For this month’s interview, I want to introduce you to my dear friend Paula Boyd Farrington. Paula and I met when we were paired up for Kaizen-Muse™ practice coaching early in 2011 and have become great friends. (Paula walked me through the process of making a vision board earlier this year.) She’s an amazing source of creative energy, and is one of those fabulous people who is not only willing to let you be your silliest self, but will come right along with you. She also makes fabulous collage art and altered books (which you’ll see below), plans splendid events, and is a font of new ideas.
Paula, tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up as part of an Air Force family, getting to experience different parts of the world while my Dad was stationed in Europe and the United States. Sometimes I loved moving, sometimes I didn’t. I watched my parents focus on the best each place had to offer; it helped me learn to look for the bright side of the road and gave me an appreciation of change, and a willingness to explore new vistas.
My love affair with writing and words started early … I remember the thrill of putting words into a letter, staying in touch with faraway friends—and the even bigger thrill of seeing a hand-lettered envelope addressed to me in reply! My love of art came from my Mom: she can draw or paint anything, and I would marvel at her watercolors, or her ability to create life-size paper maché snowmen for the Air Force Base holiday decorating contest, or the finely detailed pen and ink art she once drew as an intern at the San Francisco aquarium.
After school, I spent many years as a corporate Advertising/Marketing Director, with expertise opening specialty historic mixed-use retail malls in different parts of the United States. That experience led me to an opportunity to help launch a festival-themed waterfront center of shops and restaurants on Grand Bahama Island. There, I got “sand in my shoes”, and fell in love with my husband. We met when I was introduced to his printing company while producing brochures and newsletters for the marketplace’s grand opening. Twenty-five years later, we are still collaborating on a variety of creative adventures, including life with our 15-year old daughter, who shares a love of art and writing.
Tell me about some of the things you’ve been creating recently.
Books are a common thread running through my work at the moment. I especially adore books—always have. I recently designed several art catalogue books as well as an architectural portfolio coffee table book.
I’ve also been exploring using inexpensive recycled children’s board books from the dollar store as a medium for my collages, creating themed “altered books”. Here are some pages from a book I made celebrating Jill Badonsky’s Nine Modern Day Muses & A Bodyguard:
Any creativity tips for keeping up with a wide array of projects?
I generally have waaay more ideas than I can reasonably act on at any one time, and find small Kaizen-Muse™ sized steps keep me moving forward—it’s the ideal way to combat overwhelm and perfectionist tendencies. Keeping a small notebook handy for capturing stray ideas that pop up (sometimes in the midst of other work … creativity leads to creativity!) is a great way to note the inspiration without getting sidetracked. A change of scenery can put things in perspective when you’re juggling a lot. A walk on the beach or around a garden can fix almost anything. Plus breathing. Lots of deep breathing and/or quality-control testing the nearest hammock from time to time!
Some silliness is also useful when too many completion targets converge at once; it can snap me out of a self-imposed “world-on-my-shoulders” funk. Crank up “Proud Mary” and pretend to be Tina Turner for a while, jazzing around the living room. (The woman who taught us all how to dance in high heels knows how to shake it up—creativity likes to shimmy too!)
Lowering expectations (which can co-exist quite well with gently holding standards of quality) is another essential tool I keep in mind. One of the reasons I have come to love collage so much is because I can get happily lost in the process for hours; a free-flowing form that comes with no unreasonably high expectations or experience needed. It is amazing how simply gathering, cutting, and gluing wisps of paper, words, scraps of old magazines, or bits and pieces of ephemera together—in any way that pleases—can be a great reminder that a sense of play and an openness of whatever’s here right now are key to a vibrant and satisfying life. Collage puts me in touch with layers, with trusting my impulses—with not worrying so much about “mistakes”, which more often than not, lead to something even better than what I’d envisioned. It all adds texture and interest and movement. Letting a sense of whimsy, wonder, and wild-heartedness shape a collage opens me up more fully to letting that same spirit into other parts of my life, and brings more freedom, confidence, and enjoyment along the way.
Anything else you’ve been working on?
Starting at Thanksgiving, I’ve been getting organized to make Gratitude Garlands for Thanksgiving—an idea I borrowed from Marney Makridakis’ Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life book. Strips of 1” x 7” paper are filled with pictures or words that sum up various thoughts on thankfulness, and then are formed into paper circles and strung together into a chain of grace and gratitude, adding to it through the holidays.
What a cool idea! Thanks so much, Paula!
Visit Paula online: