Creating With Friends

A few years ago my girlfriends and I discovered that we needed more creative time in our lives. We’re all successful career women in our 30s and enjoy our jobs. But we all felt we weren’t exploring our artistic abilities as well as we could. To help each other in this goal, we began planning small creative get- togethers?painting flowerpots and pottery, making Christmas cards, and, most recently, making mosaic tile paving stones.

Some of the projects have turned out well, some not so well. But none of us are looking to be the next Claude Monet—we’re just trying to be creative while getting in a good visit with friends. “I value the hanging out time with friends, the sharing of stories, as well as enjoying the artistic abilities of my friends,” says Beth Derringer.

“I enjoy feeling like an artist, and I also like the energy and spirit at our creative parties,” she continues. “The parties take me back to when I was a little girl, making crafts and being in art class—cutting, painting, getting messy, creating. The work we do together isn’t judged or evaluated.” And therein lies the beauty of our arrangement: We find that we get a lot of creative energy out of working together, and no one is concerned that her efforts will be laughed at.

Group Dynamics Our core group of artists is a diverse one in terms of jobs, and our positions include marketing manager, lawyer, sales representative, Web site developer, stay-at-home mom and photographer and editor. But we come together in our need to make something by hand. To distribute the workload and the talents, we try to alternate who does the planning and hosting of the party. Over the years, we’ve developed a fairly smooth formula for success. Here’s what we’ve learned:

1. Be organized For the mosaic paving stones, Carolyn Bane was the hostess and took care of all the planning. She sent out invitations for the mosaic party two months in advance. On the invite, Bane described what the party was all about—making mosaic tile designs on the object of your choice—and how long it would take—two Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. Since the project was one that required some special supplies, the early notice gave us all plenty of time to gather what we needed and do a little research on the project, while also getting us in the mood to create. (Of course, keep in mind that if you’re doing a less complicated project, you won’t need to give as much lead time.)

In terms of supplies, Bane provided a detailed listing of what we would need to bring, including precut tiles or broken-up plates, tile cutters, work gloves, a putty knife, something to mosaic and a blanket to sit on. She also described what she would provide, including mortar, buckets to mix the mortar in, as well as paint sticks to mix it with, water jugs, rags, paper towels, clean-up cloths, contact paper, pens, pencils and drawing paper for sketching out designs.

“I recommend getting as many of the supplies as you can beforehand because it makes it more fun for everyone to come and share and learn,” says Bane. “Have everything set up and organized ahead of time.” Then you won’t waste your creative time handling organizational details.

2. Limit the number of guests While it may be tempting to invite everyone you know to your creativity party, we’ve found it’s better to have our core group of girlfriends along with a few other friends to bring a new perspective. “I like a combination of good friends and also new folks,” says Derringer. “This mix adds more diversity, fresh thoughts and new ideas.” Plus, if the group is smaller you can easily talk and help each other along as well.

3 Have a project expert on hand For the mosaic party, Bane served as hostess and resident tile expert. She was the only person at the party who had made mosaic paving stones before, and shared the projects she had made, along with her tips for success. Bane didn’t make a project while at the party, but did help anyone who needed it. “I found that it worked out well for me to not try and do a project,” says Bane. “I spent my time helping others, getting supplies, mixing grout, cleaning up, serving cold water, and more.”

4 Provide instructions Once all the party guests were assembled, Bane gave an overview of how to work with mortar and tile. She also had several books from the library on mosaic tile designs that we could peruse for ideas. For a project as detailed as making mosaic paving stones, it’s a good idea to also have sheets of step-by-step instructions for guests. This way, the do-it-yourself types can get going without waiting for the party host to help, and everyone can work at their own pace. (See the link below to Making Mosaic Tile Paving Stones: The Basics.)

5 Make it a party Another key to remember is that this really is about having a good time with your friends, while at the same time expressing yourself creatively. To that end, “good food always helps with inspiration,” says Bane, “as does great music. And being outdoors lends itself well to creativity, too.” Thus, Bane had a portable CD player in her backyard for us, along with a selection of breakfast treats, including homemade scones, coffee cakes and fruit.

6 Have fun Last, remember that this is about the process, not the end result. “It’s so fun to watch your friends being creative,” says Bane. “I really had a blast. And it’s great because everyone helps and encourages one another. It’s a neat bonding experience and you get to know friends on a new level. Something about the day was very therapeutic and relaxing, too.”

“I enjoyed making the stone for my new garden,” says Karen Ecker. “But more than that, I enjoyed getting together with friends. The party was a good excuse to slow down, enjoy a summer day and create something fun.”

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