my big creative year : paper mache

I have a long, happy  history with paper mache. It’s always been one of my most favorite mediums, I loved it at first sight. I love the simplicity, the economy, and the endless possibilities. I don’t think you need a lot of skill to have fun with it and it invites improvisational thinking. I love to dive in to creating something without  plan – just an idea and a pile of cardboard boxes, newspaper and masking tape. All sorts of problems and happy accidents occur – both spark new ideas. I think it’s good brain exercise. I spent part of this past weekend on an big paper mache experiment that failed dramatically but I learned a ton and  it sent me in a new direction, I landed on and idea that intrigues me, a new approach to a project I’ve been stalled on for months – more on that soon.

In a similar experiment a few years ago I made a classical style bust while I was spending a weekend upstate – just for fun – with whatever was on hand. I like him, he’s silly and and I decorate him every Christmas.

paper mache bust

Here he is in progress – lots of taped together cardboard and bunched up newspaper – I had a blast.

paper mache bust armatureIf you’ve never tried it before I have 2 free tutorials with templates and lots of instructions – paper mache boats and teacups.  The tea cups are lovely for Mother’s day and both make great parent child collaboration projects.

on April 27, 2015 1

sketchbook : week 10

Week 10 in my yearlong sketchbook practice. 10 weeks, 70 little experiments. I started to lay them all out chronologically on the floor and realized I didn’t have enough space, it would take some time and it was going to be lots of fun. So I’m saving that for a while – maybe I’ll wait until I’m done.  Also in answer to a question – I use a variety of things for these- usually a mix of pencil, charcoal, acrylic, gouache and watercolor and the little  4.5 inch squares are cut from Arches hot pressed paper  - it’s my favorite.

experiments on paper

sketchbook week 10

on April 25, 2015 1

sleepy lambs and goats : a sewing pattern

I’m so happy to finally publish this pattern! I hope you enjoy it. A dear little lamb and goat to sew.  What’s cuter than baby lambs and goats – nothing- absolutely nothing.

Please meet Smokey and Pearl:

lamb and goat sewing pattern
lamb and goat pattern

Pattern details:

Skill level is advanced beginners and above – requiring basic hand and machine sewing experience. If you don’t have experience sewing 3 dimensional shapes this is an opportunity to learn about darts and gussets. There are tips along the way for beginners, and the instructions are very detailed.


full sized pattern pieces
detailed step-by-step instructions
color photographs – there are 54 instructional photos
resource list with links
A small glossary of terms for beginners

lamb and goat sewing pattern

lamb and goat sewing pattern

lamb pattern page

lamb and goat sewing pattern

I hope you make lambs and goats! I feel like if you show up at a baby shower with your own handmade Smokey or Pearl you should be prepared to revive people – they are so sweet it’s almost too much.

P.S. – I’m having a sample sale at the end of the week of some of the many prototypes I made along the way  - check back for details.

*Update – sorry for the delay – the sample sale will be up tomorrow – 4/30.

on April 21, 2015 3

my big creative year : margin

Had I already mastered the idea of margin in my life I wouldn’t be editing this post in my car 20 minutes before I need to publish it. But I have not mastered margin, not at all. Margin is the space between, the room left for error or chance, the cushion, and I rarely have any. I’m the guy hand making one more Christmas gift at 2 AM on the 24th, 10 year old me was adding glitter to my styrofoam ball planets on the bus to the science fair. It isn’t really about procrastination (although I’m great at that too) – it’s more – I see some space, some room and think “why not add something?! Why not make it better?! Let’s do both!”.  It is a kind of misguided enthusiasm – it’s hard to say no to something I’d love to do even when I know there isn’t enough time. It also comes from fear of lack – fear that the universe will find me ungrateful and opportunities will disappear, it’s living in fear, fear of scarcity. And I am a wishful thinker, I catch myself all the time planning for things to go perfectly, filling every possible moment with commitments, scheduling things back to back or overlapping. It feels like I’m being diligent, a hard worker, but I’m setting myself up to fail – when there is no room for error some little thing, like the printer breaking, can become a huge deal.

When you have margin you have options – so often in this life that I supposedly designed to afford choice I feel I have none. And I need to fix that. Fix it or miss out on my best work. Fix it or be swept along in the chaos – just reacting to emergencies.

the brook

I came across this article recently and for some reason it penetrated in a way that the idea just hasn’t before. It got my attention and it stuck with me and I understand something new: margin it isn’t something that happens when things get magically better, it is a decision.

It’s a choice.

It’s a choice and a discipline, something you plan for. I don’t have a busyness problem I have a decision making problem.

It sounds simple – just plan for extra time  - but It means fighting against life long inclinations and habits, the temptation to fill every available minute is strong. My first move in the right direction is to figure out how to take one day a week completely off. Oh boy. My current situation is so far away from that I can barely get my head around the idea and at this point I think it’s going to take a while to make it happen. I’m hoping for progress, not perfection, for improvement, some sense that this is attainable for me.

So much of the new stuff I’m trying this year is working but I think this one issue is the lynch pin, the biggest obstacle, the thing between me and real improvement in my work and my life.

on April 20, 2015 9

sketchbook : week 9

Week 9 in my yearlong sketchbook practice. For todays entry I painted my sewing machine – my mother’s old cast iron white rotary, the machine I learned on. I’ve always found it beautiful – other old machines too – elegant lines- so much thought put into the aesthetics of it. I saw it’s twin at a flea market a couple years ago – regret not getting it.

sketchbook week 9

on April 18, 2015 2

the makerie workshop and sweet paul magazine

I spent last weekend in Philadelphia teaching at the sweet Paul Makerie. I came home equally spent and inspired. The whole Makerie experience was fabulous – fascinating people, spectacular class line up (I would have loved to take all of them) and it had Sweet Paul all over it – every detail thoughtful and exquisite.

I taught Stitched Botanicals – seed pod forms in textiles. Teaching is new to me and I feel my feet under me more each time. I had wonderful, generous, open students – willing and enthusiastic about trying stuff – I was blown away with what people made.

botanical textile art

botanical textile art at the sweet paul makerieGetting out of my cozy bubble once in a while is so good for me, this was, among other things, a gathering of like minded women, there was such a feeling of belonging and I learned a ton. I came home with a bunch of new ideas and feeling like my world got bigger.

makerie students

I’ve been a huge fan of Sweet Paul since he began way back in olden times (I make this mushroom dill sauce almost every week). Before the magazine there was a blog and then a digital magazine and now the gorgeous quarterly print magazine.

sweet paul magazine


sweet paul magazine

It’s exceptional – the kind of thing you save. Paul came to visit last October and I’m featured in the current edition. I couldn’t be more excited – there is an interview and pictures of my place and work. It was shot by Colin Cooke whom I loved. I’m terribly awkward about having my picture taken and he taught me a fabulous technique I call “laughing to the side” – check it out in the feature or see it employed on my about page.

on April 16, 2015 12

sketchbook : week 8

Week 8 in my yearlong sketchbook practice. Sketchbook will be back to it’s regularly scheduled Saturday posting time this week – I was teaching in Philadelphia last week. I was super stretched and would have loved to blow the whole thing off  but I’m glad I didn’t. Getting it done the second half of the week was a little torturous and it feels pretty awkward to share things I don’t feel good about but it’s part of the exercise and this exercise has been incredibly good for me.

sketchbook week 8

on April 15, 2015 0

my big creative year : permission to rest

I took the day off yesterday, for reals, like I haven’t in a long time. I didn’t set an alarm and erased my agenda for the day. I had coffee in bed and got up around noon. It was not not exactly by choice – I was just useless.

I came back from teaching at the Sweet Paul Makerie in Philadelphia late Sunday night and I was completely out of gas. Even this morning my brain and various other important parts are just starting to work again. The weekend was fabulous and I’ll post about it after I get caught up on things – like getting last week’s sketchbook scanned, formatted and posted. This week is pretty discombobulated because of being away, and so very, very busy while I was away, but things will be back to posting at their regularly scheduled times next week.

For this week’s Big Creative Year post a couple thoughts on something I need to pay attention to: down time, rest, real rest. My inclination is to fill every space with something to do and ignore or under value the need for rest. It feels good to spend it all once in a while, to exhaust myself completely like I did this past weekend and it felt good to spend a day doing nothing yesterday. It was glorious, I had the afore mentioned lazy start and I hung out in the big chair, drank tons of licorice tea and looked at magazines for hours (I can’t recall the last time I did that).

the big chair

My bigger concern is my chronic need for some downtime – I don’t really take significant breaks – relaxing will happen at some undetermined time in the future when I’m less busy. That idea doesn’t work. My new plan, my new experiment is to find a way to take one day a week completely off. To plan for it and make it mandatory. It’s alarming that at this moment I can’t even imagine what that would be like. I’ll tell you more about how I plan to make it happen in next weeks BCY post on a subject I’ve been understanding in a new way lately : margin.

on April 14, 2015 7

my big creative year : working and listening

textile art seed pod

While I sew I listen and learn. I love a day with a big stack of sewing to do and no other distractions or obligations and a days worth of podcast’s, interviews, ted talks etc. to listen to. There are some episodes I return to again and again. I’ve chosen a few of my favorites to share with you below and I’ll add to this list  - please check back for more and if you have favorites to share please do in the comments. And listen with me today – at this very moment I’m packing kits for my Sweet Paul Makerie workshop this weekend and I’m about to tune in to Abby Glassenberg’s interview with Rebecca Ringquist. I’ve been looking foward to this one! I’m a huge fan of Rebecca and her work.

The Unmistakable Creative – writer  Esme Wang -  Diagnosed with devastating mental illness as teenager Esme talks about coping through writing – her story is powerful and she tells it honestly and beautifully.

Ted Talk – writer Elizabeth Gilbert - on genius, success, creativity, work and inspiration.

While She Naps – Jess Brown – I love Jess Brown’s rag dolls and enjoyed listening to how they came to be and the challenges, twists and turns in nurturing and growing a very personal business.

The Unmistakable Creative- MacGuyver creator – Lee Zlotoff – on creative work, ideas, and the power of your subconscious. I use the thinking tool learned here everyday.

The Unmistakable Creative- Founder of the 5 Minute Journal- UJ Ramdass – on the power of gratitude.

The Good Life Project – artist  Debbie Millman –  serendipity, fear and creating happiness.



on April 6, 2015 1

sketchbook : week 7

Week 7 in my yearlong sketchbook practiceI had a really good time with my sketchbook this week. I painted my favorite upstate houses, I got super into it. Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was all the time in the world to spend driving around in the country looking for forlorn houses and painting their portraits. That’s my new escapist fantasy.

sketchbook - week 7

on April 4, 2015 9
Made Happy by Pictalo