Creativity in Small Bites

The other day, I stumbled upon an itty bitty shop in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Seattle. The storefront of The Aviary is so diminutive, you might miss it if you blink. It’s attached to a hip and happening store called Blackbird, a very Merry Mishap kind of place. On the sandwich board for The Aviary, it said “A Creativity Shop”, and in I went.

I found a small, but thoughtfully-curated selection of pens, notebooks, art supplies, books and unique paraphernalia to “stimulate right brain activity”. I bee-lined for the notebooks and pens, and eventually found myself gushing about paper thickness and pen brands with the owner. Gushing is probably a bit of an understatement – I was unleashing my obsessiveness and nerdiness for all things stationery-related onto the poor man. He totally got it, though, and asked me if I drew or wrote.

Awkward silence.

You see, I rarely talk about my journaling habit or this blog. Many of my friends don’t even know these things about me. Even with people who do know, I get all sweaty and weird and stammer-y when the topic comes up, as if I’m trying to hide a substance abuse problem. Which is strange because I love talking about sewing and am pretty okay with the drawing/arty bits. Maybe it’s because I feel like there’s just so much of myself in my writing and this blog space that I kind of seize up with nervousness.

The owner gently began to tell me about why he opened the shop. He talked about how he believes everyone is creative and that kids are the very embodiment of creativity. They seem to have an irrepressible need to just explore ideas and to make things.Β But often life circumstances or someone’s criticism or a personally perceived sense of artistic failure or even just growing up — any or all of these many things places creativity to the wayside. He wanted to offer a space that wasn’t overwhelming that still had enough variety in wares to spark that interest in drawing/writing/painting/sculpting/playing again. A starter kit, if you will. Or even a re-starter kit.

He talked about a six-year-old girl who bought her first paint set with her own money. About a woman who wandered in reminiscing about how she used to paint and just stopped. About his own attempts at drawing.

For someone like me who’s read a jillion creative self-help books and has tried The Artist’s Way and failed to get past chapter two multiple times, this wasn’t life-altering information. But what struck me about him was that this shop was clearly a passion project and I really liked his small-bites approach. And I felt happy and safe in that shop.

“That’s why I started my blog!” I blurted out. And it’s true. I am exceedingly good at procrastinating and I knew that if I had a blog, I would feel motivated to take baby steps to try all the Pinterest-y things I’ve always wanted to do and get back into the creative groove. Sure, it would only be my mom who would see my brilliant progress from novice to quasi-expert in washi-tape crafts, but she’s been watching me try odd things all my life and it’s part of her job description.

While we’re on the subject of trying odd things, have I ever told you that I was in latch-hooking club in elementary school? For those of you not familiar with the craft also known as rug-hooking, it involves a tool that looks like a seam ripper with a hooked end, and using this tool, you weave or “hook” pieces of yarn onto a webbed, grid-like woven base. It was truly as dorky as it sounds (at least when you’re in the fourth grade), and I have no idea why they offered it because there were three members, tops. Even three members seem remarkable, now that I think about it. But I wanted to learn how to make rugs, and found the process to be relaxing and surprisingly fun. Let me tell you, I could latch-hook like nobody’s business, Β though my completed projects were hideous. At any rate, I knew early on that I wanted to make things, but all those reasons that the owner mentioned had stopped me. I think The Aviary might be onto something.

The images above show a small collection of my various art supplies: gouache paint, watercolor cakes (in stunning gold, silver, white and black), a tiered rack with acrylics and more gouache. I got the sketchbook from the shop and the paper quality is amazing (purchased pre-analysis of my budget, obviously). I’ll show you what I’ve done with the bug sketches tomorrow!


11 thoughts on “Creativity in Small Bites

  1. i love that you draw and journal… i draw on everything- and end up mostly drawing people… though i can’t draw boys for some reason… boys are way to hard for me πŸ˜‰ just last night i was drawing a lady on the back of an old bill, and my daughter asked if she could color her in for me. so fun- it made me feel less weird to have her on board with all my doodles! πŸ™‚ p.s. the bugs are AWESOME.

    1. I have a hard time drawing boys too, Erin! I once got commissioned to draw a portrait of two boys and I totally botched that one. Would love to see your doodles!

  2. I feel like I’m on the same wavelength as you. Although I don’t show a lot of my art on my blog. I’m self conscious when it comes to that. It’s nothing fantastic- just sketches and quick paintings. But I have no problem showing off things I’ve sewn. The blog definitely keeps me motivated. Granted I do work in one of the most creative and inspiring fields around- teaching kids to make art. But sometimes I need a push to make my own art, too. Also, when people in real life ask about my blog, I get all flustered, too. I usually reply with some excuse about how I have no life and am a big dork πŸ˜‰

    1. Haha! I tell people that I don’t have a life too (which sadly, is accurate). I think it’s wonderful that you’re an art teacher, Liza Jane! We need more of you in the world! I’ve also experienced that when you’re always teaching it may be hard to create your own work, but I have a feeling you’re going to be an incredibly inspired and inspiring mama creating all sorts of art, sewn and otherwise. πŸ™‚

  3. i’ll take a little bite of The Aviary too, please.
    and your drawings. and photos.
    your post has cheered me up no end
    as of course i suffer from the same maladies . . .
    (and of course i tried rug-hooking at elementary school too:)


    1. You’re a kindred soul, Xenia! I don’t know anyone else (other than the two kids who were in the club) who has tried rug-hooking :-). And yes the addiction to paper + pen + wanting to make and make and make…yet feeling shy about talking about what we make…

  4. I love this post! I was just telling a friend today that sewing, and photographing the kids, and writing words down on a white screen…it just feels so natural. I just do it, I don’t think too much. But I also don’t share my blog with many and would feel a little naked if I knew so-and-so found it. It is the creative bit that is changing my entire day, although I don’t identify myself as ‘artistic’ or ‘creative,’ even while I’m infatuated with photography and sewing. Odd, right? What is that all about, anyway?? Whatever it is, I’m glad to have found this little world of people, including your very creative space!

    1. So funny, Monica – I totally agree that it feels so natural and it’s so lovely to discover like-minded folks. And you are most definitely artistic/creative! I love your photos and sewing creations. Did you save the shorts and vest? I wish I had saved the rugs…I remember using a lot of clashing colors and I think unicorns may have been involved…

  5. PS: I went to sewing camp in fifth grade. I made plaid shorts and a matching vest. Then I didn’t sit in front of a sewing machine again for 20 years…

  6. What a great story! Every word he said is true, though. Everyone has creativity locked inside. We just need to find a way to release it. I like this man, I may have to make my way to the Aviary and go meet him. Naturally, I’ll also have to bring my husband, the paper lover, and my 3 year old creativity master with me. Thanks for the fabulous review πŸ™‚

  7. As that “owner” of The Aviary, I was so happy to see this post- when you have a store that has a mission beyond “selling stuff” it is so nice to know that passions and stories matter.. rug-hooking? I had not thought of my lil shop as a metaphor for a bite sized approach to creative expression but I do now

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