I recently sat with Jennifer Adams to talk about art, yoga and mindfulness. Jennifer caught my attention when she mentioned that her art is part of a current exhibition, Lines, Patterns & Textures, at the Shaker Community Gallery (SCG). Our yoga class shares space with the SCG and other vendors at Christ Church in Shaker Heights.
A member of Soulful Flow Yoga since November, this New Jersey native moved to Shaker Heights two and a half years ago.
Jenn’s Art Background
As a young girl, Jenn was intrigued with colors and patterns. Long before she considered the art profession, she was always looking for pattern repeats in objects. She went on to study the science of textile design with a concentration in silkscreen and print design at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. After graduation, she worked with textiles in the New York City metropolitan area, weaving structures into different colors to produce various effects.
When her girls were born, Jenn returned to her fine arts roots. Carving out creative space in her one-bedroom New Jersey apartment, Jennifer began to create quilts. She was able to get more inventive when the family moved to Shaker Heights and purchased their first home.
“I had the space to create, the girls were in school, and I was starting to go crazy… My husband reminded me of our friend Leigh Medeiros, who runs an online art support group, 48 Days of Devotion. The program encourages artists to create art for 15 minutes every day. I started the program, and it led to my sketching brick patterns. 48 Days of Devotion got me back to making fine art.”
“48 Days of Devotion got me back to making fine art.” – Jennifer Adams
With the help of SCG founder and director Leslye Arian, Jenn is now networking with other galleries and organizations in Northeast Ohio to display her pieces.
Shaker Community Gallery, Christ Church, and Soulful Flow Yoga
Jenn needed a place where she could build strength and flexibility but needed something different from a gym. She hadn’t realized that her future yoga class shared space with the gallery currently displaying her art.
“I found (the class) through Google… I wanted something calming, peaceful and not overwhelming. When I realized this class was at Christ Church and supports charities, it all just made a lot of sense,” she noted.
Merging Art, Yoga and Mindfulness
Jennifer admits she didn’t have any formal meditation training prior to Soulful Flow Yoga, but realized how her work for the SCG exhibition involved meditative practices.
“This piece involved a lot of drafting. Everything from (using) the rulers, to sharpening pencils puts me ‘in that moment…’ My mind calms because I focus on keeping my (pencil) points sharp and keeping the lines straighter. When I draft, I have to twist the pencils to keep the points flat. It’s (art) all about focusing what’s on the page, so it calms me. This (focus) happened on its own.”
Frustrated with the “surprises” many new homeowners unearth when they buy older homes, Jenn noticed she was gradually developing a negative outlook. She now works on being more mindful with a “purposeful, reactive gratitude” she began practicing in New Jersey.
“I wanted to shift from feeling 60% negative and 40% positive to being focused (on life) with gratitude.”
While she feels that practicing gratitude still takes effort, she’s optimistic. “This class is helping me build a (positive thinking) habit.”
Jenn’s Journey to Yoga
Jenn originally took classes through a local recreation department in the Northeast. “I wanted something to work my muscles and my mind.”
The initial classes she tried were either too religious or too strenuous. She then found a class similar to Soulful Flow Yoga, and immediately took to it.
“I like the format that “what you take in, you take out,” she explained.
She soon began to notice the impact of practicing yoga when she found herself less reactive in New York City traffic.
“If someone cut me off or beeped, I would think ‘they must be having a bad day… I realized I was giving them an out. I was no longer mad. That’s when I knew this type of yoga worked for me.”
I was curious when Jenn made the connection between mindfulness meditation and the art she creates.
“I usually stand when I work. One day, I spent two hours working without stopping. I bent over for so long that when I stood up, I felt very stiff. I lost track of time and thought, ‘Wow, this is really good for me!’”
“One day, I spent two hours working without stopping. I bent over for so long that when I stood up, I felt very stiff. I lost track of time and thought, ‘Wow, this is really good for me!’” – Jennifer Adams
Jenn’s Favorite Yoga Technique
As she develops her practice, Jenn is nurturing her mind-body awareness.
“My left hip is the weaker one… but I feel really good with (certain aspects of each pose).”
Overall, Jenn loves practicing movement and postures, and how they make her feel.
“I now stand up straighter. I realized that I tend to slump when I’m standing, and I now catch myself. I’ll stand up and pull my shoulders back and I feel so much better. I love being aware of the four corners of my feet, so I can ‘plant’ myself. It helps me center. (Standing like this) makes me feel stronger.”
If you’d like to know more about Jenn, you can meet her at our Saturday morning classes. Her artwork will be on display through January 3 at the SCG exhibition, “Lines, Patterns & Textures: Mark Making.”
*Note: The image, courtesy of Jennifer Adams, is titled “How to Make a House #8, Brick Layout #3.”