A Fun Morning! Valentine Paper Cut Workshop @ Knack

Last Saturday I had a wonderful morning at Knack teaching paper cut techniques to ten lovely women. I had a full house show up for the workshop and we all gathered around the table and got to work. I talked a bit about Wycinanki, Polish paper cuts. I especially focused on the Kurpie style Polish paper cut which uses a single fold, symmetrical design technique. Some students used the templates I brought to class for their design and other students created their own unique designs. Every paper cut made in this workshop was created by using recycled / up-cycled materials that Knack has gathered or that have been donated to the store. All the women seemed inspired by the class and especially by the design examples I shared from books I bought while studying in Poland and Hungary. A couple Polish/American students came to the class because they wanted to learn a little about their creative, Polish heritage. It feels good to pass on the beauty and heritage of traditions I've found particularly rich and inspiring. I plan to be back to Knack sometime this spring to teach another paper cut class. This time we will create floral paper cut designs. Stay posted for the date which I will announce here and on Facebook once I book the day and time. Thank you to Macey and Amber at Knack for having me teach this class and for taking these pictures which capture the feel of a fun, creative morning at your store.

Making Valentine's Cards: Up-cycled, Paper Cut Workshop February 1st

Last month I created the above example and template of a hand made, paper cut, Valentine using paper remnants I found in my scrap paper folder for an upcoming work shop I'm teaching at KNACK: The Art of Clever Re-Use, in Easthampton, MA. The workshop takes place in a couple weeks, on Saturday morning, February 1st, from 10am until 12pm. Spots are still open if you want to join me!

I'm really looking forward to teaching an art class again as it has been a number of years since I've been in a teaching role, encouraging other's creative energy and talents. Yes, in a past life, before I moved to western MA, I was an art teacher to middle school and high school students.

I took two embroidery classes at KNACK this fall and had a ball! It was wonderful to get out of the house on a Saturday morning. I walked into KNACK with the smell of a fresh pot of coffee brewing, greeting my senses and one of the friendly owners there to welcome us. All the workshop attendees soon gathered around the table and got to work with a wonderful and talented teacher. We all learned something new that morning and it was inspiring to be in KNACK's studio space.

I just got confirmation today that the workshop is a GO since I have enough people enrolled in the class to allow it to happen. And there are still some spots available if you want to join us at KNACK's fabulous creative re-use lounge. I included the following information taken from KNACK's website which shares all the info and links you need to find out more info and enroll in the workshop.

Class Description

Valentine’s day is just around the corner!  Make unique cards to give to loved ones (or keep for yourself!). Paper Cutting is an art form that is practiced by different cultures all around the world.

You will learn about the Polish form of paper cutting called “Wycinanki”; the Kurpie style of cutting from Poland is the inspiration for the projects in this workshop. This style cut out is made from one piece of paper that is folded in half, down the middle. You'll create beautiful cards to take home, and  learn the skills to make many more on your own.
 Saturday, February 1st
Taught by Kim Wachtel
Cost: $30

Pre-registration required
Class size limited to 10
Sign up

Stop by during regular business hours to register for this class, or you may sign up online.

Register for Workshop!

Our cancellation policy can be found at the bottom of the Workshop listings page.
 Contact us! We can be reached at 413-529-0126 or info@knack.org.

Christmas Trees and Snowflakes, New Card Designs, Holiday 2013

These new Christmas Tree and Snowflake paper cut images are at the printers this week to be made into holiday cards for the upcoming season. I thought I'd give you a little preview of what I'll have available at the Walkabout, craft fairs and at the stores where I sell my things and here on my blog starting in the beginning of November.

It is good to have some new items made to sell at the various sales opportunities coming up in the next few months.

I liked making these Christmas "Tree of Life" designs and Snowflake designs. Working with colorful paper, coming up with original, folk-style inspired images and symmetrical design is satisfying for me. I like the moment I unfold a new piece after cutting it for an hour or so to see if it works.

Wholesome Transformations: A hand designed commission

My friend Bi-sek has been interested in homegrown, healthy food for longer than I've known her. She's a talented organic gardener, cook, community organizer, nutritionist, health enthusiast, environmentalist and mother. I admire her and her work as she pushes herself as a woman and a professional. She is also the founder of the community garden that I am involved with called Raspberry Hill Community Garden.

Last year she commissioned me to design the above logo for a business she is developing. She wanted something hand drawn and painted in my colorful folk style. Since her business is about transforming oneself through nutrition, my inspiration for the drawing started with a seed blooming into a vibrant flower.  I choose the sunflower because not only is the plant beautiful, the seeds are nourishing. We decided to put some images of healthy vegetables and fruit in the corners of the composition.

Bi-sek and her daughter shared a gift this past winter with me and Kaz. They would come over to my house to play with Kaz and give me a little break from taking care of the baby so I could head over to my studio for an hour, two or three to work on this project. At this time it was important for me to start reclaiming my artistic self. This project helped me do that. Thank you, Bi-sek!

You can find out more about Bi-sek's work with nutrition at Wholesome Transformations.

My new love... Embroidery!

I discovered something new about myself this week. I love to do embroidery. I had a hunch that I would really like to do this and I was right. I've enjoyed admiring and looking closely at embroidery for a long time. Now it feels so good to be doing it!

Last Saturday I took a two hour workshop on embroidery at a new, truly awesome, re-use center/store called KNACK in Easthampton at the Eastworks building. Knack is a DIY palace. The store takes used things, sometimes on the way to being discarded, and brings new life to these things as potential and transformed arts and crafts items. I love the idea behind creating a store like this. Upcycling and reusing materials is a great way to transform items and the workshop space encourages community to learn to do things for themselves.  Here is Knack's mission statement...

Knack: The Art of Clever Reuse is a creative reuse center where you can:
  • Find all sorts of reusable materials for your creative projects
  • Take a workshop or drop in during our open studio time
  • Have a party (birthday, craft night, creative gathering, etc.)
  • Shop for upcycled gifts/art handmade by local artists
A woman named Bonnie Sennott taught the workshop. I was really impressed with her embroidered art pieces. She creates abstract images with embroidery stitches which I found beautiful and inspiring. She has a blog, Blue Peninsula Knits, which is full of her projects and examples of her many creative talents. She is a talented knitter as well as a knit pattern creator.

The photo above is of my completed project from the workshop. Bonnie gave us a template to work with and all of the materials to create a sachet. We got to try out 6 different embroidery stitches while creating this pretty, fragrant sachet, stuffed with lavender, camomile and flax seeds.

I find that doing needle work is really very relaxing to me...like weeding a garden or knitting a scarf. Repetitive, task oriented work makes me happy and puts me in a mentally and physically relaxed state. This activity is becoming a nice way to end a busy day full of child care and play, work, household chores, gardening and cooking. Plus I feel like I'm making progress with my creative practice since the sewing links up with the creative work I am now doing. It's a win/win situation!

At home, before taking this workshop, I've been playing around with simple watercolor patterns and incorporating hand stitched elements into them. I've been really attracted to the sun symbol motifs carved into wood of decorative Zakopane architectural elements and furniture in Poland. I'm making little images with gouache, paper, and thread using simple folk art motifs. Here's a work in progress at my work table.
I'll be happily embroidering as well as making new paper cuts and little paintings to prepare for the full season of craft fairs and holiday events in the coming months. I'll post more news on these events in a future blog post.

Paper Cut Wedding Invitation: A hand designed commission

In the winter and spring of 2012 I worked on a wedding invitation commission for my cousin, Bridget. She and her (now) husband, Matt, wanted a clean, organic design with fresh, spring green being the only color amid simple neutral tones. She wanted an image that was inspired by nature.

Her desire to have a clean simple design made me think that a paper cut would be the perfect medium for her invitation.

After a couple experiments and attempts I was hit with an inspiration for the design after looking through a few books from the library of botanical drawings. I simplified the idea of a curving organic branch in a neutral dove gray and added birch like spring, green leaves which attached at the ends of the branches. I cut the paper using scissors and an Exacto knife.

Using this branching leaf design I created a frame for the text in her invitation. We went through a bunch of different fonts on dafont.com and found a nice font with a handwritten, organic feel.

Bridget really wanted a tri-fold card. This design incorporated a "cut-out" postcard for attendance replies. She did not want a lot of disconnected pieces of card paper and envelopes to be a part of her invite.

The cover of the card was simply the image of the branch with leaves and the names of the couple. When you opened the card, all the information regarding the wedding was there...the announcement, the location and a RSVP card to fill in, cut out and send back. On the back of the card was some more logistical information, the address the return post-card and a place giving credit to the the designer...Where Earth Meets Sky Designs.

This project was a huge learning curve for me. I learned more about using the design programs on my computer, Photoshop and Illustrator. Thank you, Josh for all of your help with the computer programs!

A local co-op called Collective Copies did the printing for us. Despite some hiccups with the printing machine used for the addresses on the envelopes, it all worked out in the end. I delivered the completed project to a very happy bride to be.

Thank you Bridget and Matt for hiring me to be a part of your wedding in this very special way!

Studio Time

I am making a real effort to spend time back in my studio.


The time is right to put energy into my creative practice with gusto.

Now that Kaz is over a year old, takes two regular naps, has an early bed time, and enjoys some time at the local daycare a couple hours a day, a day or two a week, there is no reason I can not get at least 6 -12 hours of studio time in every week. I know this doesn't sound like a lot but it is something. Something which is very special to me.

First I spent time reorganizing and cleaning up my studio space after using it as a home office for the past year. Now that the space is in studio mode I am back to work. Paints can stay out and works in progress are easily accessible. This is great as I sometimes need to get to work fast when I only have a bit of time to spare. A half an hour here an couple hours there soon add up to sketches being made, watercolors being experimented with and dreams taking shape.

During studio time I am taking care of Where Earth Meets Sky business. I want to use some of my creative time to get ready for craft fairs and holiday sales that happen in the fall through Christmas time. I would also like to get my cards and prints into some more retail businesses. I want to update my facebook business page and learn how to connect it better with my blog. I'm thinking about setting up my Etsy shop again since it has been dormant for the past year.

I just finished a commission I had been working on for a friend for long time. I want to share all the commissioned projects that have come to fruition in the past year and a half. I created a wedding invitation, a tattoo design and a business logo with matching business cards. I still need to finish a poster/flyer template for a musician friend. Posts to come will show the work in their completion. I will also have an organized page here on my blog which focuses on the commissioned projects that I've been hired to create for others.

Giving myself a kick in the pants to get out of my head, take action and get to work has felt really good. Creative work brings a greater sense of purpose and meaning to my life. My other roles in life are satisfying but when I put energy towards my creative practice I feel more whole and complete. The danger for me is procrastination and fear of failure. Somehow when I take action these two negative aspects become weaker and quietly hang in the background instead of blazing in the foreground. I do not feel good when I procrastinate or am unnecessarily fearful.

I have found a website that I find particularly inspiring and helpful as I make headway organizing moments of free time to create art work in the studio. It is a space for mothers who are artists called Studio Mothers. There are some good articles there for those of us looking to use any bits of free time we have pursuing creative endeavors. Really the inspiration here can be useful and translate to how one may pursue any life passion. Sometimes we just need some positive affirmation to help us along the way. This is a place I can find that.
meme taken from studiomothers.com

Creative People Say No

The following piece, from medium.com, written by Kevin Ashton is relevant to me as I work on creative projects. Time management is the hardest thing for me, right now, as I do my creative work. I have lot's of good ideas and work I want to do. Being a mom, working part-time out of the house and all the projects on the homestead take up most the time.

I struggle with saying no or yes to social commitments, community events, volunteering for this, that or the other thing. What is a creative person to do with big dreams and a few projects she'd like to accomplish on her plate?

I can just say....

Creative People Say No

A Hungarian psychology professor once wrote to famous creators asking them to be interviewed for a book he was writing. One of the most interesting things about his project was how many people said “no.”

Management writer Peter Drucker: “One of the secrets of productivity (in which I believe whereas I do not believe in creativity) is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours — productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.”

Secretary to novelist Saul Bellow: “Mr Bellow informed me that he remains creative in the second half of life, at least in part, because he does not allow himself to be a part of other people’s ‘studies.’”

Photographer Richard Avedon: “Sorry — too little time left.”

Secretary to composer George Ligeti: “He is creative and, because of this, totally overworked. Therefore, the very reason you wish to study his creative process is also the reason why he (unfortunately) does not have time to help you in this study. He would also like to add that he cannot answer your letter personally because he is trying desperately to finish a Violin Concerto which will be premiered in the Fall.”

The professor contacted 275 creative people. A third of them said “no.” Their reason was lack of time. A third said nothing. We can assume their reason for not even saying “no” was also lack of time and possibly lack of a secretary.

Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.

Saying “no” has more creative power than ideas, insights and talent combined. No guards time, the thread from which we weave our creations. The math of time is simple: you have less than you think and need more than you know. We are not taught to say “no.” We are taught not to say “no.” “No” is rude. “No” is a rebuff, a rebuttal, a minor act of verbal violence. “No” is for drugs and strangers with candy.

Creators do not ask how much time something takes but how much creation it costs. This interview, this letter, this trip to the movies, this dinner with friends, this party, this last day of summer. How much less will I create unless I say “no?” A sketch? A stanza? A paragraph? An experiment? Twenty lines of code? The answer is always the same: “yes” makes less. We do not have enough time as it is. There are groceries to buy, gas tanks to fill, families to love and day jobs to do.

People who create know this. They know the world is all strangers with candy. They know how to say “no” and they know how to suffer the consequences. Charles Dickens, rejecting an invitation from a friend:

“‘It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.”

“No” makes us aloof, boring, impolite, unfriendly, selfish, anti-social, uncaring, lonely and an arsenal of other insults. But “no” is the button that keeps us on.

A Call from the Ancestors: Picking up the threads

Hungarian Embroidery at Budapest's Folk Art Festival, August 2011
I'd like to write about threads, metaphorical threads, threads that one can pick up and follow. The threads individually come together and become part of a bigger pattern, a bigger piece. With these threads an embroidery piece is being sewn that tells a story.

I have been following personal threads of identity, authenticity, passion, connection and resonance. Sometimes I happen to find threads to follow. Other times I go searching for a colorful thread. I find it particularly magical when a thread finds me.  Another strand is sewn into my story, the work I am doing, the studies that I am pursuing and the life I am creating. This is a very personal journey and at the same time the embroidery involves bigger pieces of history, story and culture. It is the fabric of lives.

I found this quote about threads in a tapestry from a poem which describes my sentiments exactly:

"Every intention, interaction, motivation, every colour, every body, every action and reaction, every piece of physical reality and the thoughts that it engendered, every connection made, every nuanced moment of history and potentiality, every toothache and flagstone, every emotion and birth and banknote, every possible thing ever is woven into that limitless, sprawling web.

"It is without beginning or end. It is complex to a degree that humbles the mind. It is a work of such beauty that my soul wept...

"...I have danced with the spider. I have cut a caper with the dancing mad god.”
China Miéville, Perdido Street Station 

There was a time, in 2010 and 2011, when I worked with a mentor, Valerianna, who is an artist and friend at RavenWood Forest Studio of Mythic and Environmental Arts. I was looking to connect on a deeper level with my art practice. I needed perspective, a sounding board, someone I could talk with who understood what I was wrestling with. Questions about authenticity and identity in my art practice loomed large. The desire to create something meaningful and beautiful has been a driving force in my life. Creativity needs an outlet. A dialogue of meaning about authenticity, identity  and beauty is an important conversation that happens in my head as I begin new work. I think about these things and feel them out in order to bring forth something into the physical world. 


For a while, months and months, things were muddy, murky and not at all clear as I worked with my mentor, sketched and wrote in my journal. I was wondering if I was really making any progress? When will my vision for my arts practice become clearer? Will I ever be more confident in understanding the motivation for my creative work? Out of no where all of that changed.

Bobbie Sumberg's book, "Textiles", full of beautiful, intricate and colorful threaded embroidery was the catalyst pointing me towards the path I am on.  It stopped me in my tracks while perusing the shelves at the library in the winter of 2011. The book is full of textiles from all around the world. It contains photographs of some beautiful examples of Hungarian folk embroidery. As I briefly flipped through the photographs the Hungarian designs, colors and patterns struck me to the core. I knew I had to pay attention to this feeling so I took the book home with me.

The next morning I turned on the local college radio station. I began to look more closely at the intricate Hungarian embroidery work in the book. Unbeknownst to me, a polka show was on at that time. This got my attention. In between upbeat polkas, advertisements for local Polish businesses were played. I live in an area, the Pioneer Valley, with a large Polish-American population. After some time listening to the polka show and looking at the book I thought I'd look up Hungarian and Polish arts in western Massachusetts on Google. Low and behold a Polish art class was to begin at the Springfield Museum the next month. I signed up for it.

These seemingly small events lined up at about the same time and got my attention. The messages  coming to me were closely related to my heritage: the blood flowing through my veins. The hours spent alone in thought that winter morning, enjoying a book and listening to the radio woke me up. My Hungarian and Polish ancestors seemed to be gently shaking me, waking me up to what is there, what is here and what is in me. I was surrounded by eastern European stimulation that was sure to get my attention. Within 24 hours I awoke to a path. The path appears through a deeper connection with my heritage. The minor threads began an important journey that grow in different directions. I need to look forward, backward and be in the moment.

Lives are weaving together. My life with my ancestors, my living relatives, new friends and mentors. Threads of inspiration, love and longing drive me to read books, ask questions, look at images, learn the Polish language, create new art work, designs, paintings, paper-cuts and keep in touch with my relatives and the friends I met while traveling in Poland and Hungary. Stories and history are there to learn from and help me gain understanding. Places beckon me to return.

Perhaps, I've simply become aware of my place within a complex embroidery that has existed all along. The colorful threads continue to manifest, come together and take shape, weaving something I can recognize and see with some perspective. And yet a lot of work remains to be done. At times this is a wide and deep mystery. I'm left asking why.

I've always been attracted to strong colors and bold, graphic design, especially designs that connect with the natural world. For a while southwest and Mexican arts were a big inspiration to me but something was missing, a very personal connection.  I felt like a tourist. I didn't feel complete and my work didn't feel grounded. I needed to connect with something deeper.  Who am I? Why am I attracted to certain sounds, colors and patterns so strongly that I truly become awestruck? Why, musically, have I always been inspired by gypsy and eastern European music, violins, accordions, minor keys, edgy harmonies, singing and sounds of longing that pull on your heart strings? After looking deeply at the Hungarian embroidery in the textile book I realized what is going on. Aha!

The garments, like the man's mantle pictured below, wedding dress, bodices, hair pieces and many more items were sewn with such care, such love and such attention to detail. Flowers bloom in vibrant colors, patterns form a kind of rhythm of elements in the dress. The costumes exhibit such pride and joy for one's culture, one's life and one's connection with nature and the traditions of their region. The skill was passed on woman to woman, mother to daughter, grandmother to grand-daughter, generation to generation. These people lived such busy lives growing food and gardens, growing materials for their homespun linen cloth, making and mending clothing, doing household and farm chores, preserving food and the list of the hard work goes on. All this work was done everyday without the modern conveniences we have today. And it was still important to the women to spend time and attention doing intricately sewn handwork to make their lives reflect even more beauty. I so admire the skill and hard work that went into many traditional practices. I like the do-it-yourself resourcefulness that was a necessity in the past. I know I long to connect more to that kind of resourcefulness and I don't think I am alone. I believe my life is infused with more meaning when I can enjoy creating some of the things I use and need. The beautiful Hungarian and Polish embroidery I love to look at, the pieces my ancestors must have made and my drawer filled with doilies that my grandmother and great-grandmother made inspire me and reminds me of this.

My ancestors have been calling out to me. I've been looking for my own personal story, my history and the story of my ancestors. All along I wanted to deeply connect with my ancestor's traditions, lands, sounds, smells, foods, colors, plants, designs relating to the natural world. The Hungarian embroidery work woke me up to this reality. This is my quest. All along I was attracted to certain styles, music and aesthetic in relation to my personal heritage, my Eastern European roots. This led me to realize a vision, an adventure and a shift in my creative work.  I decided to take a trip of a lifetime to connect with my family and the land and villages in Poland and Hungary. All this has brought me much curiosity, depth and meaning to my creative practice and work. My experience continues to sustain and feed me.  I've created a line of gouache paintings and paper-cut designs which are available as blank greeting cards and archival prints. The graphic, bold designs and bright colors used in my work and inspired by eastern European folk embroidery feel right aesthetically and appeal to me. They are a wink and a nod to the beautiful embroidery designs that I find so lovely. So many more ideas and images swim around my head, waiting for when I have chunks of uninterrupted time in my studio and at my easel to explore, paint and cut paper. This is the rabbit hole I fell down two years ago and now there is no turning back. The journey is deep and vast. The more connections I make the more I want to know. One lifetime doesn't seem long enough to get to the bottom of my desire for understanding.

Hungarian Embroidery, Budapest's Folk Art Festival, 2011

A conversation about art and other good stuff between Jack White and Conan O'Brian

I spent some down time yesterday listening to this conversation between Jack White and Conan O'Brian who are both bright, talented and who excel at their crafts.  I love an opportunity to learn from the masters and was interested to hear what these fellas had to say about the creative process.  It's a long conversation but something you can have on in the background as you do the dishes. Sitting down with their drinks, this is more a conversation between friends, comfortable and joking around, than an interview. I appreciate how candid and vulnerable they are with each other and their thoughts. It doesn't matter if you are a musician, a comedian, a painter, a writer, or for that matter, anyone trying to bring something to life and share it with others, there are universal truths and connections here for all of us who are creating something. Topics of conversation include back and forth dialog about work, talent, vision, authenticity, success, women, religion, the performer/audience relationship, Bob Dylan, upholstery and the number three.

I bought the newest album, Blunderbuss, by Jack White in July on my first outing with Kaz a couple weeks after he was born. It's been played on regular rotation in my car and it really is a good record. This is my favorite song on the album more for the sound then the lyrics. A great saloon style piano meandering around loud electric guitars with cool chord progressions. And a guitar solo only as Jack White could play it, edgy and loud ... Love it!  Go ahead and have listen...

May Day

I spent most of this rainy May Day on the computer editing and photo shopping paintings like this new one to prepare them for prints and cards. I'm learning as I go and it is not as easy as I think it will be. It looks like my new cards and prints will come together but not without some stress and hair pulling.  I'm on a learning curve. I want to reproduce my original art and make it as easy as possible to work with when reproducing as cards and prints. However, my original paintings and paper cuts have not always been measured out with an accuracy that makes the photo shop, layout and printing process quick and simple. This will get better and I suspect I will get better at this. I'm just feeling stress and pressure as the deadline of the Hilltown Spring Festival looms ahead on May 12th. I hope to have a nice table set up with lots of new cards and prints to show and to sell. Wish me luck!

Bright Sun Shiny Day

Spring isn't just flirting with us anymore. It's here to stay for it's season. Daffodils, lungwort and hyacinth are blooming in my garden and the dandelions are coming out with a cheerful hello.  

I wanted to post some pictures of Pisanki given that many of us celebrated Easter, Passover and spring this past weekend. I bought this decorated egg in Poland last summer. I love pisanki: the symbolism, the colors, the decorations, the act of making them. The egg has symbolized for many, many, many years, fertility and the revival of nature.  In Poland and elsewhere "Christianity imbued the painted egg with new meanings transforming it into the Easter egg and giving it a new symbolism but it could not totally eradicate the elements of pagan beliefs associated with the painted egg. Easter eggs, blessed in church by a priest, were continued to be used as a sort of charm for many different occasions: to be placed under the corner stone of a house; to help making bees to give more honey; to guard against misadventure on a journey; to secure happiness in marriage; to promote multiplication in the animal, floral and human worlds, to a name but a few of its functions."(http://www.ppld.co.uk/en/easter_pisanki.htm)

Usually between Easter and May Day a group of friends and I get together to make this style of egg together. I hope we do it this year as I have a lot of inspiration from my trip last summer.

I was in Pennsylvania last weekend to celebrate Passover and Easter and visit with our immediate family. It was a quick trip but so nice, ...especially nice to spend a bit of time with our families. Spring is ahead of us by a few weeks down there and it was a treat to "time travel" through the season. I like to think of it as time travel anyway because I get a tease of what's to come then get to head home, north to the cooler hills, and watch the whole thing unfurl slowly before my eyes.

Travel seems to take it out of me a bit more nowadays but I'm back in my groove and heading down the home stretch towards a goal of having a bunch of new merchandise (cards and prints) for a spring festival on May 12th. I also plan on updating my Etsy shop, blog and will have my promotional and marketing materials written up and posted. Actually, I have a lot to share with you in the coming weeks as I take it up another level. I'll begin a portfolio page here with my blog of projects I've been working on. I was commissioned to design a tattoo and and will be posting about that. My art now lives on a human body! Wow, now that is something permanent. I'm also putting the finishing touches on a wedding invitation I was commissioned to design. I can't wait to share these projects with you!

I just started an online course this week called Creative Courage which is offered by a lovely artist named Stephanie Levy. I'm hoping to continually learn tricks of the trade especially in relation to starting my own home business and balancing my creative life with being a new mom. So far this week has been full of good writing exercises, reading and interviews with inspiring creative women.

I hope you all are enjoying spring in your own way and feeling the energy of new life and new inspiration during this beautiful season.

Something Else I've Been Creating...

As you can see, I have been working on another important creation for awhile. A baby and my belly grew and grows as I work on card designs, gouaches, paper cuts and a small business plan. This past fall and winter leading through the spring to early summer is a time of important creativity. We anticipate the arrival of our first little one in early July. 

I've been holding off on writing about this big development openly on my blog as it's been a personal, quiet time that Josh and I have been enjoying these past months. Yet as I head into my third trimester it feels good to really bring this reality out as there are thoughts I'm sure I'll want to share and many things in my life and work that will reflect the changes happening.

It's been a time of much anticipation, excitement and change. It's curious and interesting to me that I'm preparing to give birth to my creative business around the same time of giving birth to this being and welcoming him or her into Josh's and my life. I'm reaching a new stage in my adult life and I'm enjoying this rite of passage. Although, to honest, there are also those awake early morning, 3am, thoughts swirling around my head wondering if I can pull all this off? wondering what it will be like to be a new mom? thinking about the preparations that need to happen for the baby's arrival and looking forward to meeting the little one face to face. 

It is a time of wondrous wonderings.


If you have twenty minutes or so I highly recommend this video. Being a human being in the 21st century warrants a viewing of her talk and then some personal reflection. Sociologist and researcher, Brene Brown, talks about the power of vulnerability. Our authenticity is so tied into our ability to be vulnerable... "to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen."

February in Bloom

We're a week into February and although this winter has been relatively mild, without a lot of snow, I still enjoy looking at the juxtaposition of my house plants, which live near the windows, against the icy, bare treed outdoors. I have a big picture window in the kitchen/dining area and put all the plants that are blooming there yesterday to take a picture. The amaryllis my mom gave me for Christmas began blooming this past week. Cyclamen, geranium and euphorbia are blooming now too and the jasmine is about to go into blossom. What is better than having some alive color in the house this time of year? When the jasmine goes into bloom the unmistakable scent comes along to brighten the house too.

Last week was a good week but also challenging. I have had feelings of being overwhelmed lately by my desires and goals. I have a number of projects I'm working on right now.  I'm creating two series of card designs and these are in the works. I continue to think about and look into my desire to create my own small home business. I'm trying to put into words what I am creating and why for my business plan and also so I can share my vision with potential clients and businesses that may hire me or carry my designs. I just signed up for and started a Photoshop course at a nearby community college as I have a big need to learn how to master computer art and design programs. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, these computer design programs are not easy for me to learn. My brain starts to hurt and feel overwhelmed by all of the options, choices, symbols and actions programs like Photoshop, Indesign and Illustrator have. I know I'm just beginning and that I need to be patient and keep trying. It's hard though especially when doubts come a creeping into my brain.

Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed I have a hard time motivating, creating and focusing. I had such a day last week. I just couldn't be productive the way I had hoped and planned. I went for a walk, cooked food for some friends who had a tragic and untimely death in their family and read a book but I sure didn't make any head way on my list of goals set for my creations and small business. While this is happening I begin to think negatively about myself and my ability to achieve my goals. Uhhggg. My whole life and being comes into question and doubts lurk, ready to make themselves known. As if an unproductive day isn't hard enough? Why do I have to go into self doubt mode?

Well, it was just a day.... and I did accomplish some of my goals this week. Some days and weeks are just better than others. The flowers and how they bloom in their season, when ready, remind me that you can't necessarily force things. Sometimes I need to be ok with following unconscious rhythms, having slow days and trusting that I will have rock n roll days too. I still strive to blossom and realize my hopes and potential. I desire the naturalness and peacefulness I see and witness as my amaryllis unfurled it's blossom over the past days, as my cats have their rhythms without judgement of themselves and as the chickens uninhibitedly enjoy longer days spent under the hemlock tree and in the sunshine while receiving energy as their egg laying picks up. We all have our own rhythms.  The amaryllis, cats and chickens seem to be OK with theirs. Why is it sometimes hard for me to be OK with mine?


Where I was. Where I am now. Where am I going? Part 1

"A horizon is something toward which we journey, but it is also something that journey's a long with us."
                                                        - Hans Georg Gadamer

"If you are striving to be equal to your destiny and worthy of the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your heart, then you should regularly be reaching new horizons."
                                                         - John O'Donohue

Above is a road curving towards a horizon. I like to use this as a metaphor in my paintings and photographs. We all travel the road of our life which is both created by us, our choices and desires, and created by the mystery that is beyond our human understanding or control. If I were to walk to the hills in the far distance of this photograph, I'd walk to the top of one of the hills and see that there is another horizon to reach in the distance. This is life.

I'm thinking about this experience I created for myself this summer. I'm reflecting on all I've learned and been inspired by... Where the inspiration to do this came from?  How I was able to do this? And now, what will come from this experience?  Some of my questions have been answered and more have come to the surface. I have gotten some perspective on a lot of things. I feel so full and inspired by all the sensory experiences and all of  the human exchanges.

At the same time, I see another horizon looming in the distance where I have the opportunity to create and learn from this quest and the lingering questions I have. I am sitting on a tip of an iceberg. Art, history, culture, stories, music and experiences lie beneath the surface to be revealed, studied, processed. These interests of mine...questions of authenticity, of identity and of culture can be a focus of a lifetime and I still will not understand it all. Where will these interests, this path, the questions lead?

About my journey...

Where I was.
The impetus... This winter I was deeply inspired by the folk art of Hungary and Poland to better understand my cultural identity and history. I saw and still see this as a doorway to inspire my own creative focus and also as a platform from which to launch into further study and a deeper understanding of the world and myself in the world. I'm going to be honest with you too, I believe that my ancestors have guided me here, to go on this quest, to be on the land where they lived, to connect with my living family and visit places where the dead rest. So many meaningful signs have appeared on my journey. In some ways, depending on how you look at it, it's been quite surreal. 

When I first had the realization that I may create an adventure for myself  last February/March I remember laying awake late one night thinking of being far across the ocean, far from home and all things familiar.  I thought about sleeping alone in a strange bed. These thoughts were both scary and alluring. Lucky for me, the alluring part of this imagining was far more captivating.

I am learning that fear is just fear. I should look at my fears, think about them and then make the best choices for myself with the intention of creating meaningful experience and beauty.

After facing my fear, I had to give myself permission to go on my quest. I had to figure out how I wanted to create the experience and how I was going to pay for the expenses of travel and education. Because of my supportive family (many thanks to Josh and my parents) I was able to see I can do this.  So, I bought my plane ticket, sent in my application to the summer school program in Krakow, got in touch with my family overseas while trusting that it would all work out and everything that needed to come together would come together. There is something freeing in letting go and trusting.

I also had to ask for help which was the reason I created the Indie GoGo campaign. This was very, very hard and very scary for me to do. Not only was I putting myself and my vision out in the world but I was asking for funding at a time when money is increasingly tight for many people as the economy continues to struggle. I was afraid to ask for help.

I had to ask myself, "Am I worth this?" The answer was yes. I have to be honest though, one of the hardest things about this trip was acknowledging this: I am worth it, I need help. ...and then asking for it.

Thanks to so many of you... your support with donations, kind words and wishes I was able to fit this experience into my budget and I was blessed with so much positive energy! Facing my fears, reaching out  and reaching my goal with fundraising at this stage of my quest was a huge boost and made me realize that I can do something bold and follow my heart. I am blessed to have so many positive relationships with family and friends. I hope you are starting to receive the postcards I've been sending out and I look forward to sending card sets, having a party, telling you stories, cooking eastern European foods and giving back to you all after I return home.

 We are not "islands" in this world. Although I've believed this for a long time I don't think I have experienced the intensity of this statement until now.  Positive relationships are one of the most important things in life. Often I have felt fiercely independent. Thoughts like, "I can do this myself. I don't want to bother anybody. I can be all alone. I don't need to or don't want to depend on anyone." have been a regular part of my internal dialog. I have spent a lot of time alone out of circumstances and choice. I even enjoy being alone ...sometimes. I need to be alone...sometimes. Maybe this comes from being an only child and being introverted? I've spent a considerable amount of time alone on this trip and have pretty much enjoyed it although there are definitely moments I am missing my family, friends, cats and even regular activities like singing at the lop of my lungs in the car.

I have also spent a lot time with family and new friends. I see that the magic of my experience here would not have happened if it weren't for my positive connections with others. Others like you who donated $10 or more to my quest,  who said "This is a great opportunity. You should go. What are you waiting for?",  who picked me up at the airport and the bus stations, who hosted me and cooked for me in your homes, who shared wine with me in city squares, who taught me about the art, the history, the architecture, who shared their culture, answered my questions, allowed me to study in the museum, met me and shared meaningful time and stories with me. I could have seen the sights and stayed in the cities and towns that interested me on my own but much of the magic was breathed into this experience because of meaningful connections with others.

For these connections I will be forever grateful. I also hope to continue this connectivity, to encourage others, to help others, host others and continue building the momentum of positive, meaningful connection.

How interesting is it...? The duality that we are all alone in this world. When we are born, the umbilical cord is cut and we are alone. We die alone. Yet we are all so connected. If you believe in the spiritual nature of life, are we ever truly alone? I don't think so.  There is endless space out there but with every step we take we are constantly held and supported by something and someone. For me this way of looking at things is very comforting and very special.

I got on the plane back in Boston on July 3rd alone with none of my friends or family. From that moment on I've stepped through hundreds of doorways: new experiences, people, places.  I am constantly met. Met by my own companionship, met by my family, met by a new acquaintance or friend, met by the sound of the world waking up in the morning and quieting down at night. Intentions coming to life. Doing and seeing what I was planning from far across the ocean this past spring.

So for all of you planning your own adventures and dreaming dreams remember that no matter where you are you are constantly and consistently being held. Everyday is an opportunity to try something new, hug a loved one, sing a song, rest, smile at a stranger, eat alone in a nice restaurant, contact long lost family and friends, make a new friend... Look at your fears, give them space in your company but don't let them stop you!

Sketchbook "Sunday" #9

Yup, it's Thursday really... but I like the sound of Sketchbook Sunday and I do have every intention of posting from my sketchbooks every Sunday... yet, sometimes life runs away with me, or maybe I run away with life?  I'm trying to be on top of things yet a few things were put off...which I do not like to do.  Well, here we are.

On my end, I've been dreaming and scheming.  An adventure including study and travel is in the making and I'm taken away with all of the planning.  Things are becoming clearer and coming together but I will wait to share my news until I am certain I will do what I intend to do.

My Polish Folk Art class came to a close last evening.  I really enjoyed the time there with the other women and the teacher.  There is somethings wonderful about being in an art class with other eager and enthusiastic students.  It brings me back to the best days in school from Kindergarten through University, which for me was art class day. 

Art class = learning, the imagination, creativity, the smell of paper, glue, paint, tables clean but stained with various art supplies, quiet attention, quiet chit-chat, time flying, looking at your friend's work, experimentation, interesting teachers, the rest of the world fades into the background, time stands still (but still flies while it appears to stop), possibilities loom, growing, happiness.

What does art class mean to you?  Do you have any memories or experiences to share?

Sketchbook Sunday #7: ...on a Wednesday

8 1/2" x 8 1/2"
gouache on watercolor paper

Spring is on my mind.  Some rain (and snow here in New England) falls.  The sap is flowing.  Trees and bushes are showing their buds.  The energy in the seeds and in the bulbs fire up for the push of growth that is coming.

I'm still testing materials.  I like the liquid gouache that I used here and the way it opaquely covers the paper in even color however I miss a semi glossy reflection or shine.  I'm on a quest for the paint and surface that will work best with my bold, graphic, colorful and tightly patterned designs.

New India Ink Paintings of Winter Trees And Thoughts About My Creative Process...

I painted these two pieces with india ink and water on newsprint with the intention of loosening up and with the hopes of  feeling less attached to the outcome of the creative process.  The images are 18" x 24" and a bit bigger than what I've been producing.  There is something freeing in knowing that if you do not like what you are making you can just crumble up the paper and throw it in the wood stove.  There is also something freeing about producing more work and focusing on the practice rather than focusing on the result or product.

I am becoming aware that I need to practice freeing up my creative process.  I have the tendency to move slow and put a lot of energy towards individual pieces, exercises and materials.  It's almost like I'm too focused on the end results.  I'm realizing that this kind of approach to my practice whether it's making visual images, practicing the piano or singing makes the flow more cumbersome.  To get better at anything you have to exercise the brain and muscles and therefore repetition is the key.  Yet I am fighting this habit/personality trait of mine.  I become attached to the idea that the end result should be good or interesting.  Notice the phrase, "should be".  These words and thoughts are rarely helpful. I expect too much and put pressure on myself.

What's really interesting is how this edge is continually coming up for me, even as I try to do a sketch, a doodle, a drawing, or a painting a day as a practice with no expectations.    Last night as I produced my sketch of the day I squirmed as the image came out.  It was an image of a female figure and, man, I quickly judged it as "eww, ugly, yuk, why am I doing this!?" Yes, it really is not very good but I need to get comfortable knowing that some drawings, exercises, work, sounds, ideas are just going to be that way.  I am quick to judge myself.  I'm getting to know this side of me.  It's there. Maybe this tendency of mine will always be there but perhaps I am capable of living with it more comfortably by gently steering my focus towards strengthening the muscles of detached productivity and repetition.

I have a third "Winter Tree" composition which was made around the same time as the above two. I just put some color on it and I also made some value adjustments.  I will post the third piece later this week as right now the water color is drying and I am not with my home computer to upload photo's of the new image to this blog.