not successful days.
That experience was, however, the kick I needed to reevaluate. It made me take the plunge and not only regain my focus for growing my eco-staining art, but investing money into building a business that wasn’t under anybody’s control but my own.
The launch of my new collections and the ribbon cutting of my new website a couple of weeks ago, brought my dreams to fruition. I am now selling my Eco-Stained Journals, Stationery, and Wall Decor completely online. I still continue to work 15 hour days, but they are from my studio, my purple chair, or the coffee shop down the street.
It is definitely a challenge. I have to constantly redirect my thinking and hold true to my focus. I have had to say no to opportunities and suggestions that may look like good opportunities to someone else, but my experience tell me are more distracting than beneficial.
Recently I have made two very definitive redirects after asking myself if the opportunities supported my goals. I did waste one entire day- 15 straight hours, on creating a “how-to” tutorial for an art project before it hit me that what I was doing was exactly opposite of my intention with my eco-stained journals. The other one came after a couple hours, a discussion with my husband, and the realization that going in that direction would put me right back into the chaos I was rising from.
Recap of How to Get In Focus
This is a rather long post. I guess somewhat symbolic of the long journey of focus I am traveling. If you would like to trying implementing some of my experience into your journey, I have listed the four main keys that exemplify getting in focus for me.
- Distraction Free Zone
Get rid of everything around you that is “calling your name” to distract you. I do not mean kids or significant other. Although if they are, try to work out a way they know you need distraction free time.
What I am talking about are projects and the like. I am getting ready to donate four huge tubs of baby clothes that I have been keeping to make quilts for each of my kids who now are ages 16-24. That isn’t going to happen.
Ask yourself, “Does it support my goal?”
Answer honestly. I recently read an article on social media and business posting. They said to ask yourself if the post you are considering putting online one for vanity or one that is relevant to your audience. I never thought of it as vanity before, but now I see that interpretation and it really helps in deciding if something supports my goal.
- Mind mapping
Identify a keyword or keywords for your focus and branch off from there. Mind mapping is free thinking and free form; no numbers or lines. It is a visual way to organize those concepts that do support your goal.
Reflect then write. Journaling will help you focus on where you’re headed and see how to get there. It is your mirror. When you see something in a mirror that you don’t like, you change it. When you like what you see, you go forward. Your journal is a place to reflect on changes you need to make as well as see the beauty in what you do.
The hardest part of my day is at the end of it. Stopping. There is always more to do and there is always more that I think I need to do…at that moment.
Now that I have my art focus on track and beginning to bloom, I have to work on regaining some personal and family focus.
I think that keyword is going to be “Beach!”
For a little more backstory, check out my post from August 9, 2019… Journey to Focus.