The Care and Keeping of Eileen Nishi

Photo by Eileen Nishi, westofwhimsy.comWe're hosting a Week of Care and Keeping in celebration of The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls: A Manual, which hits the postal system on Friday, 11.25.11. I invited a few of the creative souls who pioneered this conversation with me in live workshops (and first edition manuals) to share some of their experiences, as well as some of their own Care and Keeping moves. Today we have with us the amazing Eileen Nishi:

I was lucky enough to be in Jen’s Care and Keeping of Creative Souls class last year at Squam Art Workshops. I couldn’t have planned it better as I was feeling particularly vulnerable that Saturday morning after a day of painting with Flora Bowley. I think the idea of taking care of myself as I pursued my creative dreams was probably on the radar . . . I just wasn’t clear about how that looked. Enter Jen + her infinite wisdom (which I soaked up like a sponge!) – and I was back on my feet and ready to conquer the world!

In reality – the one thing I put into practice right away was Jen’s Magic Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, which has earned its place as a permanent favorite with my boys. As for the rest? I’ve navigated some big changes this year – so I’ve just been getting around to revisiting those Care & Keeping ideas in the last couple of months. In addition to the original guidelines that included eating right and getting enough rest (something I’m still working on!), I’ve created some of my own Care & Keeping practices that are keeping me balanced as I move forward as an artist.:

  1. Good Lip Balm & Hand Lotion :: I find few things to be as distracting as chapped lips & dry hands. My lip balm favorites are Dr. Hauschka Lip Care Stick with Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers coming in as a close 2nd. For the hands Aveda Hand Relief is my go to product. Nourished lips & hands make for a happy artist.

  2. Music :: I love to sing. Granted – I’m usually singing in the car by myself, but no matter what the genre (I’ve had a “Best of the 80’s” CD on heavy rotation lately), I find that singing makes me happy. I believe that listening to music you love - whether or not you choose to sing along with it - is key to staying alive creatively. (See Eileen's Creative Jam playlist below.)

  3. Intention :: In the last month I have been actively living an intentional lifestyle. (Another idea I thought sounded good for years, but had no idea how to actually put it into effect.) I have taken a closer look at how I treat my body and what I put into it, how I spend my time and with whom I spend it. Making room for what I want in my life, and moving away from choices that weren’t working for me has created more energy and joy – such a simple idea with mind-boggling results! (Tip: Write everything down.)

  4. Gratitude :: I have found that in times of self-doubt, sadness and exhaustion that gratitude always brings me back to a calm, confident & happy state . . . a place I like to call Home.

 Care & Keeping is vital to my well-being and success – not only creatively, but as a mother/friend/co-worker as well. And while I’m still a work in progress in terms of practicing it, I can say without a doubt that it’s worth every effort.


Eileen Nishi is a global "waker" in the making, enlivening and inspiring others through her many roles as an insightful photographer, mixed-media artist, loyal friend and devoted baseball mama.


Bonus: Want a peek at what's on Eileen's Creative Jam playlist? Here ya go:


Ever since Justin and the girls gave me this beauty for my birthday, I am a woman obsessed. I've moved my work station from the studio to the kitchen, just so I can keep listening while I work and turn the records over without getting up from my chair. I can't get enough of it--the sight, the sound, the smell of the vinyl. I keep listening to this crazy collection of albums I'm randomly gathering as I go about life in my neighborhood.

It's been awhile since I shared a new playlist here, and this seems like the perfect occasion. Be patient with the first track--it has an introduction of Dinah Washington singing at the Apollo Theater in a performance aired on television. So interesting. (Click on the word "video" in the upper left corner to watch.) These are just a few of the tracks getting serious airplay these days on the kitchen turntable. Enjoy!

Jen's Record Player Obsession Playlist

An Upbeat Groove

Meg at Squam, June '10, Diana Instant+

It's not that I have anything against sad songs.

It's that I'm unable to use them responsibly.

In the short, dark days of winter, when you find yourself playing them, one at a time, on 14-day all-repeat loops--a thought does eventually wriggle its way into the gloom.

This probably isn't helping.

I don't generally make New Year's Resolutions, and I certainly don't make a practice of giving things up, but this year I said good-bye to sad songs, at least until I learned to be a responsible consumer of them. And I have to say, it's working. No more looping.

It did pose a challenge for me, though, because I quickly realized that the bulk of my music library fell into a genre that Andy and Colleen refer to as Sad Men with Guitars (though I would also add: and Women). So many friends and dear ones turned me on to great music in the months to follow. One of our favorite gifts was an Upbeat Mix from my sister, Meg.

I often struggle to describe Meg to people because they tend to assume similarities between sisters. But she's a bit of yin to my yang. She knows how to have a good time, she is hilarious and laughs with abandon. She reminds me that to feel light in the world is to feel blessed, that beauty matters, and so does feeling good--all along the way. (I know, I know--at this point people's expressions turn to disbelief, like, How could you be related to such a person and not have this magic rub off on you a little more?) She is patient with me and my baby soul progress in a way that even I find hard to believe.

So I'm wrapping up this week of playlists with an upbeat groove to send you into the weekend feeling light, feeling blessed.

Take it from me--this is one of Meg's best moves, and her companionship is one of my secret weapons in life. Head over to her site to let her know if she's brightened your day, and escort your elemental need for beauty over to her Etsy shop today as she unveils her new Spring Line in a few hours. (sneak peek below)

Meg's Upbeat Mix

Music for Painting, Music for Writing

Jolie painting on the shore, Nags Head

I used to not write with music playing. When my work time started to fall early in the morning, before New York coffee shops open, while children were up and getting ready for school (often loudly), headphones became my best friend. Several of these songs have shown up on Music for Painting mixes I've made in the past for friends, and consequently I found them quite good for writing, as well.

I still don't quite understand what it is exactly about a song that helps me drop down the creative well like a bucket, but these all have that effect on me. It often feels like it's more about rhythm or groove than anything, though there is a way the right lyric can unlock the floodgates like a long-lost key.

I have playlists for all kinds of things now. Every trip I take, for sure, but also many of my creative projects have a playlist that I build for them near the beginning of their lives--when I'm flying on pure gut with little idea of what exactly will emerge. Then I let the songs guide me, and sometimes give me the answer when I wonder what comes next.

Sometimes you just need some standard good ones to get the flow going or to keep it running, steady and smooth. Here are a few of mine.

Jen's Music for Painting, Music for Writing

Lucy and Amelia's Dance Mix

Dancing is big around here. The girls know a good beat when they hear it, and they can fall into a full-body groove on a dime. There's a lot of instruction these days (which God knows I need), so it's not uncommon to hear commands like: Now everybody jump your pants off!

Here are six of the girls tried-and-true faves for getting your groove on. Shake it. Swing it. Jump your pants off.

Lucy and Amelia's Dance Mix

Kate's Old School Bad-Ass Playlist

Kate and me, by Dixon Hill Girl, dixonhill.netAnyone who knows my friend, Kate, knows she has some rock and roll in her veins. Earlier this year I was looking for some tunes to help me get in touch with my own inner bad-ass, and Kate reported for duty. Most friends would send one playlist; Kate sent four: Old School Bad-Ass, New School Bad-Ass, Eighties Bad-Ass and/or Upbeat and Soulful Bad-Assery.

You gotta love a woman like that.

Below you'll find half a dozen tunes from Kate's Old School Bad-Ass playlist. As she would say, they'll put a swagger in your step when you're walking down the street.

Play it. Feel it. Own it.

Kate's Old School Bad-Ass Playlist