Welcome to The Harbour January 2020

The Harbour

I am here to grow. 

I am here to challenge myself. 

I am here to get to know myself better, 

to learn, to deepen my creativity. 

This a year to explore. 

It will take work. 

I need to get engaged. 

I need to write, draw, hook, play. 

There is a lot to be discovered. 

A lot to be uncovered. 

 I am ready to begin. 

And each month I will begin again. 

Welcome to the Deep Dive. 

 Welcome to the Harbour.

Each Month there will be Six Sections:

Art Escape / A video lesson on creativity & design.

Red Couch Diaries / Interview with myself and            another creative soul.

The Book Club / Recommended reading and 

    video about the book.

Navigating the Waters / A reading from my books. 

Deep Dive Activity / you will be given an activity to enhance            your creativity.

The Village / A private Facebook group where you can connect      and chat with each other about the activities.

Introduction to January
Self Expression

Finding your Groove, Developing a Creative Practice: 

This course is about deepening your creativity so that your rugs become art. It is about creating a practice that lets you take time for your work. 


It is all about time. The time we give ourselves, the time we devote to what we love. How we spend our time is a real indication of what we want out of our lives, of what we are passionate about. 

Over the years I have developed a practice that is more than just hooking rugs. For me it looks like this: 

Prayer - ten minutes a day (this could be centering or meditation) 

Walking - 40 minutes a day 

Hooking- an hour a day…or longer 

Drawing- once a week…or sometimes less 

Writing or Journalling- ten minutes to an hour a day 

Reading- an hour a day 

This is the routine that I aspire too. I do not beat myself about it if it does not happen for a day or two. However If I see myself slipping out of this routine though I do admonish myself a bit and remind myself of the importance of it. My routine, and my lifestyle of living well will feed my creativity. Rug hooking or painting , and making most things is a very physical activity. Even though it seems sedentary, it requires lots of movement and stretching. If I hook for several hours I know that I did something. It requires me to be in good shape, to take care of my body, so I walk to stay in shape. The walking also feeds my eyes with beauty and gives my brain a rest and a chance to wander freely at the same time. 

I am flexible. Sometimes I hook for ten minutes a day and walk for sixty. And sometimes I draw everyday for a week and then do not draw for two weeks. I have a routine but it is not steadfast. I make room in it to feel free to make other choices. 

For you it can look like any combination of these things, and other things that feed your creativity. For example yours might be:     

15 minute work out 

Cooking a good meal each night 

Ten minutes of deep reading in the morning 

If you work full time you might have to build it around your work. For example you might draw for ten minutes at lunch time. If you are on the phone at work a lot you might keep a doodle pad by the phone. You can listen and dow at the same time. Can you walk at lunch, meditate for five minutes before you start work, or take the stairs to your office. The real question is what can you do to build things into your routine that fuel your creativity. 

There is no “right” routine. 

There is no magic recipe. 

There is just self care. 

Some people I know travel, others cook. Some might play a sport or an instrument. It is different for all of us. The important thing is to know what it is for you. What routine allows you time to make, to be creative, to find new ideas? Think about this and create the practice that works for you. 

There are things that feed your creativity. 

There are things that suck it dry. 

This month start watching your routines. Maybe even jot down the things you do regularly or consistently. Take note of your habits and think about how they make you feel. 

Things to Ponder..

When do you feel that your creative spirit is being fed? 

When do you feel that you are getting tapped dry? 

I can honestly say that certain activities wear me out. For example administrative meetings tire me. They are often scheduled and planned and interrupt my creativity and this just knocks me off my path. I also don’t enjoy highly structured events where I have to sit for long periods of time. I like to move. I know that these things drain my creativity more than add to it so I limit them in my life. 

Sometimes limiting them means that I do not please others. I am prepared to do that for my work. It means a lot to me. Obviously, I am willing to compromise at times for people or projects I care deeply about, but generally, I do not set up meetings or attend structured events. When I do it is because it is very important to me or someone who matters to me. There is nothing wrong with choosing less of the things that quell your spirit and more of the things that ignite your spirit. It is what we must do. Don’t feel guilty. 

On the other hand I have got more good ideas walking or while taking a short trip than I can count. Physical exercise and being exposed to new things fires up my creative spirit. They make me want to get back to the studio. 

Self understanding is at the root of creativity. It is at the essence of all good art. It is in fact both the purpose and the meaning of art. We need to know ourselves to put art and beauty forth into the world. 

There is no need to be strict about your routines unless you know that you respond well to discipline. I am disciplined about working but I might prefer one activity over the other on a particular day. That works for me. And remember even a daily practice gets skipped sometimes. You just need to be regular with these things. You need to choose the things that feed you, make them a practice and add them into your life. Be as ritualistic about as you can be, but do not miss out on a moment of inspiration or beauty because it is time to meditate. Be in the moment as you develop a routine that feeds you. Being present is the point after all. 

Please find a journal for this class that you keep as you practice the lessons. Through out the course I will be asking reflective questions that I want you to think about. It may not seem like it but all of these things are related to the rugs that I hook and they are all habits for me, some more habitual than others but they are things I go back to again and again. 

Creative Habits 

It is not hard to do all these things or any combination of them once you create a habit. It is believed that if you do something daily for thirty days you will create a habit. Twila Tharp, the dancer wrote a whole book called the Creative Habit about how building things into your routine will lead you to making art on a regular basis. It makes perfect sense. 

Things to Ponder..

What are the things that feed your creativity? 

How can you incorporate those things into your routine?

This month, our first month in the masterclass we will be focusing on self understanding. Years ago I did a masters degree in counselling and one of the best parts of doing that was what it taught me about myself. It helped teach me to think about the way I think and to think about the way I see and how I understand things. That was a long time ago but I still carry these lessons into my life and my art. I can hardly distinguish between the two. It is not like having a job. My art is just my life. The studio is kinda like a farm I guess. That is the only thing I can liken it too. I have never once felt like hooking a rug was a chore. If I did feel anything like that I got up and walked away. Because my life is so much about my this getting to know myself has really served me well. 


Over the years I have thought deeply about how I grew up, what I knew, what I saw. I have remembered everything I could and I still try to remember more. That means I have explored deeply my relationship with my family, and with the place I grew up. I have thought, and I continue to think a lot about certain themes that I have stood out in my life and these themes have recurred again and again in my work. My work is built upon my life, it’s themes have come directly from my experience and my inner self. 

One example of this is the theme of belonging. When I was sixteen, my parents left Newfoundland and moved to Nova Scotia. I left with there willingly but in truth my psyche was dragged away. Once I got in Nova Scotia in grade eleven my sense of belonging was shattered. I was lonely , shaken and depressed. This lasted for several years and the loss of belonging was never really established again until I was in my forties. I know it is because of this that this theme can be seen again in my rugs. Sometimes the themes emerge in the rugs and I am lead to self discovery. Other times I think about something in my life and am lead to the rug. 

On another level altogether, I have had a love affair with trees and blueberry fields here in Cumberland County Nova Scotia. Self understanding is not only about excavating what was hard for you but about exploring what was good for you. At a poetry workshop with Minnesota poet Robert Bly, he asked us to write a poem about your parents and something good they did for you. That writing workshop led me to all kinds of beautiful ideas. 

All you ever have to give your art or your craft is yourself. It is the only thing that will ever really help you develop any style. Style is what makes your work uniquely yours. That is why we just begin with self understanding. 


Who are you? 

Who am ? 

What do I love? 

What do I have to give? 

To me these questions are far more important than any technique I have ever learned because they lead me to discovery and discovery is the place where all art begins.

Art Escape

Each month I will come to the frame unsure of what I will make. In doing this I will show you my process, the steps in it that I don't even notice. I will be going to the frame blank and seeing what emerges, as I create a small rug from start to finish. I will talk my way through it, explaining the steps as I go , and why I am making the decisions I make.

Red Couch Diaries

We all need real life, sit and have tea kind of communities. It is important to reach out to real people, spend time with them and be inspired by them. These are real conversations, informal shared experiences, the kind of company I need to keep to sustain and invigorate my creativity. These people have inspired me in some way.

The Book Club

The Book Club Reading is one of the most important parts of my art practice. Sometimes it is a novel that carries me away. Sometimes it is a book to study. Since I began as an artist I have gotten so much good advice from books. Here I will tell you about some of the books that have been important to me, encourage you to read them, or to find your own. Ideas are the seeds of creativity and books are the gardens of ideas.

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

This book is one of the first books I remember reading that spoke to the artist in me. 

I was in my twenties. I had no idea that I was an artist. I just had this compounding desire to make rugs. Every time I made one, I wanted to make another. As I was making one, I was thinking about the next one. 

I know you understand this. This love of making. 

This tiny book had a profound impact on my work. 

I was just starting out and I was sending pictures of my work off to galleries for feedback. I was looking outward for someone to tell me I was really an artist. I was so unsure of my work. 

Everywhere he spoke of writing, I just substituted making rugs in my mind. 

When I read this book that was written so long ago it made me realize that whenever you start to make art, no matter what your age, the same questions come up. We are all uncertain but we have to go forward and carry those doubts with us. 

I never related a lot not Rilke’s poetry, which he was famous for, but I loved the honesty and openness in these letters. They seemed so raw and personal and I felt as they were speaking right to me. I have read it several times since, given it for gifts and really cherish my original copy with notes in the margins. Every time I open it and go over those notes, I feel the same certainty about the advice and lessons that I got in the beginning. 

Who was Rilke? Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) was born in Prague, which is located in what is now the Czech Republic. He had an unhappy childhood and was sent to military school in the hopes that he would become an officer. At a young age it was clear that he would pursue a literary career and by twenty he had published his first book of poetry. He travelled and lived and worked throughout Europe, mostly in poverty. Paris was his main home base. There he met and married a student of Rodin’s . For a time he worked as a secretary for Rodin. In a later collection, “Letters to a Young Painter” he speaks about his admiration for Rodin. 

This book, Letters to a Young Poet, that I love so much and influenced me so greatly was published in 1929 after Rilke’s death by Franz Kappus, a minor writer who had written to Rilke while he was a student at the same military academy where Rilke had gone. Kappus was holding Rilke’s collection of poetry when a former teacher of Rilke told him that the poet had been a student of his. Perhaps this connected them. 

The letters were written between 1902 and 1908 with the young Kappus asking for advice on his work. Rilke refused to give him any amount of criticism, except telling him that he lacked individual style and instead of focusing on the young mans work, he gave him advice on how to be an artist, how he should think, feel, and love the world around him. Kappus, himself never gained any fame for his writing. He mostly pursued his military career but to his credit continued to write and later in life as a newspaper editor. He never achieved any lasting fame but to me that is unimportant because he did continue to write books and screenplays with his last novel being published in 1949. One assumes that he carried the effect of these letters with him all his life, and his publishing of them has effected so many more artists. 

Here are sixteen lessons I found in the letters: 

1. The purpose of art is to clarify the beliefs you hold dear. 

2. Rather than look for criticism develop your own sense of judgement. 

3. To make art you must go inward, into yourself, into the source of your being. 

4. Nature is an important place to find inspiration for your art.

5. You can use themes from everyday life. If you do not think that your everyday life has anything worth expressing than                     change that. 

6. Love books, and you will be repaid over and over. 

7. Take time to let ideas grow in you.” Everything is gestation and bringing forth.” 

8. Love the questions, live the questions, more than seeking the answers. 

9. Love your solitude and savour it. It is a home for you. 

10. As you grow appreciate where others are in their growth, don’t look down upon them, know you were there once. 

11. “There is much beauty here, because there is much beauty everywhere.” See what is around you. 

12. Observe things as a child does. 

13. Really loving another human being is one of our most difficult tasks, the task which everything else we do is in preparation          for. 

14. Difficulties and sadness pass, and when they do something new enters us and we become changed because of them. Do                not be afraid of them. 

15. We are not alone in our sadness. Even those who comfort us have experienced the same. 

16. Art is a way of living. 


Navigating the Waters

I think of all the words I have written over the years and they are like navigating the waters of my life. Sometimes when I reread the work it feels just like I feel now and sometimes it feels like I used to feel. I am sometimes surprised by a beautiful sentence or thought. I am so happy to have this record of my life. Whether it was in a published book or a journal I am glad to have these words to come back to. 

Deep Dive Activity

It is time to take the plunge. I have done these kinds of activities for many years. I find that I do some of the same ones over again years later and find different answers. It is my belief that we make fundamental changes in ourselves about every ten years. Self understanding is one of the keys to self expression. One enhances and buoys the other. 

The Village

This virtual Community is a place to share your rugs, your questions with other people who have committed to their creativity this year with you. It is a place for you to communicate with each other, express your ideas and experiences with the activities in the Harbour Class. 

The Village: The Harbour Masterclass
Private group · 2 members
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The Village Conversation with a Community Member: 

A Creativity Coaching Call

Each Month we will talk to a participant in The Harbour MasterClass. If you would like to be considered for a creativity coaching call with me, send your phone number to Angela at dfstudio@eastlink.ca and we will choose eleven more participants through the 2019 course. This month I talk to Lynn Kinsella from New Brunswick and our conversation reveals some interesting thoughts about building a creative community and about what goes through our mind as we hook.

Until the Next Tide...

Self understanding, as we learned, is not always about the why; it is not about navel gazing.

It is about the what and the how as well. Dr. John Maxwell, a beautiful teacher on leadership says that.." reflection turns experience into insight."  It is our insight that can lead us to deep creativity. Keeping a journal and questioning yourself, thinking about the way you think, is at the root of creating. Self understanding is as simple as thinking about where you grow up, the landscape around you, and the people you know and love. It is about gaining some clarity about one's life. 

I hope you will carry forward each of these lessons into the next one and let them build on each other. 

I have spent twenty five years deliberately cultivating my creativity. It takes energy and focus, and it started a long time ago with getting to know myself better. Self understanding is not something you can just do and it's over. It is not like a self assessment. We change, we grow so it is an ongoing thing. Personally, I find about every decade some very fundamental changes in myself. Sometimes these are just developmental, part of our human nature. Other times they are because I have learned, read, changed interests, started new activities. The questions of "who am I?" and" What do I love ?" remain as relevant to me today as they did twenty five years ago when I first started asking them. We don't arrive as human beings. That is what is beautiful about our life. There is no point at which we should finish growing. There is always room. 

Next month we'll be starting a new topic. Over the next twelve months we will be carrying these lessons with us into our daily lives, our hooking, and we will grow because of them. 

Thanks for being a part of the harbour. Putting this lesson together has got me thinking about how much I have changed, and how much further I have to go. 

My 30 Questions...

1. What is your why? 

2. What do you think about when you are alone? 

3. How did you grow over the last year? 

4. How do you want to grow in the next year? 

5. Tell me some of your favourite words? 

6. What makes you feel loved? 

7. What makes you feel small? 

8. What do you love about your closest friends? 

9. Who do you love? 

10. Who knows you well? 

11. How good are you with a secret? 

12. What do you dream for 2020? 

13. How are you in the quiet? 

14. What are your favourite colours? 

15. What do you want out of life? 

16. What holds you back? 

17. What motivates you? 

18. What thing in your home do need the least? 

19. What thing in your home do you need the most? 

20. What thing in your home do you value the most? 

21. What is it that you cannot tolerate? 

22. What book is meaningful to you... Why? 

23. Who would you call if you needed to tell a secret? 

24. How did you spend your day yesterday? 

25. Who inspires you in your community? 

26. Who inspires you in the world... Why? 

27. What did you love about your childhood? 

28. Tell me something good about yourself? 

29. Tell me the good things you remember about your parents growing up? 

30. How do you like to dress?

Curated Content: Helpful Links

You can read the Rilke book online here: https://epdf.pub/letters-to-a-young-poet.html 

 If you would like to listen to more about the book try this podcast; On Books Podcast:  https://onbooks.libsyn.com 

Tasha Eurich's TedTalk on self awareness turning your why to what.  https://youtu.be/tGdsOXZpyWE

January Art Escape, 8" x 8" Rug