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Today's prompt is about finding or remembering the things that help you slow down and feel calm, peaceful, relaxed.  This is something  we should all take some time to pinpoint, really, so that when we're feeling frazzled, frantic, and generally out of sorts we don't have to try to figure out what to do to help ourselves.  If we know the things that soothe us, we can just turn to them when we need to.

Here's my soul soothing photo:

A good book, my journal and a favorite pen, a hot drink in a favorite Matisse print mug--these soothe my soul
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Today's post is about love.  And hearts, because hearts and love go hand in hand, right?  So here's my photo:

This is Jack, one of my two kitties who are one the biggest sources of love in my life.  I chose Jack for this prompt because I always think his little nose looks like a heart.  He was just made for this prompt, wasn't he?

Here's one more, because I'm sure you want to see more of that adorable nose:

See you tomorrow with more photos!

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In my last post, I mentioned how my delightful friend Jo of Tanglefrost sent me a beautiful necklace, and I was making her something in return.  I was so excited to be doing this because I love my necklace so much, and Jo has been a lovely presence in my online life this past year, and I was also rather thrilled to be sending something to England as I've never sent anything off the continent before.

I started a mixed media painting.  I wanted it to be oh-so-special so she would know how much I love my necklace and how much I love this real world connection idea.  I started another painting.  I gessoed over that one.  I put my things aside and played online.  I took out my canvas.  I looked at it and walked away.  I don't think I hit a wall.  I think the wall hit me.

I spent several days worrying about taking so long with my painting, about it not coming out right, about my gift not being good enough.  And then Sunday evening it hit me.  I was being a goofball!  This wasn't at all about making something perfect or out of the ordinary or anything like that.  It was about making one of the paintings I love to play with and create and then sending that little piece of my happiness and enjoyment to a dear person to share the fun.

So now the painting is almost ready.  I think two more layers will have all the pieces on it I want, and I've been having lots of fun playing with colors and patterns and papers.  And I think that will show in the final product.  And this will be exactly what it was supposed to be all along--fun and happy and friendly!

So take note--don't try too hard.  Do what you love.  The joy will show through, and those who experience what you've made will know that they are in touch with a little bit of your heart, and it will be a good thing all the way around.

Go out and enjoy your creating!

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I've been trying to write this post for over a week.  I've started it so many times in my head, and a few times on paper, but I keep feeling as if I'm missing the emotion I want to get down on the page.  I'm just going to stop trying.  I'm going to write up the bits and pieces, disjointed as they are, and put it out there for you all to see.

The story started when I was a young girl, in my teens.  I inherited my great-grandmother's knitting bag.  It had been around the house before then, but it was put away somewhere.  My mother ran across it, and it became mine because I was the only one in the family who would be likely to have a use for it.  Plus, I love (ridiculously, madly, unreasonably) bags.

I didn't really use the bag, but I kept it because I loved the vintage look of it (I loved "old fashioned" things decades ago, before the current vintage craze was a glimmer in a hipster's eye), and I loved that it belonged to a woman that my mother and aunt and all of their cousins spoke so fondly of.

There was an oddity about the knitting bag, though, and no one could explain it to me.  Inside the bag, although there were no holes in the lining, a safety pin was pinned to the fabric.  No one knew why it was there, but they left it there because their Baba had put it there.  So I left it there, too.

Fast forward to this May.  I took a beginner sock knitting class because I've always wanted to know how to knit socks (I'm told my great-grandmother could knit socks and sweaters without a pattern!).  I didn't use her knitting bag because the fabric is starting to come loose from the wood, and I don't want to ruin the bag.  Someday I'll figure out a good way to repair it, but until then I just keep the bag as a cherished memento.

I bought my own brightly colored, pyramid shaped bag:

And I learned how to read the pattern.  And then I got to a part of the pattern that called for marking a row with a safety pin.  I bought some fun, anodized metal pins in different colors and thought, "I think I'll pin these inside my bag so they don't get lost in the bottom."  Light bulb!  After all these years, suddenly I knew why that safety pin was there.  It was her row marker just as the brightly colored pins inside my bag are mine!

I told my mother and my aunt the story, and they were touched the same way I was.  It just gave us a warm, tender feeling in our hearts, this connection I found with a woman they loved so dearly but I never met.

This brings me to part two of my connections, and it's not about knitting at all, but I'm going to include it in this post because it's sort of related.  The same week I made the safety pin discovery, I found out I'm going to be going to Faerieworlds.  And I remembered that my friend Jo of Tanglefrost, someone I met last year online who showed me so much kindness and encouragement, had a beautiful leaf necklace in her shop, just perfect for a faerie gathering.

I contacted her, and some magic happened, and a gift of an amazingly gorgeous necklace has arrived in my hands (I cannot express how exquisite the work is on this necklace--it is delicate and ethereal and simply amazing and I seriously encourage you to gift yourself with one of these or one of her other works--you will be stunned by how much more beautiful this is in person even though it is already so beautiful in the photo!).  And with it came a real world connection between us even though we have never met.  The work of her hands is now held in my hands, and a small piece of art I am making will be headed to her this week.  And suddenly the friendship that was just online has stepped out of the virtual world and into the physical world.  My heart is so full with the joy of this connections!  I didn't even know I was missing this sort of connection until now.

So through the connection with my great-grandmother and the connection with my distant friend came an idea.  I love it that we can meet people and become friends with them online.  But I realized that there's nothing that can really replace real world connections.  I realized that I keep in touch with almost everyone on the computer.  I realized I don't actually have the addresses of most of my friends.  Sure I know how to get to the homes of my local friends, but I couldn't send them a card or a gift without having to spoil the surprise by asking for their addresses first.

My idea, formless as it is so far, is to find a way to make real world connections in our lives.  I'll be writing more about this as I come up with more of a plan, but if anyone wants to participate with me, to make connections, share things off the internet with each other, and tell each other about it, let me know.

There it is, all my disjointed rambling about connections.  I hope I've conveyed a bit of the feeling I wanted to share.  I hope I've planted some ideas in your heads about connections you can make for yourself.  Let me know what you're thinking, and together we'll move this idea forward, off this computer screen and out into the world where it can see the light of day.

 

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For me, making myself a little something is so much better than going out and buying something.  Maybe not always, but when I'm feeling restless and dissatisfied, a feeling that used to send me to the mall as a teenager, making something makes me feel way better than a shopping spree does.  Usually costs a lot less, too.

I was feeling a little bit of that restlessness yesterday.  Then I found this fabulous tape from Duck brand (I really want to find the green peace symbol one!).  Then I remembered this cool journal making tutorial I saw last week.  And so I made this:

The Outside

 

Outside, Opened
The Inside

You can see from the photo of the inside that I got the bottom staple a little off-center.  I decided I didn't mind it enough to re-do it, so there you go.  I did change the final step and add one final step.  I stapled from the inside out then put another piece of tape over the staples on the outside of the spine to keep them from snagging.  It was easier for me to do it this way since I didn't have a long-armed stapler and also didn't have an eraser.  Experiment a bit and see what works for you.

Why is my journal making experiment important to you?  Just as a reminder--it took me longer to tweak my photos and write this post than it did to make the journal.  You do not have to have big stretches of time, lots of space, or many supplies to make something fun and satisfying.  So go ahead.  Go out and make yourself a little something.  You're gonna love it, I promise!

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I've been away.  A little bit physically, a lot mentally.  I'm wont go into the messy details.  They really aren't important right now.  But I did come back with a few things to share, so I'll just get down to that.

First, I am now a certified Muse Group Leader!  I will be leading in person workshops and retreats based on Jill Badonsky's book The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard).  I'm so excited about this!  I love this book, and I love Jill's work, so this is really a big thrill for me.  I'll keep you posted as I get workshops up and running.

The second thing that happened was an unplanned and unnerving trip to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  My mother was having surgery, and things were really scary and stressful for a while both leading up to the trip and for a bit after.  Things are better now, so that's a relief.  But one thing I did during the travel portion of this crisis was really helpful, so I want to share that.

Going in to a crisis situation, we often think of only the necessities.  Underwear, toothbrush, medicine, contact numbers.  And you do need those things (and don't forget your deodorant and dental floss!).  But more important than any of that is packing things that will care for your heart and soul.  Whenever possible during a stressful situation, give yourself a soul break, a refresher of sorts.

I took some art journaling supplies with me (I wrote about that in my March newsletter), although I didn't end up using them.  But putting together my travel kit and stitching up a quick little journal were very calming activities all by themselves, so it was worth carrying the stuff with me.

I took my written journal.  Didn't write in that, either, although I did flip through it a bit and look at some pictures and quotes I have in there.  Just having it near me was comforting, so again it was worth carrying.

I took my camera.  I was going by train to a place I'd never been before, so I consciously decided that I would try to be a little touristy.  I didn't get any photos from the train--it moved too much for my little point-and-shoot.  But I did look around the places I was in and try to see them through creative, visitor eyes, and I ended up getting some good pictures that I am happy to have even if most of the memories around the trip are all about stress and worry.

A glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly in the Gonda Building at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
And another...
And one more...

I am completely in love with these glass sculptures, so expect to see more photos of them in other posts.

While my mother was in the hospital, I stayed with my aunt in a hotel on the Mayo campus.  We did make some excursions into the town, but I only got one fun picture of a very odd corn cob water tower:

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to get some photos of Red Wing, Minnesota, the charming little town where the train stops, but I didn't.  And that's okay.  And it you think you should have done something while you were dealing with an emotional situation but didn't actually get to it, that's okay, too.  Do what you can, arrange things so you can give yourself a little "me time" if you get time and feel like doing it.  Don't worry if you carry things with you that you don't use.  Security blankets (and books and paintbrushes and journals) are highly underrated.

That's everything for now.  I hope you'll excuse me if I was a little scattered in this post.  I was trying to condense a lot of thoughts and feelings into something that would come out shorter than the dictionary.

Until later...

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Happy New Year!

Do you make New Year resolutions?  Or maybe set intentions for the year or just list a few goals without calling them resolutions?  Most of us have some hopes and dreams and plans for the coming year on January 1.

Many of us have creative goals we want to accomplish.  If you have a goal to bring more creativity into your life this year, I thought I'd offer ideas for two ways you can make that happen:

Try Something Completely New

One of the best ways to rev up your creativity is to try something new.  Do you paint?  Try writing poetry.  Are you a photographer?  Try knitting.  You could even try something new and tie it in with your usual creative activities, for example by incorporating one of those poems you write into a mixed media painting.

If you go this route, let yourself get really involved in the new pursuit.  Join a group or two, read blogs, take a class.  Really dive in and immerse yourself in your new activity and give it a chance to really take hold.  Give yourself enough time--weeks or even months--to really get to know the ins and outs and ups and downs of your new creative pastime.

Delve Deeply Into Something You Already Do

Do you sketch?  Plan a year long project to do one small sketch every day.  Do you like to cook?  Sign up for a class in one particular cuisine, or plan to try recipes from a different region once a week.  Take something that you enjoy doing, go one step further (or more!) than you have so far, and become an expert.

I'm planning to go the first route this year and learn to quilt.  I've read up a bit on quilting, and I love the look of beautiful quilts. I've even bought a few supplies, but I've always hesitated to actually try it out, so this year I'm diving in.

How about you?  What creative fun are you getting into this year?  Drop me a note.  I'd love to hear what you're up to.

And again--Happy New Year!

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I love Christmas.  Not the shopping and craziness and relentless stupid commercials on TV.  I love Christmas--the glowing, twinkly lights, the sparkly decorations, the smells of baking and bright paper and bows and the generally better dressed, more decorative world we seem to walk through during late December.  The days sort of glow somehow as we try to adorn and festoon our way out of the dark season.  I think I love it so much because somehow in my mind it is still the Victorian fantasy I came to believe in from watching Little Women and A Christmas Carol, White Christmas and Holiday Inn and reading The Bird's Christmas Carol (my favorite Christmas book when I was young).  I love how Christmas brings beauty and sparkle to my everyday world.

Still, even during these glowing, Victorian tinged days, I'm already feeling the pull of the new year--looking ahead, thinking of what I want to do, what I'm going to do differently, what exciting things might just be waiting up ahead.

I do think it's going to be a fabulous year.  I already know what my focus word will be--Believe. Do you have a focus word for the year?  I like having a focus and intention for the year rather than setting resolutions.  Focus is more flexible and seems better suited to something meant to last a full year.   This year I had three focus words--create, thrive, explore.  This led me a good way down my path, but I think my focus was a bit split, which is why I chose one word for 2011.  That and I feel for the coming year everything I want will come if I just learn to believe in myself and my abilities.

I already have a few things coming into my life that I can tell are going to help me keep growing and thriving next year.

  • This week, I got two early Christmas gifts in the mail (one just arrived).  The first, Inner Excavation by Liz Lamoreux, is already bringing shifts in my world view just from the first read through.  The second, the one that came today, is Expressive Photography from the Shutter Sisters, edited by Tracey Clark, and it feels like I'm holding in my hands everything I want to learn to bring out in my own art and life.  I'm feeling madly in love with these books, so I've been writing about them all week, and I'm not done yet.  Look for lots of posts both here and at my WordColors blog about these books over the coming weeks and months.
  • Preparations for the Wild Minds Writing Retreat I'll be hosting in June.  There will be more about this very soon, but it is already sending me in new thought directions as I plan it.  It's going to be so much fun!  I can't wait to have enough together to start sharing about it.
  • The decision I've made that 2011 will be the year I create the physical self and surroundings that I so deeply desire and deserve.  I've formed an art journaling group, BodyPages, to help in this exploration, and I'm starting to have actual ideas of how to make it happen and some hope that it actually can.

This is what's on my mind now.  I'm enjoying the season and looking forward to the turn of the calendar page with great excitement and hope. Wishing you lots of both during this beautiful season!

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Hi everyone!  I'm back from vacation and finally feel like I'm back in the right time zone.  I'm always amazed at how much a two hour time difference can mess with my body clock.  But here I am, mostly rested and back to normal and filled with some thoughts to share.

I've been trying to avoid something recently, but I went to the grocery store last night and had to face up to it.  The holidays are coming.

I'm still annoyed by seeing Christmas things alongside of the Halloween candy, but my irritation over the mixed holidays doesn't mean they aren't coming.  And if they're coming, it must be time to get ready.

This post is going to be a little bit of a mishmash of things that can help you get ready for the long, long winter holiday season.  But before you start shopping and cooking and wrapping and hiding (you hide presents, don't you?), you should put one other really important thing on your schedule--you.

The holidays can be a lot of fun if we turn things down a few notches and let ourselves kick back and enjoy our family, good food, and long, cozy nights.  If you get caught up in spending too much money, cooking too much, eating too much, scheduling too much and generally letting yourself get frazzled by the whole experience, you risk sidelining your creativity well beyond the end of the holidays.

I've had years where I've started January exhausted, angsty and grumpy.  I've had some version of "make more time for creative work" on my resolution list a couple of times, too (thank goodness I've stopped doing resolutions!).  I know I'm not the only creative who lets my personal projects slip away during this time of year, but I also know that it's important to not let your creative work take a back seat during the holidays.

Your creativity is a major part of who you are.  It's important and deserves attention even during busy times.  It's also really easy to push it aside when "more important" things crop up.  But if you let your creative self languish for months while you do holiday stuff, it's going to be really hard getting back into the flow come January.  Plus, you're probably not going to feel as happy and calm and festive as you would if you keep taking care of yourself during the holidays.  In the long run, you are going to be happier and feel better if you make some time for your creative work even when life is hectic.

Okay, we get it.  We acknowledge that we need to keep feeding our Muses even during the busy holiday season.  How can we make sure that happens? I have a couple of ideas.

I'm going to start with my favorite.  I love to take classes to help me stay in the creative flow.  Here are a few that are either ongoing or getting ready to start up soon.  They could possibly help you carve out some regular time for yourself during the next few months.

Those are just a few on my list of things I have taken and liked or want to take.  There are literally hundreds of online and in person workshops and classes you could take to help you and your Muse stay connected.  Check your local parks and recreation listings and your local community colleges for some in-person options.

If you would love to dive into something new but don't want to take an ongoing class, consider a one-time workshop either online or in person.  Or take a look at some instructional videos.  Interweave Press has videos available--some as downloads as well as DVDs-- in most of their creative categories. (I really want to try several of the mixed media videos and maybe a couple of the knitting ones, too.)  If you want something short and quick, check YouTube by searching for your favorite art category (for example, art journaling).

You can also go the practical route and choose to make some or all of your gifts.  If you're going to do this as a means to keep connected to your creativity, though, I strongly recommend making things that you would want to make as art or craft projects even if you didn't need a gift to give away.  If you need some inspiration for gift projects, check out these publications:

You can also get creative with your wrapping and decorating, but again, don't take on creative projects just to kill two birds with one stone.  Make sure the things you're choosing really do feed your creativity.

If none of these appeal, but you want to make sure to get in some good creative time during the holidays, call up some crafty friends and schedule some creative parties to work on art journals or other projects together.  Just make sure you feed your Muse and come January she'll be sure to return the love.

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Oh look!  Another three day holiday weekend, and another time for me to forget that yesterday was Sunday, not today.  I just can't seem to help it.  In my mind, the last day of the weekend is Sunday!  So, if you were looking for a post yesterday, I'm really sorry!  I thought it was Saturday.  I hope you were off doing something more fun than waiting around at the keyboard, though. 😉

I had a lot of fun this week looking at what creative things I do.  How about you guys?  Did you run into any old artsy friends you haven't done in a while?

Here's my list of creative pursuits:

  • Writing
  • Art journaling
  • Photography
  • Embroidery
  • Beaded embroidery
  • Mixed media painting
  • Mixed media arts (collage, ATCs, altered books)
  • Cooking
  • Knitting
  • Oil painting
  • Bookbinding
  • Art quilting
  • Jewelry and prayer bead making

I think that's the list--there might be a few things I've tried out but haven't pursued beyond learning the basic techniques.

When I looked at the list with an eye to how these activities relate to each other, I found that there's actually a lot of cross pollination.

For example, when I learned to knit, I taught myself.  I just knit a few inches, pulled it out and did it again until I got the hang of it and stopped dropping and adding stitches.  And now I've noticed that whenever I want to learn something new, I find a way to do a small version, often multiple small versions, to practice on before I make a full project.  I'm actually, finally learning to sew this way!  I know this doesn't seem like a big thing, but it's not how I tended to work before I taught myself to knit, and now since it worked so well for that I do this all the time.

Another major shift in how I do things came when I learned the beaded embroidery style that I'm very in love with now.  I used to do cross stitch, then I expanded to other embroidery styles, and then I found this magnificent beaded embroidery style which is pretty much all I ever want to do now.  It's a free style, because you can't actually plan ahead where all the beads are going to go; you just go along one bead at a time, looking at the piece after every few beads to see what else is needed where.

And you know what happened to my rather precise, tidy, attractive but sedate mixed media pieces like my ATCs and altered book pages?  They started getting wild, which is something I had always wanted.  I learned from my embroidery to have a look at the piece and just add a little bit at a time, not worrying about the finished piece, just looking for what bit it needs next.

I haven't really figured out how I might make these connections happen purposefully.  I think what we'll all need to do for that is look at our processes in our creative activities.  Once we can see how we do things, it will be easier to see how the processes we use can be used for other types of projects.

I'll keep an eye on this, and if I get any insights on how to purposefully use these cross connections, I'll keep you posted.

I'm going to be on a bit of a break this week, so I'll return next week Tuesday (September 14) with our next installment.  Meanwhile, have some fun and make some things!

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