the cake topper department

I’ve made an astounding number of flamingos in the past few weeks. I make flamingos in my dreams. There are tiny bits of pink paper everywhere. I do some of my best thinking while I’m making them and my note book is always right next to me.

flamingo pairs

While I was making this last batch I accidentally designed a new cake topper. I’ve been rolling around the idea of crepe paper birds for a couple years but couldn’t quite get the shape I wanted, failed a bizillion times- I am particular. While I was making the flamingo armatures I stumbled upon the solution – I wasn’t even thing about it, the idea just appeared, a eureka moment, I hardly ever have those. Once I had an armature shape that was right and reproducible I knew what to do with the rest and a few hours later I had birds – here is a sneak peek at mr. and mrs. chickadee.

mr. and mrs. chickadee

mrs. chickadee

mr. chickadee

I’m still working out details – supplies, production testing, packaging etc. and I  haven’t made up my mind about bases. I like the idea of them going directly into the cake  - like the flamingos, keeping it super simple but I’m not sure – what do you think- a little base or no?

on March 5, 2015 19

my big creative year : what’s working

It’s March! I love March – it always feels like a corner is being turned. And I’m two months into My Big Creative Year. Since beginning (kind of impulsively) I’ve thought a lot about what I mean by that – a big creative year – what do I want from it. The short answer is – to grow. To grow faster, to know myself better and be true to that, to be uncompromising and unapologetic, to challenge my presumptions and explore the farthest reaches of my imagination.

What I’ve learned so far:

The more creative work I do the more creative work I do. Quantity, or maybe more accurately consistency counts. Writing and sharing these posts with you, being intentional and curious and conscious about moving forward, trying new stuff that might not work, and the daily sketchbook practice are having positive effects on all my work, on everything really, there is an energy and agility in my thinking that feels new – I’m solving problems and getting unstuck more easily. The scheduled posts and daily sketchbook are also giving my week structure and shape and definition that’s making me more productive and building some momentum.

sketchbook charlotte  mew 3/1

Searching for something, reaching and experimenting in public does not always feel good – it never has and it never will, but it keeps me moving forward and the commitment and constraints force me to let go of perfection. I love this quote from Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland (I’m reading it right now and loving it- I’ll definitely  talk more about it when I’m done).

“To demand perfection is to deny your ordinary (and universal) humanity, as though you would be better off without it.”

Letting go of perfection, letting go of outcome and expectations and giving myself permission to just respond to things and try stuff and play feels refreshing and like an opening. The sketchbook practice puts me in the moment and focuses me – I lose myself in these little experiments. I think its important that they are small, if I had a lot of time or a bigger space to work in (the little cards I made are small 4.5 x 4.5 inches) I would feel overwhelmed.

sketchbook 3/2

I show up for them every day, whether I want to or not (mostly I have wanted to) and just like physical exercise – it’s not always pretty and it doesn’t need to feel good all the time for the practice to be undeniably valuable and bring growth and transformation.

on March 2, 2015 16

little owl pattern

The little owl pattern is available! Say hello to Mr. Littles and Mr. Biggles.

mr. littles and mr. biggles

The pattern includes instructions for a little owl and 3! pattern sizes – a  4.5 inch owl, a 5.5 inch owl and a 6.5 inch owl.

little owl patternThe owls make perfect captains for paper mache ships, the small size works well with the small ship and the medium owl works well with the large ship. The photo below is the small owl in the small ship.

owl at sea

owl pattern page

I hope you make owls! If you do I’d love to see – you can email photos to me at ann at ann wood handmade dot com. And I’m already working on the next two patterns – fabric sail boats and March lambs – you can check back here or join the mailing list if you’d like an email when new patterns are available.

on February 25, 2015 2

my big creative year : memory

dress updress up 1970-ish (I’m in black)

I can’t think about myself creatively without thinking of my childhood and my memories of it. I think this is the richest part of my mind, a library of detailed and evocative images I return to again and again. For my creative life it is the place that everything comes from. Everything. It runs deeply through all of what I make – whether it is my intention or not.

When I approach it directly – when I go looking for those images and sensations and moods and textures and attempt to express them, as purely as I can, I sometimes lose my self consciousness, my judgmental self gets out of the way. I think it has to do with the quality of memory itself – shadowy and shifting, elusive and sometimes fragmentary – it requires patience, careful listening and something slower and quieter from me.

It’s something I’m curious about – these impressions of experiences that my brain made and kept.  I’m curious about all these pictures that exist in my mind and nowhere else and I wonder how to express them as fully as I can without my current perspective and judgements getting in the way.

octobersThe image above is from my “this is where i am from” series: I remember when I was 10 or so, alone in my room, noticing that I was experiencing an exquisite moment. I was lying on my bed reading Anne of Greene Gables. It was late in the day on a Sunday and almost to cold too have the window open- but not quite.


on February 23, 2015 9

paper mache work

I’m working on a group of paper mache ships – all three from my ship pattern collection.  I like to paper mache in the evening – all those little pieces of paper – it’s relaxing and meditative and I wake up to lovely dry ships – ready for paint and sails.  I always start with a layer of brown paper  and usually finish with a layer of newsprint – I’m working over a cardboard armature so 2 layers is enough.

paper mache ship workI gathered some scraps for patching sails and making flags – these ships are going to be pale and romantic and have owl captains. If you’re waiting for the little owl pattern it’s almost here – after some testing I needed to revise the pattern a little – there was an unnecessary complication. I’m doing some re-shoots and it will be available next week – you can join the mailing list if you’d like to be notified as soon as new patterns are available ( I’ve got a lamb pattern in the works too).

sail scrapsI also want to share one of my favorite artists working with paper mache with you : Michelle Lassaline.  I love all her work and the masks especially – they have such presence. This image is so enchanting and mysterious and captivating, the detail of the painted hands…..

Michelle Llassaline Burro

You can find Michelle’s website here and more images here. If you happen to be in Nevada you can see her work in person on February 24th – find the details here.


on February 18, 2015 2

my big creative year : sketchbooks

I was planning to share some artist’s sketchbooks I admire today. And I still am – but as I began to put the post together the idea to make room for my own daily sketchbook practice crept up. I take notes all the time and I make lists, lots and lots of lists – sometimes that’s the first glimmer of a new project for me, a big list or pages and pages of scribbled notes, but I do not, and have not had a consistent sketchbook practice even though I think it’s an incredibly valuable thing. I’m not sure why not – scared of it I think. The books below are a couple of my favorites and there is a remarkable collection of artist sketchbooks here.

Alison Worman:

alison worman's sketchbookAnd Mia Christopher:

mia christopher's sketchbook

The closest I’ve come is the cardboard horse project – it was kind of like a sketchbook – they could be anything, I experimented, they reflect where I was in a given moment, I got ideas – so many ideas and sometimes it was painful, sometimes it was a chore and sometimes I loved it.

 Over the weekend I’ve gone back and forth – there are good reasons not to:

* I’m already too busy and usually panicked about time. It’s adding another thing to my already giant to do list.

* Daily practices – even small ones – are guaranteed to be hard sometimes.

There is another part of me that is all for this:

* I love a record – a reflection of the day.

* I have a deep craving to make marks on paper

* This year – My Big Creative Year has to do with moving towards something — searching for something I need that I’m not giving myself or a place I haven’t gotten to – reaching. I have a strong sense that this small daily practice will move me in the right direction, it feels like a gift to myself, medicine.

The Plan:

* I am making it small, physically small, so it doesn’t scare me away. And instead of an actual sketchbook I’ve made myself a stack of 4 and 1/2 inch squares and I have a little box to file them in.

* I’m committing to one year – beginning yesterday, Sunday 2/15/2015.

* The question of sharing it – for the moment I will – I’ll post all the week’s entries here every Saturday. The promise to share is important, I need the accountability. It will probably feel embarrassing often and if it is too painful for me or seems too tedious for you I’ll create a separate page for it so that you have the option to visit or not visit rather than posting on the blog.

There are no other rules – just making marks. It doesn’t have to be fancy or intricate or detailed; I can glue stuff, scribble, splatter, draw – anything – I just need to show up and make marks on paper and I’ve got to do it every day.

Here are Sunday’s and today’s :

sketchbook 2/15/2015

sketchbook 2/16/2015Check back on Saturday if you like for all seven of week 1 – and if you’d like to join me in this experiment or you already have a regular sketchbook practice you feel like sharing – let me know – I’d love to see.

on February 16, 2015 11

on my work table : a blue fox and botanical inspiration

I’m working on several blue creatures including a solemn blue fox made from textiles courtesy of Sri Threads in glorious shades of indigo (except for his velvety nose – I used a bit of a midnight blue Edwardian jacket).
blue fox

I’m also making plans for my botanical workshop at Squam this June. I loved teaching this class last fall – the specimens in the photo below were a gift from a student in last September’s class- treasures.


I collected inspiration for some new projects/experiments for the upcoming spring class at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (it’s spectacular) this past fall. This is an Eastern Shooting Star – gone to seed – strange and lovely.

eastern shooting star

And the remains of  a Purple Coneflower.purple cone flower

I had never seen either of these before – if you know of other strange and wonderful botanicals please share – I’d love to see. I’m looking forward to the class and the time in the forest. It’s terrible to wish time away but I can’t wait for spring. Fiddleheads and frog chirps and mushrooms – all of it.  And P. S.  (a couple days early) – Happy Valentine’s Day!

valentine flamingos

on February 11, 2015 12

my big creative year : playing with words

I started collecting words accidentally. I almost always cut paper for paper mache ships in a particular way. For my top layer I like newsprint, cut rather than torn. I separate my strips by text size and weight and I prefer that the strips are horizontal – flowing with the text. When I’m cutting newspaper, things invariably jump out at me. There is some mood or meaning, some sensation or memory evoked by a word or phrase. And so I save them.

collected words

entrhall, confound

The original intention was to use them on ships and boats and I do, but something else happens when I take out my box of words - I get all sorts of new ideas. It has become an intentional practice. When I’m wandering and inviting inspiration I sort through the box –  a single word can spark something, shift my direction just a little, send me to a place I would not have gotten to, intersections appear.

It is a kind of listening.

collected words

collected words

I love the happenstance of it.



on February 9, 2015 10
Made Happy by Pictalo