Friday, December 30, 2011

Finding Inspiration

What inspires you?  Where does inspiration come from?  What makes an artist start creating?  How do you find the spark?

Even in writing a blog post, one has to have an idea, an image, a thought that wants to be conveyed.  And every artist, including yours truly, sometimes stares at an empty screen or page or canvas and feels as if there is nothing.  The well is dry.  I'm blocked.

Sometimes it's because ideas feel too big to capture, and every attempt is just a frustrating exercise in inadequacy.  Sometimes it's because you feel as if you've said it all before.  Or someone else has, only better.  Sometimes it's because you just don't feel you have anything important enough to share.  Or you just feel blank and listless.

A little bit of all of that for me today.  I've been mulling over this idea of inspiration and how to find it.  So once again I picked up my new camera and started ambling around my home, looking for inspiration.  Here's what I found:

I found that sometimes you stop seeing beauty right in front of you because it's "ordinary" and always there and you've just stopped looking.

I found that how you focus changes how you see.  And that looking at the same thing in different ways lets you see beauty in different ways.

I found that the mistakes and flaws and the roughness are the most interesting part.

I found that looking at something from a new angle makes it fascinating.

I found sometimes you need to look more closely.

I found that prayer, reflection, and light always inspire.

I found that nature inspires us, even in it's barren winter state, even from a distance.

It occurs to me I could stand to apply these observations to my life as well.  Look at what's already there, and really see it.  Focus, on one thing at a time, but in different ways each time.  Adore the mistakes and roughness.  Look at the same thing from a new angle.  Look more closely than normal.  Pray, reflect, look to the light.  Allow nature to inspire, in every state of it's beauty.

So go find your inspiration today.  In your creativity and your life, look closely, see, focus, find the flaws, find the light and nature and beauty.  Be inspired.

And then please share it with us.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Excitement! Honor! Pride!

I'm having an excited, proud *moment*, feeling quite honored!
For years I've followed the amazing, creative, super dry, hilarious blogger/visual journalist/school teacher Mary Ann Moss. She rocks my world with her stunning photographs and interesting journaling. She lives in Los Angeles, sadly I never got to meet her when I lived there. But I follow her religiously as she travels the world (with her equally interesting creative sister) -- last fall to Budapest, now to San Cristobal, Mexico. (Did I mention her posts are stunning?)
I checked in today (having missed a day or two) and lo and behold, she's using our Basic 'Bug notebook! I feel so honored & proud. I feel as if we are the proud sponsors of the US Olympic team -- only for visual journaling!
Thank you, Ms. Mary Ann Moss; you made my day. Safe travels!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bah Humbug, with a side of gratitude

I have been feeling decidedly Grinchy the last few days.  Not at all full of Christmas cheer, much less love and joy and to you your wassail too.  But as you know, we attended a women's conference last week and one of the speakers was Brene Brown.  She gave a superb talk full of truth and integrity.   One of the things she said that struck me deeply was that happiness begins with gratitude.  This wasn't exactly news to me, as I've read her book and many others that say this.  What she said that really resonated was that people who have happiness practice gratitude.   She said, "Practice gratitude even if you don't feel it."  As a former dancer, I understood this in my bones.  I would train every day whether I felt like it or not, because that's what it meant to be a dancer.  And I had been stumbling with the gratitude thing--despite the fact that everyone, including researchers studying this very topic, like Brene Brown, said that it was the key to joy--because most of the time, I don't feel grateful.  It felt very cerebral and downright irritating to list things I was grateful for when what I was really feeling was annoyed.  But somehow it clicked with me when she said to practice it anyway.  You don't have to feel like it, just cultivate the habit, because the habit is what leads to the goal you want.  (Outstanding dance ability or happiness, both take diligent, disciplined practice.)

I can't say I have done that consistently since I've been back, but here's one little attempt.  On the trip, Emily gave me my Christmas present early.  It was a camera.   A much nicer camera than I've ever had.  This is sooo very exciting, not because I'm any sort of photographer, but because I'm not a photographer and yet have to take pictures on a regular basis, of products for our company, for this blog, of my kids.  Suddenly, I point this camera at the same things I used to shoot, in the same way, and they just look better.  It's awesome.  So, tonight I pulled it out and just decided to take a few shots of things I can be grateful for this week, and to try to practice a little gratitude and Christmas cheer even if I don't feel like it.

I have at least decorated my house somewhat, and I have to admit these little pops of spirit do help me feel a little more in the season.

So, for Brene Brown and for Emily, I am grateful.
For my family, I am oh so grateful.

For our jobs and our home and our Christmas tree, I am grateful.

For the chance to learn and do better, I am grateful.

For having a heater that works and a warm soft bed that I love to climb into, I am grateful.
I am grateful for Christmas.

I am grateful for all of you.

There.  Bah humbug and thank you.

Monday, December 12, 2011

As I spend the last days of 2011 healing a long-ago broken wrist and contemplate the (re)gaining of power my newly functioning wrist will offer me, 2012 looks heavenly and shiny in the near future. 

I happened upon this site -- from Tia Tuenge -- through my Facebook Magically Mixed Art Community and now my mind's all a'flutter! It's a simple concept; I've done it before. But now, with reclaimed strength, I'm thinking...
             What will my {word} be for 2012? What will yours be?
Tia Tuenge's "Year of the Rabbit". Last year, her word was "Abundance"!

Friday, December 9, 2011


After a whirlwind trip to Boston I am back home with my family.  Tired but renewed.  Relishing my time with my girls instead of impatiently waiting for naptime.  Invigorated that we are on the right track with our company and that we have something of great service to offer.  We will be posting more about this trip, the highs and lows, the insights and irritation, over the next few weeks, as we marinate in everything we learned.   Here are a few of the people that said things that stayed with us:

Brene Brown
Martha Beck
Lena West
Mel Robbins
Marley Majcher

I can't wait to share some of the wisdom we absorbed. For now, just know that I am inspired and grateful, and can't wait to pass along some of the valuable things that helped us feel that way.  Women rock.  Seriously.  We do.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Do what you love and love what you do! Tracy Verdugo Style

Through a series of random emails and Facebook encounters, I have become e-Friends with Austrailian wonder woman, Tracy Verdugo.
Generous, creative, free-spirit; woman, wife, mother; artist, teacher, writer, musician. She does it all. But most importantly, {by her example} she is guiding me, reminding me, (oh-so-gently) how to be the person I want to be, how to do what I love.
I've never met her -- Australia is a long way away! -- however I intend to: she's coming to America in 2012.  But until she gets her, I thought I'd share a little of the daily inspiration I get from her. She doesn't just shine. She radiates.!

To find out more about Tracy's art and her upcoming workshops visit her website here or join her Magically Mixed Art Group on Facebook.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Slippery and messy

Know that feeling when you are elbow-deep in paint and glue, halfway down the path of a project, able to see where you will end up and glorying in the slippery delicious mess of it?  Remember back to kindergarten when you fingerpainted with gusto, smearing the paper and the desk and your shirt and your eyebrows.  Or maybe it's when you are cooking, covered in flour and butter, batter flying everywhere, salivating in anticipation of the savory morsel you are preparing.  If you can't conjure up this feeling of visceral revelry I am describing, then stop what you are doing and go get some paint or go to the kitchen or go get some mud, and immediately start messily and wildly making something.  It's a deeply satisfying, profoundly grounding feeling to be slippery and messy and creative.  And being creative often is a slippery thing, both literally and metaphorically, and is also often messy in both senses. 

And so is life.  My mom said this to me in a phone call today as I was lamenting the ongoing uncertainty in some key areas of my life right now.  I am a person of action.  I like to examine my choices, make a decision, and take action.  Immediately.  And decisively.  And actively.  I do not like to explore each and every scenario and possibility ad nauseum without seeing a clear cut best choice.  And right now, there are uncertainties and possibilities and many many choices in front of me, without enough information to be able to make a decision.  And I. Don't. Like. It.

Life is slippery and messy.  We think we have things under control, and life suddenly throws a giant bucket of slimy green goo on us and off we go, slip-sliding off of our carefully plotted course, sticky and messy and out-of-control.

I don't mind creative mess.  In fact, I relish it.  I do mind life mess.  In fact, I {the opposite of relish} it.  And I've written before about how I wish I could learn to embrace life mess the same way I embrace creative mess.  Perhaps that's why my life continues to feel like a giant slide of green goo:  life is giving me another opportunity to embrace the messy and slippery ride.


This is where I'm supposed to offer an insight or a lighthearted ironic observation or a pithy comment.

I don't have any.  Sometimes blogs, and life, are slippery and messy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Life in a Day

Being bed-bound after a recent wrist surgery, there's not much this one-handed artist can do... read, type slowly, eat, drink, sleep, and oh yes, watch movies. Trolling through Netflix, I happened upon a movie I didn't get to see in theaters (though I had really wanted to), but could watch instantly via Netflix: Life in a Day.

From 192 countries, 4500 hours of video was submitted for the project, a film about simply life in one day all over the world. Its mesmerizing, unforgettable, heart-wrenching, silly, gross, and poignant all over the place. You can watch it for free at:

See if it doesn't change what you think about your life in one day. It did for me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gather and Giggle

The November Gather and Giggle was perhaps my favorite yet.  Emily led a short seminar on visual journaling, sharing her techniques, her wisdom, and her artistry with us.  After watching her put together a page, we all sat down and explored this technique for ourselves.  In between chocolate, laughter, and some spilled paint, we discovered some new ways to create.  Take a look:

Beautiful colors and movement

For Emily, creating is so easy she can do it with her eyes closed
Vibrant colors and generous swirls balanced by delicate layout, a reflection of it's creator

My personal piece, different from anything I'd done before

It is so satisfying to us to be building and encouraging this creative community of women.  Make sure you put Sunday, December 4 on your calendar, and don't miss one more opportunity to be a part of our Gather and Giggle!  Come join us. Come unfurl your art. Come unfurl your life.

And Happiest of Thanksgivings to all of you.  We are so very grateful for you, for your love, and support.  Thank you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What would you do if you had the time?

As "the season" begins, time flies: parties light up the nights, errands (over-)fill our days, priorities tumble. This year I pinky swear I will do my best to be as mindful as I can. 'Cuz as my 5 year old constantly reminds me, doing your best is all that you can do.
What do you have time for? Are you passing the time? Are you filling you time? 
What would you do if you had the time?
(photos by H. Andrew)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanks on a Napkin

Thanksgiving 2011

Thanksgiving draws near, and I wanted to do a little special craft this year.  Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays:  gratitude, family, and feasts with lots of dessert--what's not to love?  Like most of you, I don't have a lot of extra time these days, so here is a quick and easy, kid-friendly, adorable and handmade way to add a little personality to your Thanksgiving table.

Here's what you'll need:

Simple, common crafting items

  • Glue (most will work, hot glue or glue stick being just fine)
  • Leaves (from your yard is ideal, but can use fabric leaves if you prefer)
  • Shipping tags with strings (different sizes and brands available at most office stores, Target, and Wal-Mart; examples here and here)
  • Construction paper/felt/cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Circle punch (optional, can also trace around a circular lid and cut out with scissors)
  • Sharpie or paint pen
For efficiency, figure out how many napkin rings you need total so you can cut out all the separate pieces you need at once, allowing you to assembly-line it all together. 

I started by tracing on the brown construction paper around a spool of thread and the lid to my glue stick to get two different sized circles.  Then I glued the smaller circle at the top of the larger one.  I Sharpied two eyes, cut a tiny triangle from the yellow paper and glued it on for a beak, and tore a strip of red leaf off and glued it into position by the beak for a wattle.

Not sure yet if it's a turkey or a snowman in need of a nosejob

Then arrange your leaves on the shipping tag.  (I found it looks best with a fan of three small overlapping leaves or one large one.)  Liberally glue in place.  This is the tail.  Glue the turkey circles onto the base of the leaves. 

At the bottom, write or stamp a sentiment:  "thanks" or "thanksgiving"  or "turkey day" or your guests names if you wish to use these as place cards.

If you want to replace the strings, use a thin pretty ribbon to dress things up, or twine to make it more rustic.  Then tie the ribbon/string around a rolled napkin, and--voila!-- your very cute and personal Thanksgiving napkin ring.
Feel free to let the glue dry before you take YOUR photo.
Want to make it a little more grownup?  Skip the turkey, just paste (or staple, to make it even quicker) a single leaf and the words at the bottom.

Happy Thanksgiving.  We are thankful for your love and support.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Feathers and crystals

I popped back to Iowa couple weekends ago to celebrate my parents 50th (!) wedding anniversary. {Ever my inspiration}, my mom had created these little mobile hanging doodad thingys.

LOVE them. She found the feathers out walking around their serene, picturesque midwestern countryside. So simple, so beautiful. LOVE.