Beth Meadows

Don't Let Me Live in Limbo

Beth MeadowsComment

I’m giving my first talk about my home organization business next Tuesday at IJAMs Nature Center. It’s free, there are still spot available, and you can go here to learn how to register.

I recently packed up all of my belongings to put into storage. I’m between houses right now, temporarily living at my parent’s cabin in Townsend. It’s been a goal of mine for a while to live here, and I’m so glad to finally be doing it.

My studio was located in the house I just moved from, as well as a woodshop in the basement, so it was my first time to move my personal belongings along with all my art supplies and tools. The process was incredibly overwhelming.

I’m going to talk more about this at my presentation, and you can learn a little bit about why I started an organization business here, but even though I personally started the organization process several years ago, I’m still very much in it. I have boxes from my childhood to go through, and items that I know I don’t want, but I know I don’t want to just hand over to a thrift store (an old computer, antiques I could sell, vintage jewelry that may be gold??). These boxes of “unprocessed” items are much fewer than they were before, but seeing them in storage on top of boxes of things I want to keep, on top of all my art supplies was a big dose of reality. I have a lot of “stuff” for one person!

I’m grateful to have friends who could store my big furniture and boxes in their basements, and for my boyfriend who gladly took all my books. And for people who swooped in to buy artwork just so I wouldn’t have to store it.

This phase in my life is temporary, but it’s a strange feeling for me to have so many things in storage because of my beliefs about this very subject, and it’s giving me time to think through it all.

I don’t think you should ever force yourself to give up things you aren’t ready to give up. Our belongings have a lot of emotion tacked on to them and it can be a slow process to navigate through that. I have seen first hand that if I store sentimental things for a year, and I look at them again, I am often ready to let them go. This is a good feeling, to trust in time and distance.

The biggest hope I have for my clients and myself is to quit living in limbo, or if we have to live in limbo, not to live there for long. For instance, don’t store things just to store them, but rather live within the means of the space you have. If you know you will have a bigger space within a year, I think it’s fine, but if it’s years, do your best to accept your present state of life by letting go of what can’t fit. I think this simple rule of thumb can change your perspective on life. The opposite of limbo is living in the present. When we live within our means financially and spatially, we allow our minds to rest and focus on the most important things in our lives, and these things are different from person to person.

I know my set of circumstances is temporary. I plan to move in to a new place within a year, and there, all the things I put into boxes will go with me. While I’m not a huge advocate for minimalism either way, I do daydream about owning less, and, as a result, moving around in the world a little more easily. I hope this process, will help me put some things into perspective. When I open those boxes again, I want to be able to let go of many of the objects in them.

I am pondering the vision I have for my life. What is yours?

Studio With a View

Beth MeadowsComment
View from the deck in Townsend, looking at the Great Smoky Mountains.

View from the deck in Townsend, looking at the Great Smoky Mountains.

This past December, I made a decision about what my plans would be in 2019. I’m not ready to share them publicly yet. I’ve been anxious to, but there are hurdles that keep popping up, and I want to get through them before I make any grand announcement.

But I would like to share with you the precursor to these plans. I’m on the road to something, and it’s exciting to have made it this far.

At the end of January, I moved out of my house near downtown Knoxville, put my belongings in storage, and drove to my hometown Memphis. There I lived with my sister, worked with new clients, sweet friends and family who hired me for my home organization services ( The Empathetic Organizer), went to Disney World, for the first time!, with my sisters, and hung out with old friends.

But now I’m back in East Tennessee, doing something that’s been in the back of my mind to do for many years now: I’m living at my parent’s cabin in Townsend, Tennessee, right next to the Smoky Mountains.

Make-shift studio, with a view.

Make-shift studio, with a view.

As soon as I pulled in the driveway, it felt so good to be here. I realized my desire last year to live alone. On top of that, I’ve lived in condensed neighborhoods for the past decade. I’ve been so ready to be secluded, not devoid of friends or society, but to have my living space out of arm’s reach of the next dwelling. It’s also nice not to have punks speeding down my street, blaring their basses, etc etc, because I have become very set in my crotchety old lady ways.

I hope to share about my plans by the middle of March. My two hurdles are these, which will give you a couple of clues:

  1. I’ve been ordered by my doctor not to walk for two weeks. It seems I may have a stress fracture, and to avoid the unnecessary cost of an MRI and a boot, I’m trying to do what it takes to heal up on its own.

    This is SUPER hard because my plans involve physical training. Ok, that’s the most I will say.

  2. I never know how much money I’ll owe once I file my income tax, and it could kill my dream. I hope to have everything my accountant needs for her to file in the next week or so, so hopefully I’ll know soon if I’m going to get crushed or not.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying this time so far. I haven’t been lonely in the least. My dad and my parent’s dog Fern are here, my boyfriend has come up to visit, and I’ve all ready gone into Knoxville a couple of times for First Friday, to see friends, and to run errands.

I’ll let y’all know the minute I get lonely. I have this feeling it may not come. Been ready for this.

The Bigger Picture

Beth MeadowsComment

After I wrote yesterday, I went on a walk to process my thoughts on what art I should be making. Or want to make, rather. Or need to make. 

I realized a theme I want to develop, and that many of the subjects I'm interested in can be combined, so I can kill a few birds with one stone by mixing and matching the subject matter that interests me. 

I think what I realized is my hesitancy to start making works that will take me months to create.

I used to make these kinds of paintings, and I think I only sold one of them. People did buy prints of them, so I know the stories I created in these paintings resonated with them. I feel awkward about spending months essentially creating illustrations. Cartoons. I want to make glamorous, intricate cartoons. 

Even if they don't sell, I think they'd do well as prints and even in books or magazines, so from a business stand-point, I know I can explore those outlets. 

At this point, however, I'd really like to not think of the outcome, where these paintings will end up. It's hard for me not to think about that. But for now, I am trying to come down off the this mountain, put down my binoculars, and just do the work. 

I know I can devote 15 minutes a day to these paintings or more. I've even been dreaming of ways I can hang out with people and paint. I'm going up to my family's cabin tomorrow with a painter and we're going to work. 

How can I enmesh painting with the full, rich life, surrounded by (a tiny, well-thought out group of) people, that I want? 

Work for an artist means solitude. Being the champion of alone time that I am, it's not always easy to be alone and work. 

But I think, even more, I am worried about this slow process of making this work. I like more instant gratification. I guess I will see what happens. I'm all ready working on a painting and enjoying it immensely. I have to remember to just take it one step at a time and not get overwhelmed by the bigger picture. Pun intended.

What's Essential?

Beth MeadowsComment

I'm writing about the following, as I often to, to help me come to a solution. 

I can't figure out what art I should be making. I have ideas for at least ten different types of work. I keep having to ask myself what's essential.

I've even gone so far as to visualize being 80, thinking back on what makes me proud that I've accomplished. I think about the end so I can figure out what I'm supposed to be doing now.

Right now, the reality of my life is that:

1. I am trying to focus on my health- physical and mental.

2. I am trying to focus on income so that I'm not destitute the rest of my life.

3. I'm trying to be self-employed, which I truly believe is my calling, but giving up, at least for now, that it would be completely art-related income. So... trying to start a different business. 

4. Trying to give myself more to healthy relationships in my life. Trying to foster intimacy with a tiny amount of people- something that has been lacking in my life. Art is important, but people are the most important. My good relationships are the most important. 

5. Service to those who need it. 

Then after all that's done- I make artwork. And I think about artwork. And I want to make everything I think about, but there's not enough time to do it all. I can accept that.

So What's Essential? What do I have to make?

Here is a list of ideas:

1. cat cut outs

2. Folksy, spiritual, dark paintings

3. small fashion collages

4. fashion drawings

5. heavy cartoons

6. large narrative paintings

7. large fashion collages

8. these collage text works I have ideas for

9. geometric/ abstract found object works

10. small narrative paintings

11. more little wooden cut outs

12. large scale animal collages

13. wood cut out pet portraits

This is a pretty comprehensive list. 

The narrative paintings keep bugging me. They are hard and laborious and elusive, but they keep bugging me. I know I have to make them, but what if they take up all my extra time? What if I can't make cat cut outs?

The cats don't just serve the purpose of being cute. I practice technique and color combos. They help me with larger works. They are adorable, but they are important. 

I know I will make time for what's essential. I have cut out many things- and now I'm getting to the nitty gritty- I'm cutting back on alcohol and excess food (distracting myself with feeling full to the brim). I am cutting back on Netflix and social engagements. I wake up early to create. I create on the weekends. I am not exhibiting as much. Exhibiting takes up so much time. 

I observe from the list above that I can combine many of the things into each other. I've gotten stuck on this path of making small quick things. I want to sell work. I want to have price points that are low. I love the business side of art, so the small, quicker work allows me to play in that game, which I enjoy. 

But I fear it's keeping me from something deeper I'm wanting to make work about. All the small products symbolize large chunks of time I could devote to larger, more intricate works. 

I also like how small things have an end in sight. When I make a larger work, I don't have a good idea about how long it will take me. I get stuck along the way. It's not as easy to see the next step. But that's really all that it is. One step at a time, over and over, until it's right.

But I've gotten near the end of a large work so many times, and not been happy with where it's gone. You can't hit Undo. You can't use the Paint Bucket to fill in the wrong color. I don't like that aspect of the large works. If I need to change one or two things, it will take hours and hours to fix. 

Is there a way to avoid that? Or is that a part of it? I have a painter friend who says that's what he enjoys most about painting. The editing. I do only when it's small. 

And then this gets me into another subject. Sometimes I feel like I am more a designer than an artist. If I don't like the process of editing... I want a map that shows me the way, directly and in the shortest amount of time. I don't want to waste time, materials, or money. I am thrifty. I don't have a team to help. It's just me. 




Ok, I will let these thoughts rest for now...

Not Now, While I'm Lying Here, Wide Awake

Beth MeadowsComment

I'm terrible at quoting books and movies, but I'll butcher it anyway to get the gist across...

I think it was in Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She is talking about the creative process. And she's telling the story of a writer who would get inspired at the most inopportune moments. She'd be outside, working in the garden, and the creative inspiration would roll in like a mighty wind, and she'd have to run inside to catch it all on paper.

I don't remember who she was talking about, but I love and hate this story.

I think it was also Tom Waits who would get inspired while his hands were on the wheel, and he'd grunt, "Not while I'm driving!"

I've been waking up at 2, 3, 4am. For years. I don't want to do anything at this hour. Nuuuuu-thiiiiing. 

But I'll lie in bed and think about writing, or about a painting that hasn't been born yet. Or let fantastical anxieties dance through my mind.

I've gotten up the past two days. Yesterday at 4am. Today at 2:45am. It's 4:14am right now. I wrote yesterday, and developed the idea for a new painting, one that I have asked to patiently wait for its turn. it told me it's not going to wait.

I all ready drew this morning, something I started last night. And now I'm writing, which is something I daydream about constantly but never do.

There is something deep within me that won't let me rest. Sometimes I believe it's God. Or God's hand on me, the person he made me to be- full of pesky inspiration. Whatever it is, it won't let me rest. There is something it wants from me that I've been neglecting, at my own expense. It's hard to want to go deeper, into pain, or grief, or ideas. I believe it won't let me rest until I've processed it through my hands, to process the beauty, too. 

You'd think it would be easy to recognize this deep prodding and follow it, but it's not. I'm sleepy right now, and I may be sleepy the rest of the day while at work. And I hate feeling sleepy. I also don't want to - no, I do want, but- it's hard to make this work that I have asked to wait. I don't feel ready for what it's going to take. And I'm fearful of making work that isn't readily available to share and show. It could take years to create. 

Or not.

I think this is why I moved my studio home. I knew my brushes needed to be closer to my bed. Getting to them by car at 2am would never work. 


Beth MeadowsComment

Last year, I began to let go. I managed a small gallery at Magpies Bakery, I was participating in First Friday shows in Knoxville at least every other month, and I was the Director 17th Street Studios.

I let go of all of these things.

It's August, eight months since, and I've been thinking about all of the other things I'd like to stop.

  • Twitter
  • Etsy
  • Showing in Knoxville every month
  • Pinterest
  • Possibly- multiple Instagram accounts
  • Snapchat

Oh yeah, I let go of Facebook last year, too.

I don't miss any of the things of which I've let go. However, there are little voices telling me I need to manage content on all social media platforms, especially if I want to represent myself as an artist. But I don't love social media. And I don't even use most of the outlets I listed above, except for Instagram.

I've thought about getting off of Instagram many times. When things get really dark, which happens on a consistent basis. But I inevitably feel better and my interest in Instagram is renewed. I'm grateful for how it gives me the ability to share.

I want to let go of all the superfluous stuff so that I can focus on a few things and do them well. So this project of streamlining continues.

There's so much clutter in our world digitally.  There's so much clutter physically. I am constantly getting rid of things. 

By the end of 2018, I'd like to be done with this process. I'm trying to get to the point where I can tackle organizing my computer files and photos, and to finally create inventory lists of all my artwork. There's a website called ArtworkArchive I want to check out. 

I'm sorting through my childhood boxes, brought up from my parent's home. This is hard. This little box of erasers that I've spent my whole life looking at, that meant something to me when I was little- how do I let go of that? (I have a way- in case you're curious.)

If I'm overwhelmed, I am paralyzed. I multitask a lot, but there's too much piling up right now. Not only the digital and the physical, but ideas, and things I want to do. Goals. 

So I've created spreadsheets to organize my ideas. There are three: One for my personal life, one for art, and one for my Home Organizing business. I have tabs where I put everything I can wait for, so that I know I've written it down, but I don't have to think about it right now. 

There's a lot of organizing that I'm doing, to cope with the influx of stuff. I get motivated often these days, to sort through the clutter. I get rid of as much as I can. I try to let go of ideas, too. Life it too short for this constant organizing of stuff that's just in the way.

There is all the piles of emotional stuff I'm working through, too. The lifetime of journals, the notes on scraps of paper, the books, the podcasts, the things I want to process, the phone calls I need to make.

With art, I'm not certain what I'm supposed to focus on. I think that a lot of times, I make certain artwork that is a distraction from the work I'm really supposed to make. I make work that feels easy to me and worry that it's keeping me form making the work that could be damaging if it was not accepted. The work that has been sitting in my brain, waiting for me to sit down and make it. 

I have to get rid of all the piles- the physical, the digital, the emotional- so I can get to the ideas. So I can make the most of my time. I am 34, and I hope to paint for the next 50 years at least. And there are at least ten bodies of work I'd like to start making right now. What if I only have 20 years. What if I only have 5, or 1. 

It's vital to me to find space, order, focus, and discipline, so that I can make the work I was made to make, for however long I'm granted life on this wonderful and cluttery earth.

You have to play to win

Beth MeadowsComment

I'm on a tight budget these days, so the thing I rarely ever do, that I love to do, is go to concerts. Seeing music live is one of the most inspiring things to me. It's really valuable to me.

Last weekend, Old City Java was doing a Giveaway on their Instagram account for Kurt Vile tickets at the Mill and Mine. I entered on a whim and won. 

One of my favorite genres of music is 90s alternative, and I've been listening to it a lot in my studio lately. Kurt Vile puts a fresh spin on that sound, which I love. 

It was a gift, an experience I forgot I needed.


Good Packaging Artist Statement 2018

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Right now, I have work on display through the end of July at Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment in Huntsville, AL. This marks my first solo show outside of Knoxville, so if you're in the area, I hope you'll take some time to go see it.

You can find my Artist Statement below if you'd like to learn more about my thoughts behind this series. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


The Good Packaging Series first began in 2015, inspired by two unrelated things: a growing fascination with the fashion industry and my dislike for grocery shopping. To shift my perspective, I turned the grocery into an art store, buying alluring food package designs to use as materials, allowing colors and fonts to entice me for the first time, something I was taught at a young age not to do. It wasn’t quite like buying Gucci, but it sure felt indulgent, and I liked it.

This series of supermodels adorned in collaged packaging has evolved into works made using recycled textiles and materials with bold colors and patterns.

Pashmina 3x2' mixed media

Pashmina 3x2' mixed media

I have always been inclined to recycle materials. As an artist, I’m overwhelmed by the message to mass produce work, as I see many artists and creatives doing on social media. I’ve also learned, through a podcast I listen to called Pop Fashion, how much of the world’s clothing ends up in landfills and how much of it doesn't break down easily due to synthetic fibers. I'm motivated to recycle what I can, finding beauty in discarded things. I acquire materials from unconventional places: parties, restaurants, thrift stores, trash cans, office supply stores, and more.

This series has several themes:

  • Mixing accessible, inexpensive or free materials to reference high design, inaccessible fashion and unattainable goals
  • Supermodels/ fashion design as symbols for unattainable, idealistic or unrealistic goals
  • The layering of materials as a symbol for how people package themselves, physically and emotionally, making themselves more acceptable or pleasing to others, yet hiding aspects of themselves
  • The delicate nature of materials. While a person may be able to create an acceptable external persona, the internal still exists and will surface. The exterior is a delicate and unreliable facade.
  • My personal struggle with "packaging" myself physically- how it feels like clothing was not designed with my body shape in mind, how it can actually be really painful. As an act of rebellion, I buy beautiful clothing from thrift stores that I can’t wear and create something beautiful with it anyway.
  • My personal struggle with "packaging" myself emotionally
  • How internal beauty shows itself externally, in surprising and unconventional ways 
Reclined mixed media 11x14" 

Reclined mixed media 11x14"