Creating Space

I’m taking a little break from talking about book-making in this post. I’m busy making heads.

My Studio, Workspace

My studio is a bright and sunny upstairs bedroom. The walls are covered with eclectic art by friends, family, and people whose work I love. Antique furniture holds up my printer and scanner. Two large drawing tables: one where I sit to paint, the other with a straight edge for laying out boards and cutting. A tall, old industrial table that grew up in a factory or post office, its wooden surface scared with repetitive stamping, is where I work on my computer, write, and take care of business.

But for the past several months, as I walked to my studio each morning, I paused at the door to our guest room. The room began calling to me… “Jennifer… here is someplace else you can go… a place to make… make things… anything… create just for fun… make art just for yourself…” And so I compulsively moved furniture (with Joe’s enormous help). I shopped in our basement of inherited treasures and I made my nook. 

My Nook, Creative Playplace

After ordering art supplies online, I now sit at my highly impractical little desk and make paper mache heads. And it feels… so… good. As a creative I believe we are not just one thing. “Illustrator”, “Author”, “Quilter”, “Painter”, “Photographer”…..etc… And I believe that being paralyzed in this Pandemic and frozen by a Polar Vortex, I knew I needed to do something for the pure joy of creating. 

I have always wanted to make three dimensional characters, but struggled to figure out what to do. Long ago, after taking a class by a very famous doll-maker, I made some armatures. But, I dislike sewing if seams are required to be straight and functional, and I soon realized that my dolls would be naked. 

I thought I could sew birds. Fun boro stitching with bits of embroidery here and there. But the fact that my bird needed to be stuffed with something and stand on legs, proved too tedious and technical for me.

And so, here I am… in my nook. Making paper mache heads. I sit and stare out the window in a meditative state as my hands shape the clay into a nose, a beak, an ear. I will incorporate my love of ephemera, decoupage, antique bits and bobs. All that quiet thinking has given me an idea to perhaps fix a picture book flaw and I’m inspired to make the ‘long trip’ over to my studio and work on that… maybe tomorrow? This passion to create just for fun reminds me of a terrific movie that I watched and highly recommend on Netflix called, The Creative Brain. You can watch the trailer here.

When I spoke with Jill about wanting to do this post, she told me that she has ferreted out a creative space of her own. Where she can sew, and paint, things she hasn’t done in many years. And I’ve noticed on Instagram, many illustrators and authors that I follow, are suddenly posting little clay creations, embroidered book covers, paintings, and ceramics. There’s no big— FOR SALE sign on them. It’s just a simple gift of show and tell. The need to create. The need to share. The need to nurture something that has been buried, hiding, and maybe even a little bit broken. 

Have you rekindled a creative calling? Carved out some crafting space of your own? If you haven’t, that is absolutely fine. But if you have, I would love to hear about it. ❤️

Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Jennifer is the illustrator and author of several acclaimed picture books. Most recently is Always by My Side, 'A Stuffie Story', which she wrote and illustrated. She also is both the author and illustrator of Playing Possum, and Blue Ethel. Jennifer illustrated Gondra’s Treasure, written by Newbery award winner Linda Sue Park. As well as, Sometimes You Fly, by Newbery medalist, Katherine Applegate. She illustrated Yaks Yak, Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park, The Inventor's Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford, by Suzanne Slade, Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons, by Alice B. McGinty, and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig, by Chris Kurtz.

34 Comments:

  1. I want to be in that space and watch you work your magic. Pretty please.

  2. Lovely new space! Thanks for sharing how we can be more than one kind of creative.

  3. Hi Jennifer,
    Thank you for sharing your creative, sacred space and the treasures your handmade treasures. I’m so glad you posted this. I too have found it crucial to branch out and explore our creativity if only for ourselves. I have been experimenting with cold wax and pigments for awhile, just to see what I can create. It has opened up so many possibilities. This time of solitude has also inspired me to rearrange my entire house to simplify and declutter. I now have a “Book Nook” right near my studio, with all of my beloved books. Happy creating Jennifer. And thank you for your inspiration. I look forward to watching the Netflix recommendation.

    • It was so nice to see your comment, Dorothia. I have been thinking about you. I have always known that there is a real spiritual connection in your work. It shows in it’s honesty and beauty. I do hope you’ll watch the movie. I found it fascinating and hope that you do, too. We certainly need to search hard for the silver linings during this difficult time. I’m happy that exploring a new medium and creating special space in your home are definitely some of them. xo

  4. I’ve just started the #inktober52 project, where we use pen and ink (and I add my pencil) to create a drawing based on a prompt. It’s been so invigorating to do something besides “words,” a different branch of creativity. The other night I finally dug out my embroidery stuff and stitched a daisy on a hole in one of my shirts. It is so refreshing to “play” and give our brains a break to go out and be creative somewhere, somehow else. 🙂 LOVE the bird heads, btw.

  5. Jennifer, what a beautiful space you have and I love those heads. I do believe that creativity is in our bones and if we aren’t able to do one thing, it will come out in other ways. The first couple of months after my shoulder surgery, I couldn’t do much physically but music was the balm–singing Byrd Masses or listening to Handel’s Messiah. I enrolled in Julianna Baggott’s Jumpstart class 3 wks ago and it’s lovely getting back into the writing world.

    • I’m glad that listening to music was able to help you heal and I hope that you are well mended! That’s terrific that you have started the Jumpstart class and I’m happy that it’s inspirational and motivating! I forgot to say that I am also sort of doing the #the100dayproject mostly because I started my project when it started. I’ve been going to my nook everyday, but not posting daily. Thanks, Vijaya!

  6. How I love this glimpse into your space(s), Jennifer. As you know, I’m totally on board with stretching ourselves into any creative opportunities/whims, that every creative endeavor feeds every other creative endeavor. Wish I’d learned that sooner, but better late than never!

    • Hi Jill! I think we need to be kind and supportive of ourselves, and of our colleagues. Making art should not be about being the best at it. It should just be about having the passion and confidence to express yourself and your ideas. I’m so happy that you’re finding that now, better late than never!

  7. Oh, how I love those bird heads, Jennifer!! I will definitely check out “The Creative Brain!” –thank you!

    Right now, with a new pup, I haven’t been able to try any new creative pursuits, but I love the idea of working with my hands–I get some of that from baking. Last year at this time we were preparing for a move, and I didn’t have time to write, but one thing that kept my creative brain limber was re-decorating and designing–it helped to sell our house, and I had fun in our new space re-decorating too.

    Love your cozy, eclectic and creative spaces–perfect for making stuff of all kinds!

    • I love seeing your new pup and all the joy he brings you. I do hope that you can watch that documentary. It’s quite enlightening and inspiring. I hope that you are settling in and can soon get back to your brilliant writing! Thanks for visiting. (glad you like the heads… wip)

  8. What a great studio and nook! I can tell they’re great places to be creative.

  9. It’s funny how stress changes us, even while we still create. When the pandemic began, I took time away from the novel I’m writing and wrote poetry instead, nothing for publication, just for me. When my cousin died of Covid, I was asked to write his eulogy. How could I work on a novel? Next, I made notes on characters (based on my cousin) for a possible future work. It is now in the drawer, and I am finally back to my novel again, but I do not write in my cozy second-floor office anymore. I’m not sure why. Maybe the solitude I used to crave is too solitary. I write at the kitchen table, the heart of my home. It works for now.

    • Kathy, I’m so very, very sorry for the loss of your brother to Covid. It was generous of you to share your story and I’m grateful to know it. I do find it fascinating to have compared stories with artistic friends over the years. Sometimes tragedy has creatively frozen me and at other times it has made creating my refuge. I was interested to hear about your shift in what space you’re in to create now. This terrible time has altered us all in so many ways. Thank you for sharing, and again, my deepest condolences.

  10. Love your studio and your nook!

  11. Thanks for sharing this. Creativity can only flourish if you let it.

  12. Thank you for your thoughtful post, Jennifer. Decades ago I taught papier mache techniques, so completely understand the deep satisfaction you describe. For me, it’s gardening…and taking the time to look closely and then photograph some of the small wonders that reveal themselves. It saved my sanity well into November…. but now we’re buried with snow, so I’m picking up my ukulele more and teaching a friend how to play over Zoom.

  13. How inspiring. I’ve been plotting to recycle some books into altered books with gesso and a fresh page to collage, bead, and put words upon. I’ll stop plotting and start doing. Thank you for sharing. Love the birds.

  14. Thanks for a peek into your creative spaces. They’re beautiful, unique, and inspiring.

    • Hi Dee, I really like seeing where people work and so I always just assume that everyone enjoys it, too. I also know that as much as the sleek, sterile, perfectly organized spaces are not appealing to me…. my messy, eclectic, chaotic environments are certainly not for everyone. But— they’re me. Thank you! 😄

  15. Jennifer, I loved reading about your extra-author/illustrator pursuits! I, too, have transformed a guest bedroom–into my sewing room–thanks to a Murphy bed and a pull-out cabinet with my sewing/serger machines. I’m not an illustrator, but my creative side draws me to sewing, crocheting, and playing piano. These activities keep me from pulling my hair out with each rejection of my manuscripts.

    • Mary, I believe that you mean that your creative activities keep you from pulling out your hair while waiting for the acceptance phone call?

      The waiting is terrible. And being able to make art just for yourself, no matter what kind of art that is, is so important and inspiring. I do hope that you, and many who visited my post today, can make time to watch the movie, The Creative Brain. It really is fascinating and validating.

      Thank you!

  16. Janet Frenck Sheets

    I love seeing where authors and illustrators work. I’m thankful to have an unused room waiting for me to turn in to a workspace. There’s something invigorating about having a room that’s completely “you,” no compromising required.

  17. Just wow. Those are two amazing space. Inspiring!

  18. I love this post, Jennifer!! And I love seeing your beautiful work/play spaces. I can feel the creative energy! My creative space is the garden–the physical work and fresh air help clear my mind and sometimes generate new ideas. Luckily it’s warming up here so I can get back to it soon!

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