on my work table : bright and happy things

little birds in progress

For the last week or so I’ve had lots of happy, sweet, festive things to work on.  It is a lovely thing that I hear from women who had my  caketopper birds for their wedding and would like a little bird for their child and so I’ve been making special birds for little girls. Two were for a birthday cake and had fancy party hats.

tiny party hats

party hat birds

birthday birds

I had so much fun making the hats. I love mini and I love crepe paper – it is magic stuff.  I’m working on a little girl size version of the paper feather crown  and I’ll share the instructions for that soon – everybody needs a feather crown.

birthday party birds
on July 29, 2015 8

my big creative year : the magic of tidying up

cleaning and organizing

I recently read Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”.  The book isn’t about cleaning, it’s about decluttering (the photo is from a house I visit upstate -I chose the photo because I love it, everything about it, and it expresses the beauty of essential things – just the essential things – the joy of simplicity and the elegance of the space around things).

It’s about having less stuff, having only things that bring you joy.

I approached this book with probably more than healthy skepticism. I always run into trouble with the word clutter. I get defensive and protective – that’s my important stuff, my important special stuff- and I need it, I need all of it, I need choices.

But do I? Do I need all of it? Do I even know? Have I truly looked closely enough or listened to myself and my things enough to know? Do I really understand what having it is costing? Because there is a cost – things have weight and shifting that weight around requires time and energy. And that’s what I do – I shift it around.

“Putting things away creates the illusion that the problem has been solved.”

I have all sorts of organizing schemes, I love the container store and ikea. I love them. I put it all away, make it lovely and it feels so good. For a while. Until everything I squirreled away starts to creep back out and I need to do it all again. It doesn’t really work or last because there is just too much. Too much that isn’t meaningful, too much I don’t truly love, more than what is essential. Slowly, it reemerges and I feel the weight of it.

At the center of Marie Kondo’s system for decluttering, for relieving yourself of “the burden of owning more than one needs” is this question:

Does this spark joy?

Look at everything (and she means everything) and ask yourself if it sparks joy. Her system for evaluating and what to do with the things you decide to keep gets detailed, really detailed (she almost lost me at sock folding) and there is an undeniable wisdom in the system, even the order she directs you to tackle things in makes perfect sense and sets you up to succeed. The goal is to create a lasting change, not a chore or exercise to be repeated at intervals – a system for assessing and dealing with possessions, keeping what you love, disposing of the rest and ultimately being surrounded by only what you love, what you choose.

I have begun, as directed, with clothes.

Some sparked joy, that was the smallest pile, some did not. A lot sparked a desire to lose weight. The pile of “doesn’t fit but I love it” was depressing and motivating – lots of “goal pants”…….  And she talks about the pitfalls of “downgrading to loungewear” – it was like she was speaking directly to me – vast, VAST and cumbersome sections of my wardrobe were “paint clothes” and “things to wear around the house” – enough for a couple life times.

The book continues through each category of possessions – tackling them head on, anticipating where one might fail or waiver with remarkable insight.

There is art, science and spirit in her system – you need to be able to embrace or at least have some tolerance for the idea of having a spiritual relationship with your things and the idea that things have energy. I’m so glad I read it, there were revelations in this book for me and it has made me think differently about things and how to take care of them.

I’m going to continue to work my way through each category (they get progressively more difficult) and I’ll let you know how it goes.  What’s your relationship with your stuff like?

on July 27, 2015 35

sketchbook : week 23

Week 23 in my yearlong sketchbook practice.  I have 161 little squares, it has outgrown it’s box and weighs one and one half pounds.  It has become a habit but I wonder what will and what should happen after the year has past, after my commitment expires. 

experiments : ann wood

ann wood sketchbook
sketchbook : week 23

on July 25, 2015 11

my big creative year : ghost gown

ghostly edwardian  gown
She danced right in…..

It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve run into a perfect, ruined whisper of a gown. I haven’t been looking, and none have found me. Interests, fascinations have seasons I guess and I wondered if this particular season had faded away forever. This Edwardian lawn dress, perhaps a wedding dress, arrived last week – it has everything and just like that I am in love again.

edwardian gown detailThere are particular qualities I look for in them – the lace is exquisite and the ideal scale for fancy little wedding birds – some of it is ruined by stains and tears but a great deal is in perfect condition. Looking for just this sort of lace is what sent me in search of a new /old gown a couple weeks ago. And there is so much more, the sheer cotton has worn to a silky sheen – it’s so thin and transparent it looks like it would disintegrate if you blew on it but it has a surprising amount of integrity and it makes the most perfect downy feathers for realistic birds, there is a subtle, lifelike iridescence. I’ve only come across it  once or twice.

And then there’s everything else, the sweetness, the romance, the heartache, the mystery, if she made a sound it would be a far away, off kilter music box playing Chopin. She had come all undone but I stitched and pinned her together for her last photo.

edwardian  gown : ann wood
on July 20, 2015 9

sketchbook : week 22

Week 22 in my yearlong sketchbook practice. I get so many ideas from my little squares, for all kinds of things. This week I had lots of ideas for fabrics and ceramics.  I’d love to take a hand building class this fall. And for now I’d like to experiment with Spoonflower – have you tried it?  Or maybe some block printing on linen. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a couple weeks just messing around with stuff you haven’t tried? 

sketchbook : week 22

on July 18, 2015 1

my big creative year : mind maps

Mind mapping and I go way back….. I first used it during the couple of years or so I spent trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, pre – this blog, pre – ann wood handmade. It helped me feel my way through, sort and evaluate ideas and then figure out steps to begin, to make stuff happen.

My brain is not a good place to keep things – ideas chase and distract me, things get lost, when my head feels cluttered I get overwhelmed and unhappy.


Getting stuff out helps me keep moving forward. My notebooks remain my most important tool for capturing ideas but for looking at the whole picture, making complex plans or experimenting with possibilities I find mind mapping incredibly useful. And I enjoy it – which matters – it’s fun, fun is good, fun gets me to do stuff. I use software or sometimes just pencil and paper – each have their advantages, the premise is the same for both:

Organize thoughts around a central idea.

Topics, sub topics and related ideas radiate out from the central idea and then branch off into increasing detail. That’s one of the big benefits for me – details go where they belong and I’m less inclined to become mired in, or overly focused on them. I use shapes and colors and lines and size to define or highlight ideas. I see connections and intersections, relationships and priorities that I might not otherwise have seen if I was working something out in my head or making a strictly linear list.

I started a new mind map this weekend. I’ve got a wicked summer cold, laryngitis, zero energy and large sections of me are covered in calamine lotion (unprotected walk in a swampy forest) – I’m wretched and itchy and generally poorly so I took to my bed on Sunday and played with Xmind all day – it’s free unless you want to get super fancy and I love it. It looks snazzy and you can add hyper links, images, reminders – all sorts of useful stuff. The image below is the beginning of my map (it has gotten much bigger) and I blurred some stuff out so as not to spoil any surprises.

mind map
My central topic is broad – my plans for the second half of 2015 – products, artwork, marketing, workshops, blog stuff – all of it. I’m just getting started and it’s already helping me generate new ideas and have a sense of direction and priorities for the rest of the year. I start messy and inclusive, brain dump style – and then refine – wether I’m working on paper or a program. As my focus gets clearer I start to add action steps. I love the structure around my ongoing projects and it makes space for new ideas. It’s not a to do list but it helps me build meaningful to do lists. Excellent and entertaining use I think, of an entire Sunday in bed.

P.S. When I mention or link to or recommend something here – books, websites, products etc. it’s because I think they’re interesting or awesome or I’m curious what you think about them – I don’t get paid for it, there are no affiliate links here. Just so you know.

on July 13, 2015 9

sketchbook : week 21

Week 21 in my yearlong sketchbook practice. This was an extra busy, extra tense, summer coldy, sore throaty, foggy brained week and it was hard to focus on the sketchbook part of the day. To make it feel do-able and to refresh myself I mostly finger painted – I highly recommend it as a loosening up, getting over yourself exercise.  Sometimes I felt like I got somewhere interesting and sometimes I didn’t but it mostly felt loose and free and experimental – so much of what I look for in this daily practice.

sketchbook : week 21

on July 11, 2015 4

the mushroom pattern is here!

The mushroom pattern is here!  And I’m so excited for you to make these. The pattern scales easily up and down – so you can make a variety of fungi.  Beyond making fabulous toadstools I hope you take away some new ideas about shape building in textiles. (photo by Chistine Chitnis)

little mushroom pattern

little mushroom sewing pattern

toadstool sewing pattern

If you make mushrooms I’d love to see – I’m @annwood on instagram if you’d like to tag or you can use #annwoodmushroom. Or email if you like to:  ann at ann wood handmade dot com.

I hope you make mushrooms! And if you’d like to be notified when new patterns are released you can sign up here.

ann wood mushroom pattern
on July 9, 2015 4

my big creative year : for introverts

On a scale of 1-10 for introversion -1 being an actual hermit and 10 being the super extroverted end – I would place myself at 3, or maybe 2 and 1/2. I don’t mind it, don’t want to change it and couldn’t if I did. It’s not a condition, it’s not better or worse than the other end of the spectrum, I do like people, I’m not sad or lonesome in any general sense, I’m just wired in such a way that solitude, and lots of it, is where my energy comes from.

solitary sailor

I would like to be a BETTER introvert though in three ways I’m clear about:

Figuring out how not to feel bad about it or at least feel bad about it less often – I waste so much time and energy on that.

Being a more diligent and intrepid explorer of myself – I want to reach past the comfortable territory I’ve already navigated and develop more skill at sharing that world.

And by challenging the edge of my natural inclination more often – not in an effort to be someone else but to expand to my full capacity,  to explore and experiment outside myself and collaborate more – in ways that respect what I need but push me past what’s entirely comfortable and familiar.

P.S. If this is something you relate to check out Jonathan Field’s conversation with Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

on July 6, 2015 10
Made Happy by Pictalo