Sibling Discovery: our first independent goals

After more than a year of Sibling Discovery conversations—having covered nearly all the prompts in our zip-top bag—my brother and sister and I agreed that these monthly discussions are good for our art, good for our minds, and good for our relationships. The Sibling Discovery Project lives on!

But we decided to move away from shared prompts. Instead, each of us will pursue whatever work we choose in order to advance our artistic goals. We’ll keep our cadence of monthly meetings. In fact, we’ll move from phone to video chat. (Thank you, Google Hangouts.)

As transition to this new format for our discussions, we spent our July 5 session talking about what we’re doing now, where we want to go, and how we can support and encourage one another.


At the end of June, I caught up on blog entries about the Sibling Discovery Project. In one weekend, I wrote and published 11 posts. This was a lot of work, and I regret waiting so long. But there was value in that “mass posting”—particularly for Norma.

“I was reminded of so many great starts and concepts I developed through our work together,” she said. “Now I know to pull them out again, and re-enter the work.”

As an artist who prefers to work on multiple project at once, Norma has begun thinking of this process as “spiraling on,” because “when you work in spirals you can re-enter with a different perspective. Spirals have energy.”

She’s excited about mining her supply of existing patterns and designs—such as the grape motif below. At left is the design’s original use: appliquéd into a massive church banner. Now, Norma has reinterpreted the same design on a much smaller scale as a stencil. The center and right images show her work in progress on a small tablecloth for outdoor entertaining. (Wine on the patio, anyone?)

By revisiting an existing design, Norma found opportunity to experiment with scale and technique. What’s more, she discovered a way to capitalize on past work for an entirely new market.

This sort of experimentation will inspire Norma’s future work. But at the moment, her time is largely consumed by a commission to design and produce a year’s worth of paraments for a high-profile worship space. With the design work mostly finished, the rest of 2013 will be more about production. Given the scale of the pieces she is creating, this has prompted her to rearrange and rethink her small home/studio. “I’m creating lifestyle and income,” she said.

Now that she’s been working as a full-time artist for a year, Norma is certain: “I am called to do this work [for churches]. I will also do the other work [garments and home decor] so I can do the paraments and stoles.”

Norma has also discovered that she needs to make and wear her own clothing. “It’s fuel and a way for other people to see what I do. And it makes me happy, too.” She’s working on a striking coat for fall (and one for me, too!).

GOAL THIS MONTH:  “I’m going to get out stencils and silk screen and apply motifs to scarves and runners.”


In June, Paul attended the International Woodcarvers’ Congress—an event he looks forward to each summer. “For several years, I was doing massive carvings,” he said. “But you can’t finish them in five days. So the last two years I’ve been working on a smaller scale with a different instructor.” As a result, he left this year’s congress with these two pieces complete and ready to mount:

Paul sees this three-quarter format as another option to offer his customers. Unlike a standing sculpture, this type of flat-backed carving can be mounted in a picture frame and hung on the wall.

But new options for the buyer can mean new challenges for the artist. “Changes in the product change the market strategy,” Paul pointed out. Most of his carvings can be displayed on shelves. Wall-mounted works will require different space and merchandising—problems he will have to solve.

In addition to these works from the congress, Paul had a productive month of carving. He continues to work on boxes, which have entered our Sibling Discovery discussions a couple times in the past few months (see Soil and Potluck).

Beyond woodcarving and his day job carrying mail, Paul planted an enormous garden this summer. This garden is the size of a football field, and it’s right next to the road. “It’s a huge commitment. And it’s very public, so I’m almost OCD about the weeds,” he said.

Paul has mentioned before that he doesn’t keep any of his carvings. He sells or gives what he makes.  He does make things for himself and his family: a big bookcase last year, a rebuilt row hoe for his garden this year, wooden spoons to surprise his wife from time to time.

All of us were raised to value and produce both the utilitarian and the beautiful. We know there is space for both.

So Paul recently invested in a much more personal piece: a painting of his own hands and forearms at work on a carving, produced by another local artist. It hangs in a gallery right now, but eventually will find a place in his home.

GOAL THIS MONTH:  “I’m going to my UFO (unfinished objects) bag, and I’m going to try to get six projects out of it, ready for paint.”


And me? Well, I’m continuing to explore daily creative discipline through Make Something 365; I’m supporting several corporate clients through Spencer Grace; and in the past week I’ve nearly finished a major overhaul of my business website.

But there’s something missing. I really want to be a published author. I stop myself before even beginning, under the guise of not knowing my point or purpose. What would I say? What the hell is my message?

I suspect my core message is about being authentic and creative. And because I’ve been a prolific writer for quite some time, in journals and blogs and other formats, I probably have the makings of at least one book, if not several.

What am I afraid of? Success? Or failure?

I recently read an HBR blog post by Dorie Clark, who talked about finding your personal narrative. Among other bits of wisdom, she offers this: “You’ll only find your voice, and your authentic brand, by seeing what stories matter to you most.”

So, with nudging and encouragement from my siblings, I made a commitment to read through the 366 poems I wrote in 2012 and organize the very best into a book for publication. As I review the poems, I hope they will tell me what my message is.

I am going to depend on my siblings to help me get this done. I need them for accountability. We discussed how much easier it is to be accountable to someone else. I can always put myself off; but Norma and Paul will be relentless. So I will use their loving pressure to make progress on my poetry book.

GOAL THIS MONTH:  “I’m going to create template for a poetry book and get at least one chapter’s worth of poems into that format.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s