After I reviewed the book, Creative Strength Training, I got connected to Jane Dunnewold. She was kind enough to answer some questions I had. Jane is an amazing person. Interesting, too. The winner of the drawing is at the end of this post.
Quinn: This book looks to me like it was written from a lot of experience and need for creative strength training. What made you want to write this book?
Jane: I knew in my gut that strategies I’d taught myself – to face down all the issues I talk about in the book – Work. I’ve been as depressed, and itchy uncomfortable with my own fears about production level and talent/ ability – as anyone could be. I’ve suffered my share of failures – including marriages and a bankruptcy.
I’m self taught, so I’ve been rudely dismissed by “real” artists – particularly by former bosses in the art school where I worked for ten years. But the rebel in me kept getting up and going at it again, because I didn’t see any other choice. My mantra was basically, “Oh yeah? I’ll show You.” Being hard wired that way taught me a lot about what it actually takes to be an Artist. And then I realized the same strategies Creative Strength Training embodies are what make for a satisfying life in a general way.
When I got over myself and started looking clearly at the people in my classes, I realized I could teach color, surface design and textiles, but building creative stamina was the most important thing I had to share. So I recalculated – and began talking about it. Four online classes later, it was clear my strategies had energy. I consider it a gift to have worked with Tonia Jenny, my editor, to make the book a reality.
Quinn: Each year, you teach a number of retreats. What do you like about teaching?
Jane: I was originally going to go into the ministry, and then I was going to become a psychologist. What I love about teaching is that when I set an atmosphere that is safe and accepting, and then allow the workshop to be organic (in the sense that I have a plan, but it’s a fluid one) participants settle into being “themselves.” There aren’t any elephants in the room.
I often start by asking how many in the group are first born. It’s amazing how many people who study with me are first born. So I talk about birth order and we laugh about bossy first born children, and then we talk about the peacemakers – the middle children. Then we talk about the “babies.” It’s light hearted and everyone laughs, but my underlying message is that we all have a right to be there, and we’re going to talk about crazy life issues as much as we talk about color or screen printing. It’s an open topic, “let’s get real” setting and people are hungry for this sort of creative reality.
Quinn: What’s the last creative retreat you attended, and what did you learn from attending? (This doesn’t have to be a technique.
Jane: I haven’t taken a class or a workshop anywhere in 20 years. I guess it’s the “no shoes for the shoemaker’s kids” kind of thing. I’m always working. However, I DO spend considerable time studying the many thought-provoking teachings of Caroline Myss. Her writing on archetypes, the aligning of Christian, Judaic and Eastern Mysticism, and the possibility of sacred contracts, for example. My favorite “retreat” is to spend a weekend cloistered at home, or with my good friend in Asheville NC – listening to audio recordings, writing, and talking about the ideas and principles Myss proposes. I find it energizing and have generated more than one series of my own, based on concepts I’ve learned from her.
Quinn: What is magical about fiber—your chosen medium?
Jane: Well, of course it’s the color and texture and tactility of fiber. But more importantly, it’s the connection to generations of women who found much of their expression of creativity in manipulations of cloth. Clothing, quilts etc.Other avenues weren’t necessarily open to them.
So they were guerrilla artists behind the scenes. I love the idea of that. The Rebel in me secretly thinks, “we don’t need no stinking’ painting. we got cloth!” Might sound nasty, but it’s true!
Congratulations to Mary at StickWithMary.com! She’s the winner of the book. My thanks to all of you who participated. Jane is all smiles, too!