An Appropriate Lack of Efficiency - For Tasha

I'd never had a guru. The mere thought that I would need to stop thinking for myself and blindly follow another is against all of my most fundamental values. In spring of 2007, however, Tasha Tudor became my guru. I had hit burnout at an all time high that spring. Work was going extremely well, yet I was sick of the frenzy of deadlines and weary of having to keep up. My mother had given me Tasha Tudor's video "Take Joy" the Christmas before. In my typical stubbornness of not liking to watch or read things upon which others insist, I was happy to receive the gift, but I still hadn't popped it in the VCR.

It must have been a lack of any other intelligent life in the studio that day. I must have already watched all the Britcoms and mysteries I'd recorded, and I remember thinking, "Maybe I'll see how other artists cope for a change." I grew up with only one of her books, although I always loved her illustrations, and as an adult became fascinated with her seemingly bizarre lifestyle, an 1830's farm and farmhouse complete with a well pump in the kitchen and a wood burning oven all by choice. There was footage of her drawing and painting, feeding her chickens, taking care of her goats, walking barefoot through her garden. Long before Martha Stewart made New England home keeping cool, Tasha was having afternoon tea in an outdoor room of blue forget-me-nots walled by trees and roofed by sky.

It was Tasha's own description of taking (not merely trying to find) joy in everything she did that hit home. I knew if I were to keep at it, I could only do so by being fully and sensually immersed in whatever I did. Suddenly the act of making a cup of tea felt important, the act of making bread vital, not because these things needed doing, but because I needed to feel the doing of them. Suddenly, I had new ideas; my right brain was kicking in full force not quite so hampered by the perpetual critique of my left. My experiences a few months later would forever shut off my Statler and Waldorf left brain banter.

Yesterday I began my day flipping through The Tasha Tudor Cookbook, having forced myself outside with a cup of tea. While this all sounds like a lovely relaxing way to begin a day, the reality is that I've been working so much that I seldom leave the house, and have become concerned about vitamin D deficiency. The tea was an herbal blend with wild cherry bark that soothes my chronic bronchitis. Just reading through Tasha's descriptions of the significance or occasion of each dish brought me back to that place of importance.

So often I'm doing the non work or non parenting tasks with as much speed and efficiency as I can summon in order to make more time to take care of Skyler, finish my book on chain-making, finish commission work, finish new work in time for Christmas, apply to upcoming shows, manage DVD sales, manage Russian filigree supply kit sales, and volunteer for SNAG all in the midst of painting and rearranging Skyler's room. October is always extra busy. What reading the cookbook reminded me of was that taking a deep breath and paying attention to making a cup of tea doesn't make it take any longer. It's not just a "stop and smell the flowers" kind of thing. It's more about enjoying what I'm already doing, which may not make me feel like Super Efficient Super Mom, but I'm less stressed by the frenzy of packing in so much. At that moment I'm making tea, at the next I'm writing, at the next I'm hammering cuff links.

The USA's pathetic economy and its fast paced, throw away culture drives me to be as efficient as possible with the Bronze Age technology by which I work. It's all well and good to create art in the flow and never pay attention to clocks... until the mortgage payment is due ... until it's time to go to the grocery store ... until it's time to pay the health insurance with a deductible so high I never go to the doctor. Still, there is a point at which finding creative ways of assembly lining the making of chain links can turn into being overly sequential with a day's to-do list of pieces to be finished, a point at which efficiency sucks out all the fun and, ironically, slows me way way down.

There is a strange disconnect between work and income that must stay in place for me to experience the flow of ideas. I make what I love and it sells. I can pay attention to what sells where and how soon, but there must be a kind of firewall between such savvy and the flow of ideas to create. Nearly 20 years of making and selling visual art have taught me that if I do not take joy in the processes of idea to concrete form, I will not make what I love, it will not sell, and I will literally be a starving artist in every sense of starvation, and there is no efficiency in going hungry.

From now until 13 hours later when I will likely collapse from another day's tasks, I will focus and remember that I enjoy what I'm doing instead of feeling rushed and frazzled by it all. I'll feel the importance of the acts of making tea or lunch or a necklace or helping Skyler find a way to build his new monorail over his latest train system that will still leave a small path for the middle aged grown-ups to navigate the den. I will remember the importance of creating and enjoying beauty in all its forms even in the midst of having to form so much.

I was devastated a few months ago when I learned of Tasha's death. I can only hope that when it is my time, others will think of my life as I did hers, a life well lived.

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