It was about a year ago that Carrie Bloomston, fabric designer and owner of SUCH Designs in Phoenix, was sitting in the tree fort she and her family had built in their backyard and writing while batting away the last lingering mosquitoes of summer.
Bloomston was finishing what would become The Little Spark: 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity, which she will read at Changing Hands on Tuesday, December 2.
Bloomston says that words and art have always overlapped in her life whether it be in her art, her paintings, or her textile designs. Back in college at Rhode Island School of Design while Bloomston was taking a cabaret class, her professor Szymon Bojko, a Polish man who only wore white and had hair to match, told her, "Carrie, your gifts lie between the two worlds: your writing and your art. And I hope one day you can merge them."
"For me, this [book] is the closest I've gotten," Bloomston says.
The Little Spark, which is available now for $19.95 on changinghands.com and amazon.com, is not the book her publishers wanted her to write. Bloomston, who had begun making a name for herself by designing fabrics by hand about two and a half years ago, was approached by the publishers at C&T Publishing to write a sewing book with about 20 different patterns to share with readers. But for Bloomston, writing even one sewing pattern was like "pulling teeth," she says.
Sewing books were all C&T Publishing made, though. So Bloomston set out to convince them to trust her.
"Listen, you gotta believe in me, because I'm in the industry, but this book is much broader," she says she told her publishers. "It includes this industry, but it totally expands beyond it. So please take a risk on me."
Then, Bloomston was terrified. She was an artist, not a writer. Everyone she spoke to told her how hard writing a book was, and she believed them. That is until a healer Bloomston spoke to probed her about why she was afraid and told her that fear is only a choice.
"It was like a switch was flipped for me," Bloomston says. "I was no longer afraid. I no longer had to labor under the assumption that things had to be hard or a struggle to be good, because generally, the easier something is, the better it is."
Bloomston found the same fear and self-doubt that kept her from launching headfirst into her book also keeps other people from pursuing their creative interests -- one of the main theories of The Little Spark.
Through various workbook-like exercises and inspirational stories from local creatives like Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco and Scotty Johnson of the Gin Blossoms, The Little Spark aims to help people rediscover their creativity and dig out from under the "mountain of obligation," as Bloomston calls it, that distracts them from achieving their creative dreams. She also encourages people to fail.
"You don't have to be good at it, because the whole idea about stepping into your creative process...is you are going to suck," Bloomston says. "That's what's going to happen. And then you won't...You've got to make a giant mess."
A year ago, Bloomston was afraid to suck at was writing The Little Spark. More recently, it was turning a conversation with her mother, Rhonda Greenebrg, into the Happy Flag Project, a city-wide prayer flag movement in her childhood home of Birmingham, Alabama, in preparation for a visit from the Dalai Lama on October 24.
She had to propose the idea to the mayor's office, which got approved on April 17, build her first ever website, and spark interest in Birmingham, nationally, and internationally all the while running her own business and raising her family. After months of work, about 4,000 prayer flags, based in the Tibetan tradition of promoting peace and compassion, covered Birmingham, honoring the city's history of social change.
There were many points at which the Happy Flag Project could have fallen apart, but Bloomston returned to Phoenix from that trip in late October, and with a broad smile stretched across her face, she told us about how she heard the Dalai Lama speak twice and how she met a man who was brought to tears as he happened across the thousands of flags being hung around town.
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The Little Spark is not the book her publisher's initially wanted Bloomston to write, but she feels it is the book she needed to write for herself, other people in the sewing industry, and anyone who had a dream of creativity while they were young but put it aside for that more practical business degree or job.
"I could have written this really fluffy book on creativity," she says. "But I didn't ... If you want to truly embark on a creative life, you've got to do that work. You've got to dig deep."
Carrie Bloomston will be at Changing Hands in Phoenix on Tuesday, December 2, at 7 p.m. Two tickets for admission are included with the purchase of the paperback The Little Spark, $19.95. For more information and to purchase the book, visit changinghands.com.