Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guest Post: Everyday Creativity by Cassie Stocks

After reading a review copy of Dance, Gladys, Dance I was delighted to be able to have Cassie Stocks write a guest post for this blog. Something that really struck me about the novel was the way in which Fine Arts and more domestic Crafts were blended into a whole. I asked Cassie Stocks about how and why she felt the two were equivalent; considering the way the novel also highlights women's roles in the arts, I knew there was something interesting there! Cassie has a marvellous response, and her vision of creativity in the everyday is thoroughly convincing and inspiring.... please enjoy her wonderful words:

Every Day Creativity

Cassie Stocks

author of Dance, Gladys, Dance

There are those who want to make art their life’s work. In Dance, Gladys, Dance, through the eyes of the main character, Frieda, I look at the struggles they encounter. There is a painter, a crocheter, a photographer, a filmmaker, a dancer, a screenwriter, and a maker of cardboard box installations and tea cozy hats in the novel. I don’t differentiate between what might be considered art (painting) and craft (tea-cozy hat making).

Women who practiced domestic arts, making quilts and rugs, were never invited to a New York gallery show. But elevating the ordinary, in the form of an intricately embroidered pillowcase, is art. In Dance, Gladys, Dance, Miss Kesstle creates patterns for her crocheted items. A young Goth girl takes Miss Kesstle’s discarded doilies and turns them into a Haute Crochet evening gown. Both are equally valuable.

In “real life” I don’t differentiate between producing art or craft and living a creative life. I am uncomfortable with being an Artist with a capital A. Creativity is an approach to life. A carpenter who envisions a cabinet in a pile of boards, a mother who gets her child peacefully to bed, an office clerk who designs a new filing system, a scientist who interprets data in a new way are all artists.

Ordinary can be turned into the creative extra-ordinary in three ways: make rules, break the rules, and do nothing.

The first is to elevate the ordinary with your own ritual. Do the dishes with classical music playing and scented dish soap; mow the lawn in a pleasing pattern. Like the Japanese Tea ceremony, where attention is paid to the smallest of details, any action performed with focus and mindfulness can be promoted to the status of art.

The second is to completely disregard given rules and explore. What if we went grocery shopping and purchased only food we’d never tried? That shopping trip becomes art. What happens later in the kitchen will be creativity.

Recently a woman all in blue walked past my son and me. Her rain hat, blouse, scarf, pants, handbag, and shoes were all in the exact shade of deep blue. My son said, “I think having everything that matching might be a mental illness.” It might be, but it was also beautiful. She didn’t care that matchy matchy clothing was ‘out’. She was happy and brilliant in blue. Do, wear, purchase, and create what appeals to you.

The third is to do nothing but pay attention. Slowing life down enough to see the gorgeous details of the world is creative time. It nourishes the mind and enriches a life. While standing in line at the bank, instead of silently fuming at the line up, look around, see the way the elderly man tenderly holds his wife’s elbow, look at the work scarred leather boots of the rig hand. Notice everything. Living in creativity can turn life into poetry. In the novel, when Frieda is determined to give up the life of an artist, because she has nothing to lose “but a few glimpses of beauty in an otherwise ordinary world” she learns that these glimpses give her life meaning.

Living this way isn’t always easy. Your neighbour might think you’ve lost your nut, staring at the bark on a birch tree. Your father might think your chairs painted five different colours are an abomination. As the characters in Dance, Gladys, Dance discover, living in creativity takes courage and intention, but the reward of a richer life is worth it.


  1. Wonderful ideas about nurturing creativity by noticing in this terrific guest post! I truly enjoyed reading it. We can practice various "arts"--fine arts, cooking, or fly fishing*, to name a few--and elevate the "ordinary" into the sublime.

    *As depicted in the film A River Runs Through It

  2. Suko - I loved this guest post! Her ideas about paying attention & seeing artistry and creativity in our daily actions really resonated. I'm lucky to have had her contribute this wonderful piece.

  3. I love how Cassie's mind works. This post made my eyes well and my heart swell!

    1. So glad to hear you enjoyed it -- it is a wonderful read :)


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