The Creative Brain
Staying Creative During Distracting Times

Sunday Salon: Sitting Down With Dawn Goldsmith


I recently connected with Dawn Goldsmith, a warm and talented free-lance writer who authors two excellent blogs: Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles, and WordsoGold.  She requested a guest interview with me about Ancient Artist for her Subversive Stitchers blog, and I agreed, but only if she returned the favor and let me post about what she is writing about, what inspires her, and how synchronicity plays such a valuable role in her life.  I think you will find her as warm, generous, and inspiring as I did. (Viewing Tip: you can easily enlarge the type on this blog by holding down the CTRL key while pressing the +  (plus) key several times.  To reduce the size, use the CTRL key and the - (minus) key.)

100_06651 I'm a nut about synchronicity, and where it leads me. If I pay attention and ACT upon the messages that come floating into my life, I am enriched!

My Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles blog is an act of synchronicity. The title came to me for a piece of fiction I 'needed' to write. But the novel didn't come together. I didn't want to forget the name. I didn't want to lose the connection it gave me to stitchers throughout the ages. Madam Defarge, Ruth McDowell, the line of women on both sides of my family tree who made utilitarian quilts with their prayers and beliefs and messages stitched in them. The Red Cross Quilts and Temperance Quilts and Abolition quilts and myths of Underground Railroads, and the symbolism of quilts including Celtic quilts. Quilts have offered comfort in every war. Every disaster and illness. I like to be connected to that aspect of quilts as well as the beauty they offer. Even ugly quilts are beautiful. And then there is the community of fabric lovers, not just quilters; fabric and yarn seem to bind us together in a community of extreme caring and generous spirit of sharing.

I knew quilts and I were to walk the path of life together when I hung my grandmother's 'fish and baskets' quilt on my living room wall. My boys named it 'fish and baskets' because one of the baskets turned sideways and looked like a fish. It reminded them of a Sunday school story and reminded me of Grandma's belief that nothing should be perfect. I imagine she turned that square sideways to achieve imperfection. One night I could not sleep, it was a full moon and the living room was nicely lit. I glanced at the quilt and it was different. The fish and baskets were gone and in its place I saw Greek urns and a different pieced background. The moonlight reacted with the background fabric making it step forward and the baskets disappeared into the shadows. I awoke the whole house to see the transformation. None of us look at quilts quite the same way after that.

So the Subversive Stitchers seemed a natural progression after a few essays sold to Christian Science Monitor about Real Men knitting and going to quilt shows. These are still my most favorite personal essays. I would love to do a full series of real men essays - of course the 'real man' is my husband, Derrol. He's also frugal in a generous way - he has always been my best subject for profitable essays.

Let me just clarify that I don't see myself as a creative person, which may explain my awe and adoration of the things people are doing who are guest blogging at Subversive Stitchers.  I am, if you haven't figured out by now, not a very good maker of quilts. The one I actually made - an Irish chain quilt - was burned up in a house fire. My collection of finished projects is quite small, but my stack of UFOs has been growing since I started Subversive Stitchers. I get inspired and then I find another guest blogger and get inspired again. And again. Someday I may finish them.

100_09635 I make things that serve a purpose or for gifts and those are for people who want things to serve purposes, so I rarely just create for the sake of creating. I took a class with Lyric Kinard about Playing with Paints and realized that I absolutely do not play enough. 

If we are talking about fabric creativity then I would say being an observer has been a detriment. Art is hands on and jump right in and do it. See what others are doing; get tips and technique help, perhaps. But the best way to get a feel for the materials and equipment is to use them. The more I do, the more I grow.

100_08342 As I mentioned in the blog, I have very little of my own work. If I actually make anything I give it away. Or as with the one bed quilt - it burned up in a house fire. I've attached photos of several projects that are in various stages of construction. The only one finished is the red and white nine-patch/red-work little quilt and the table runner. My 'art' is more with words.

I'm a freelance writer. I’m always writing or thinking about writing. But my priorities are at a strange intersection. As my husband’s health threatens to make him stop working, I need to be finding a money-making line of writing. Yet at the same time, my need to focus on creative writing keeps pressing me to devote more time to fiction. I have not resolved this situation. Ideally writing a best selling novel would take care of both needs. In all honesty, as the situation with my husband’s health continues, it becomes harder for me to think of anything but him. It is difficult to summon the energy or the focus to act upon any inspiration that might hit me on the head.

Normally my inspiration came in synchronistic or random pairings of events, words, thoughts, things. For example a discussion with a distant cousin where we reminisced about Grandma Molly’s house and the plants that the kids brought from school – arbor day handouts. They planted these in her yard which reminded me of heirloom plants and that led to an essay about the heirloom ‘plants’ growing on the family tree.

A thing that motivated another essay was a simple knitted potholder. Another inspiration – the scar on my thumb reminded me of conversations while washing dishes with Mom. Another inspiration – the neighbor woman, in her 70s or 80s, on a winter day came to our house, dropped down in the yard and made a snow angel in the fresh snow. It was her last visit, she was dying. And how the snow angel connected to death and dying with dignity. Watching the shuttle launch from our back yard for the first time reminded me of how I’ve grown up with the space race.


100_09713 Any advice I can give may only work for me. But I suggest finding the story of small things and how they connect to the most surprising things. The pot holder connected to gender roles. An early Christmas gift related to the change in the relationship between parents and adult children. Watching sandhill cranes chase the neighbor’s cat reminded me that I live in a Dr. Seuss world…. All of these thoughts were explored in essays that sold to The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, NBC News, Catholic Today, Birds and Blooms, etc. etc. etc. And as some of my favorite authors suggest: Butt in chair and write!

In writing, observation is part of the job since the majority of my writings are nonfiction for newspapers. But at the same time in writing the only way to become a great writer is to write. So there’s a balance between observing and doing.  

Now that I have reached a certain age and place in my life, I’m trying to find my way back to ‘play.’


Perhaps I just need to heed a poem by John H. Rhoades that I found on a very strong synchronistic day, titled Do More:


Do more

Do more than exist; live.

Do more than touch; feel.

Do more than look; observe.

Do more than read; absorb.

Do more than hear; listen.

Do more than listen; understand.

Do more than think; ponder.

Do more than talk; say something.

                                        ~by John H Rhoades


                                                                                       ~ Dawn Goldsmith, November 2009


Please visit Dawn's excellent blogs - you will find inspiration, laughter, camaraderie, and...synchronicity.  You won't be disappointed.

Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles