a textile piece

the art manifesto: part 5

This part of my artist #manifesto is almost as hard as the fourth (welcoming children), but here goes:


In order to create effectively and joyfully, I have to understand where my work begins and where I end. It’s impossible not to infuse my work with who I am, but it’s paramount that I remember that I am not my work. Establishing this boundary enables me to consider criticism, to evaluate, and to be more deeply honest with myself about where I feel vulnerable in my artmaking.

Knowing where my art ends means I must also remember the things I will not sacrifice for my art. These are: my health, my marriage, and my children. The rhythm and balance between the elements can be in flux, but these must always be protected.

a textile piece

Creating boundaries around my health, marriage, and children effectively happens when I communicate needs, expectations, and policies directly and concisely to others, whether I’m dealing with family, clients, colleagues, friends, customers, or anyone else. It also means that use my wisdom to choose my words, timing, and inner circle with care.

Since the internet is forever (and not truly private) I use social media with these boundaries and the good of my family in mind. My particular policies are free to change as my life & technology change, but they remain under that umbrella.

open sketchbook // (c) jocelynmathewes.com

sketchbook excerpts II

When on sabbatical, I often find that I spend way more time noodling around in my sketchbook (and doing other making- and relaxing-related things) than other forms of art.

embroidery detail

With more time allotted for free play, the sketchbook becomes less predictable and methodical. In contrast to my previous pages (limited in scope because of my tools & time in my everyday life), there’s far more mixed-media experimentation and play happening on these pages.

sketchbook layering

I watched myself use my sketchbook differently while on sabbatical; instead of functioning as a tidbit of creative play, I used it to test new ideas for larger works. I’d like to inject more of that into my everyday practice, or at least figure out a way to incorporate the paper-thinking process more intentionally into my overall approach to artmaking.

my children draw

the art manifesto: part 4

One of the trickiest parts of my art #manifesto is this:


No matter the stage of parenting or artmaking, I choose to find ways to welcome my children’s presence, seeing them as assets, teachers, and my greatest creative project.
My children benefit from seeing what I do; it enables them to envision their own careers and paths through life. And I benefit from the presence of my children; they are an external force that pushes me to do the things that truly matter.

my children draw

The rules: keep your children safe, give them ways to be involved (or not) as they choose. Let them be as they are; do not fight against their natures or needs, but remember that they are not in command. This is a delicate and ever-changing terrain to navigate.

Work and life (children) are not separate things. They are dance partners that together create a beautiful spectacle when moving in rhythm, and then appear as one.


the UV light box

You may know my love-affair with the cyanotype process, and the need for intense UV light to make exposures.  But ladies and gentlemen, I can also print with light without needing a clear, summer day.

The secret is in this box:

the uv light box

The box has a bank of super intense UV light bulbs that mimic the rays from the sun that activate the cyanotype process. The benefits of the box are that I can print no matter the weather or season, and the light is super consistent; my exposure times don’t vary.

sliding pieces into the box

And although you can clearly see the sassafras leaf I’m printing with here, I tend to avoid printing with natural specimens in my UV box. For one, I’d rather not set things on fire accidentally, and cleaning up all the little particles of dried plant material from my botanical works is a lot harder in my digital/analog office than it is in my garage.

And thus my seasons of work come into play. In wintertime, the cyanotype printing and work I tend to do usually begins in the computer, with a digital or analog negative.

In a way, I enjoy that the type of work I create is seasonal in this way; I feel like it puts me in touch with the earth. But I do miss the “solar power” part of my artmaking that comes from working out of the garage. Often it’s just too cold, or the light is too inefficient to work that way.

shutting the uv light box

And so that’s where creative adaptive rhythms serve me; rather than fighting against what’s most effective, I can plan for it in advance and know that a different & engaging sort of work awaits me as the season changes. It means I never stop making and practicing my creative exploration, and one method can feed into another. A sort of artistic cross-pollination, if you will.

a view of my desk space

the art manifesto: part 3

The art manifesto, continued:


I’m a particular & territorial person, which does not bode well for many reasons, and can be very ill-suited to parenting young children. But I know that underneath my fierce personal tendency for spatial control lies this truth: you need to protect your creative space.

When you shape a space and make it sacred, you open up TIME as well–time for the particular activity around which that space is shaped. For any creative workspace, one should make it so little else besides your work happens in that space. And it should feel easy and pleasant–beautiful and at the ready (even if “ready” means “messy”). That way, coming to that place becomes an automatic trigger to creatively engage.

a view of my desk space

So while your creative workspace matters deeply, it does not matter what size or shape or particular location it takes. I started working on my bed in my room, long ago. Then I had a desk (and would spread out on the floor or bed). Then, two desks. My space could contract or grow in the future for a variety of reasons, but the key is this: I have a space.

And so I protect my space; I stake it as mine and reserve it for my work. And I enhance my space: I resourcefully surround myself with the setup and the tools I need easily at hand.