Visit my show at the PSCCU Credit Union, Vashon, Washington May, June 2024 

When times feel senseless, work artfully

I woke up early Monday morning enjoying that magical moment before the dawn, when the earth lies resting, undisturbed, my mind is peaceful, and I can reflect a bit before the world wakes up and consumes my attention.

I was writing on the topic, “What does it mean to work artfully?” one that is key to my book-in-the-making. I’m not just talking about making art but bringing a sense of design, wonder, whimsy, or imagination to whatever work one does.

I questioned: Is it about slowing down, working mindfully, or expressing more of one’s self? Are artfulness and creativity different?

After a successful stretch of thinking and writing, I took a pause to check the news. Bad idea!  One mention of the shooting in Las Vegas changed my whole day. My heart howled,  “Not again!”  I was having enough trouble dealing with the trifecta of tragedy coming out of Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico. Almost not able to believe what I read, I sought more news.

I listened to a story on NPR (an announcer warned me it would be hard). They played an audio clip from Las Vegas, recorded on a cell phone, in which a barrage of shots came out of nowhere. For a moment I was there, terrified. Then, I sobbed. Goodbye detachment.

In the wake of tragedy, I wondered: Is it worth it to think about artfulness? My answer was: YES.

Because in these crazy times, we need opportunities to express our imaginative, caring and creative selves and remind ourselves that we’re still human.

Honoring our creative spirit

In the face of so much tragedy, we could let our hearts freeze. Or, we could search for small and immediate steps to remind us of who we are, both ground us and uplift us, allow us to find beauty even in disaster, and keep us connected to ourselves and to each other.

Being artful doesn’t require being an artist or making what others would call art. Many of us practice artfulness by bringing a creative touch to the ordinary stuff that we do daily, and in some small way transform it. Maybe we rearrange our desks or rewrite an email twice to make it more caring and elegant. I’m sure you have ideas.

Beth Kirby on Pinterest

Years ago, I conducted an experiment in which I wrapped my Christmas presents the Japanese way. (In Japan, wrapping is an art form.) I played with new materials, stroked the nubby surface of hand-made rice paper, drank in the colors of ribbons, and adorned my presents with scarves or little objects. The process was incredibly time-consuming, and my results couldn’t match the Japanese, but in taking much, much longer than I usually take, (my average is ninety-five seconds), I was transported. And calmer. And more awake. For me, this was practicing artfulness.

Artfulness at work

How do you bring artfulness into your work?

I’m experimenting. Monday morning, I came up with a new way to transform the ordinary: adding a bit of artfulness to my Twitter tweets. With the same spirit that some of you demonstrated in the 6-word stories you created and shared a few weeks ago, I hoped to add a healing spirit to the often damaging medium of Twitter.

I only tweet a little.  I figured if I was going to tweet anyway, I could add a touch of poetry, whimsy, or reflectiveness to my writing. I even invented a hashtag: #tweetforpeace, in order to send a little message of hope out into the universe.

Will my tweets be noticed? Probably not. Do I feel better for having added this little piece of expressiveness to my day: YES!

A few tweets:

When we hate someone we fuel hate
better to turn attention
to our own hearts

Stillness at dawn. Peaceful/potent. Then tragic.
Why did I read the news?

You may not tweet or go near social media. In your day, how do you work artfully? How can you express just a bit more of yourself in your projects, adding playfulness or elegance to something–just because you want to?

The world needs your expressiveness and imagination, in whatever form they take. Choosing to work artfully is like sending a beacon of light into a dark harbor. And this week, we need that light more than ever.


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