curating, focusing and finding your voice – part 1 : practice every day

I consume tons of information – often via podcasts while stitching – a lot of it around creativity – and some around business and marketing – they often overlap and intertwine. There is a lot of discussion and advice, especially lately, around finding your voice, curating and focusing.

I have struggled with all three – especially the focus and curating. I’m all over the place and I think there is validity to the argument that it’s easier to make progress if you focus your efforts narrowly. For example – I know I could grow the sewing and craft pattern business – my newest venture – much faster if I focused solely on that. Maybe I should. I also know there is a lot more to explore and experiment with in my own stitch-work and I could sink into that exclusively. Or I could dive deeply into painting and drawing – It would be an adventure and I would love to spend a bunch of time working out exactly who I am and what I want to express in that.  And there is the question of what to share publicly – is it smarter to only present one sort of work? I feel the conflict – the conflict of posting work that I can imagine seems out of place or for a different audience. I’ve considered and am considering possible changes and solutions – like having separate homes for the different kinds of work I do. A home devoted exclusively to the craftier end and another home for projects that are more experimental – I love both and don’t want to stop sharing either. It sounds reasonable and I’m not ruling it out but I can’t imagine running two sites – the time and expense and also I immediately see places where the two would overlap – for me it is all deeply connected.  I remain puzzled and conflicted.

I hoped that the work and exploration I did last year ( My Big Creative Year series) would somehow work this out for me but it didn’t. Something did emerge though – maybe the beginning of some clarity through the daily sketchbook work. I recently passed the one year mark – 52 weeks – what I committed to – but it’s been so good for me I decided to keep going. It has not been at all convenient but it has been undeniably good for my creativity and imagination. If you can find and commit to a little space each day to play, to listen to yourself (on the good days and the bad days) and experiment interesting things will happen.

sketchbook work

That relatively small daily practice of showing up began to reveal things to me after about 9 months – I began, or really am beginning to recognize my own voice in that medium, a voice that feels natural to me. Themes, imagery and a vocabulary are emerging as well as a sense of what I’m attracted to and what my strengths and weaknesses are.

sketchbook favorites

When I went through my big stack of little squares (it weighs  3 and 1/2 pounds!) I saw that many of the ones I like best, the things that felt the best to me felt connected to the other work I do. I couldn’t quite articulate how though. And then – while packing and shipping paper flamingos I addressed a box to someone who lives on Fable Lane. I thought – what a charming address to have – I bet Fable Lane is lovely.

fortuny fox

The word kept popping back into my mind and it occurred to me it’s a common thread in so much of what I have done – for the last ten years especially – the idea of fable – all the meaning and sensation that word conjures. I think it’s something to explore intentionally – I’m not sure exactly how yet but the idea of investigating that passes the first test – I’m having some ideas that make me happy and curious. More on this soon.

42 Comments

  1. I love the messiness (I mean that in a good, creative, life kind of way) of all your efforts being shared here. It feels like you are sharing a process and that includes things that can’t be pigeonholed. Obviously you will do what works best for you but I just wanted to share that thought.

  2. You are many faceted and I find that so interesting. I am an artist wannabe and feel urges to produce but have no natural talent so I just muddle and dabble with painting, creating hobbit houses./fairy houses, some sewing of creatures I stuff and grunge for starters. I do know what makes me tense up or even cry when it moves me and your work fascinates me because of the art form and function and I also love your musings and perhaps your tortured soul in the writing above. Keep doing what you do.

  3. BTW , love that antique piece peeking thru the one photo. I love anything primitive. Your finished products fascinate me.

  4. So beautiful
    And wonderful to have a natural theme emerging
    To me you are a story teller
    And a fable creator
    A lovely name and fitting for you
    I am a symbol lover
    And amulet artist who finds favor with fabric
    A Peeker around corners for significant signs
    …..see you sometime!!!
    Xxoolauren tides teller

  5. Liz Van Buren

    I love everything about your website and how you do it — I would not change one thing. I am a consistent follower and love your posts. You are so generous with your sharing (I started with the free teacup pattern ages ago) and the other patterns I have purchased have been great. I really enjoy your paintings. Thanks for all you give and do, Ann!

    Liz

  6. Margaret Harwood

    I think finding one’s voice is a lifetime exploration. I can relate to what you describe as I find my artwork is a house of many rooms as well. Staying in one room feels like denying or perhaps secluding myself from the others, and as you say your art overlaps. I know I find your blog thought provoking and inspirational because you touch on many areas. Unless you are finding the blog less satisfying personally, I see no need to split it into more than one focus. Art, after all, is the process of discovery. As one of my teachers many many years ago liked to say, “the work comes out of the work”. And it does. Restraining yourself to one facet such as patterns and design might be logical, but will it hobble spontaneity?

    • Sallie Kane

      Ann, I have to say I agree with Margaret completely. I understand why you’re conflicted about one place for all your art and crafts but I feel it’s so connected and represents all your talent and skill. I also feel all over the place sometimes and recognize the need to put things into an order some way. Sometimes I think I’ll explode with all the ideas I have and the need to try it all. As long as I’m at it each day I give myself permission to do what I want. If I had to pick one or two mediums or ideas id become bored and resentful. You are one of the most honest and inspirational artists and I love what you do. Thank you -Sallie

  7. I, too, Have thoroughly enjoyed seeing your work, your experiments, your musings and your courage in showing your work-in-progress (something most artists would hate to do). So why are you fretting? It all looks like one big style to me, your work (all kinds) is definitely ‘you’ and instantly recognisable, why divide yourself up and separate your creativity? We all know that creativity’ flows’ and chopping it into chunks might make you feel disjointed and chopped up too. Looking back on my art school days I remember thinking how much better it would be if we could carry on with work projects until they were finished but realise now that spending a day or half day on each discipline actually supported the work and its development. Maybe you could experiment with having a schedule that allowed you a day for painting, a half day for packing and posting, a day for building and gluing? Don’t worry, your naturally creative mind will come up with the answer what ever it may be! Good luck!

  8. Shan Nottestad

    Ann, your post moved me to comment for the first time. I’ve been reading your blog for less than a year, yet it has become my favorite. It’s the very eclecticism that makes me look forward to the Thursday email each week, and the excitement I feel clicking the link to visit here. Blogs become boring to me when their creators use them primarily as marketing tools. My interest is very much in how you explore your creative process. And I find serendipity and magic in the way you share that exploration.

  9. Carole B.

    I just want to say this: I appreciate everything you’ve shared on this blog, and instead of thinking you share too much I’ve always wanted to see and hear more and. So thank you for that. That makes it just right. A few years ago I make (twelve) paper horses using your template and I have them hanging in my work area. They always make me happy. I think I dared to make them because a horse, always facing to the right, was the one thing I could sort of draw when I was a kid. So I dared, and they are wonderful. I am in St. Louis, and you are in my imaginary sewing circle and art group, showing up every so often, always surprising me. You introduced me to the concept of mudlarking, which led me to the worst and best site on the internet–I’ll bet you know the one I mean. The Thames people. Making the horses led to making more things, and getting my mother’s 1961 Singer humming again, and making things without patterns, and hand embroidering this and that and making paper mobiles. So Ann Wood, there is someone in America who worries that your hands are getting tired from sewing all of those tiny things. I’ll bet there are lots of us.

    I think this is the second time I’ve replied to a post on your blog, but I couldn’t let this pass. Thank you for everything you do. The small things have added up.

  10. Kristin McNamara Freeman

    The sharing of your process has deeply impacted my own daily routine with my studio and with writing. How our creativity expresses is, I believe, an on-going and ever changing process. Being open to the magic that unfolds when there is freedom to play and explore is the biggest gift I have given to myself in the past year….yes I began with the daily little explorations as I read about your journey there in your blog.
    Thank you for the podcasts you have shared, the photos and sketches…the explorations that have been wildly successful and those that needed more attention. The gift of your life as artist, storyteller, fable maker shared with the world is a treasure I hold dearly.

  11. i was inspired by your daily practice tho I didn’t really know it. In Jan. 2016 I took a stack of 5 x 5 ” squares and decided to do one a day for a month. This evolved into a daily 5 x 5 along with a obscure daily diary. I pictured this daily diary, white paint on black paper, as the listing at a restaurant and their daily special posted on a chalk board. I am just finishing up my book 4, 93 days into this project. The daily’s took on a life of their own and they are really the only artistic thing I am doing. I started manipulating existing books. Now I am taking pages and having them spiral bound. I have 2 more books at the ready. Book 5 will be daily’s done while traveling to Spain, we leave next Wednesday. I tend to spend too much time on these little works. Thanks for the inspiration. I enjoy your posts and love the fox. joanell in So. California

  12. Hello Ann,
    I’m writing from all the way over here in Tasmania, Australia. I often feel very isolated from the rest of the world, my town is a very small town and everyone seems to know each other. I crave for the worldliness and “cosmopolitarianism” that I sense is in the larger places. Thank goodness for the internet so that I can feel more connected. I remember being attracted to your wonderful owls Ann years ago, I thought they were amazing and different. I started making owls but thought I will never get the character that you do. I love hearing about your struggles and your thoughts and I envy your honesty and your ability to be able to share your good times and your not so good times. Your drawings are beautiful too.You seem to have no trouble selling your work and after all isn’t that what we try to do as artists – share our work with others who love what we love? In my small town it is very hard to sell anything – there seems to be a growing group of artisans trying to be competitive and trying to promote their work but there is only room for a few. Keep going Ann – you do wonderful things! xxx

  13. Liz Calais

    Hi Ann, enjoyed this post as I do all of your posts. I love your creations, your cozy home, and I so enjoyed your company in New Hampshire at Squam. I was the one from Louisiana who brought you a taste of our Acadiana area, a Praline from New Orleans. I would so enjoy living right next door to you and sharing a cup of tea or coffee every morning. You relaxed my spirt so very much in your class. I would go back where-ever to spend time experiencing a class with you. Thank you for using your talents and sharing them with us. I appreciate you. Liz Calais from Louisiana

  14. Thank you for sharing. Your work – whichever medium – is beautiful and inspiring.

    Your intelligent and open-hearted blog posts are a glimpse into your creativity, workings and thoughts and are much appreciated. Judith

  15. Yours is one of only 2 blogs I read. Yours because you are so openly honest about creating a life creating.
    Thank you!

  16. Just read through your blog Ann and all the answers people have written. Random thought processes and going off tangent at times is all part of the creative process. I love your generosity of sharing your thought and ideas and as many have said before me, that is exactly why I always return to your blog, compartmentalising your ideas would be tedious for you to do and would take out the delightful surprises and unexpected journeys that we all relate to,

  17. I don’t read many blogs anymore, but I’ve stuck with yours while culling a lot of the others. I think the main reason is because you explore ideas…although I may love when I find someone with a distinct voice who is focussed I find that after a few months I grow bored and move on because I think they’re doing nothing new. I can’t imagine not doing something new. It seems stagnant. But you are doing both old and new and it keeps it interesting. The old that I was attracted to initially and the new which keeps me inspired and moving forward with my own work.

  18. I find your blog interesting because of all of your work. My own doesn’t have a single theme either as so many different things inspire me, so I have no problem seeing where your muse takes you too.
    I’ve been very interested in your daily sketchbook project and I can see the worth of such an endear, though, personally, I wonder if that daily commitment may be too much for me. It’s something I must ponder on.
    I’m looking forward to part 2.

  19. Hello Anne, just wanted to drop you a note to let your know how much I adore reading your blog and seeing the inspiring pictures of your work. I love that you are a dabbler in so many different mediums, I think it shows a great freedom, curiosity and creativity. I also sometimes wonder if I would get better at my various pursuits if I only chose one, but I think that only suits some people, and I will have to be content flitting back and forth between projects, at the very least I can hope for some interesting cross pollination! My day job in an architects office is much the same – always different bits and bots to work on and and different disciplines we are pulling from. I think it’s encouraging that some of the great architects of the last century had wonderful careers not only designing buildings but being engineers, painters, sculptors, fashion designers, textile artists, and furniture makers too!! Best, Beth xxx

  20. Ann, your work, your efforts to share and inspire, and your gentle spirit all come through on your blog, and this is the one newsletter I’m most happy to receive in my inbox. I feel like a kindred spirit, and as an artist working from home, things can get lonely at times. Your blog is a safe haven for me, a place where I don’t feel so alone. Like you, I’m on the horns of a dilemma about finding my voice, what to share and how best to share. If it’s of any help, when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the “noise” of all things social media, the one message that keeps surfacing is to be true to myself. You’re true to yourself and are sharing in your own way, making sound decisions for yourself as an artist and as a business, and I’m greatly inspired by your braveness to forge your own path in an increasingly competitive, noisy, fast-paced creative world. As a reader, I hope you’ll keep yourself in one place. Selfishly, it’s less for me to navigate. I’ve enjoyed following along over the years, learning more about who you are as an artist and person, and love how you’ve put your blog together. Onward! 🙂

  21. Oh, I am right there with ya on this! 13 years ago, when I started to blog, it was a space for drawing and painting. A couple of years into it my knitting and crochet work wanted an online voice so I tried posting it there but it just felt like it belonged elsewhere. Thus two separate blogs. I juggled this for some time, not so successfully in my opinion. Or at least, I felt splintered and crazy trying to juggle and maintain two blogs. At one time there were three of them because I created a character and a childrens book around her, Genevieve and the Kite. A few years ago I merged all three into one under the heading JenniferEdwards.com. I do like so very much being in one place online, but I continue to feel fractured in my creative life and trajectory. I also continue to create separate blogs, a couple of which hang out there still as I sometimes add to them. Oi!

    Well, all I can say is that I wish you all the best in working this out. I also want to say that my own delight and love for your website is that you do several creative things here and I enjoy each of them! It definitely all seems cohesive and part of a whole aesthetic of your very own, fable, neutral palette, tonal work. Love, love it! It all makes up who you are and I would not want any of them to disappear unless you just weren’t interested in among them anymore.
    Best wishes!
    Jennifer

  22. Another voice here to say that it is the interconnectedness and “personalness” of your work that draws me in so deeply. Selfishly, your writing and your sharing has been a huge catalyst in my own creative awakening. I watch a lot of artists online but the ones who resonate most meaningfully for me are the ones who are generous with their experiments and their processes and their selves, like you.

    Thank you for everything you share for us.

  23. I don’t read many blogs at all and yet I so look forward to reading yours because for me it so beautifully expresses the mysterious creative process. I encourage you as have many others to keep on sharing your process….it resonates with us and is a much needed voice.
    Thank you for your blog

  24. Penny Baugh

    Thank you so so much for sharing this posting with us. Obviously, from all of the beautiful comments above you have hit a nerve, you’ve spoken for so many of us who work toward the same goals. I believe a big part of creativity is “question”. That word is probably a key word to creativity and all the thought, feeling, time and effort that goes into whatever our creative bent is. For myself — I am so thrilled I found your blog and if you want to have two blogs or three blogs I’ll be there for each one. I love your sharing nature — always offering designs and patterns and explanations. Thank you — this is a post I will go back to reread often.

  25. Penny Baugh

    One more thing — your sketches would make wonderful stitchery’s!!! Just a thought.

  26. I love your variety and hope you keep it together – it’s who you are. Years ago, as I tried every craft that came along, I decided (for the sake of my finances) that I needed to focus a little – and at that point, the common denominator of what I liked best was fabric – crewel embroidery, quilting, dollmaking, even stencilling and more…And so I narrowed my focus a tiny bit. Now, years later, I still love fabric but I’ve broadened a little – I also have been taking some classes on watercolor, dabbled in art journaling, and I find myself drawn to paper as well – pretty papers like the ones they sell in craft stores, and cutting snowflakes and making putz houses and doodling/zentangle, and paper mache boats 🙂 … it’s all a part of who I am, just as your experiments and art and more are a part of who you are. Separating them into different blogs just causes more work and will take the fun out. If one of your projects interests me less than others, I’ll just not spend as much time reading that week! I do find that there are seasons – I want to do some crafts more in winter and some more in summer. But I’m not producing to support the grocery bill and the rent, lol.

  27. I am so relieved to hear someone else is conflicted about these things! I love your work and love how varied it is. I am just starting out but I already have been wondering if all the things I want to make and do will be cohesive enough to make sense under one brand. But whenever I find someone else who has varied interests and shares them all I really connect with them and love when I am let in on their work and processes. Whether you share your work in one space or many you can be sure people who love your work (like me!) will find you and follow along in as many spaces as we need to.
    xo
    chloe

  28. I am in agreement with the many readers. I love the generosity with which you share your artistry & creativity, and how your imagination captures the world like continuing chapters in a lovely children’s book I can’t put down…I look forward to your musing weekly. And for years! Your work brings a big smile to my heart.

  29. I agree with so many other comments! I love your multifaceted talents and that you are sharing all of them with us. I’ve followed your blog for a long time and admit that it is one I revisited again and again as I began building my own. I, too, explore many avenues to creatively express myself and want to share them all!

    Know that your approach keeps us all inspired. If this format works well for you, don’t change it. If you need to compartmentalize for your own peace of mind, just direct us to where your new rooms are!

  30. Dusserre Bresson Brigitte

    Annn, I’m a french artsit, painter and engraver. Sorry for the mistakes I may do …your posts are a part of your personality, the little world you create full of poetry, sotness and this part of imagination that everybody can put in the objects and drawings that you share. Objects alone around whose a story can be done, paintings that will give us more elements of the story . So go on…
    I do like very much your abstract paintings that could perhaps get the lightness you put in your objects, using silk or other material to paint on. Good inspiration and thank you for these moments of sharing pats of life. Brigitte

  31. Hi Ann, I am new to your work and your blog. I find it interesting that you are struggling with the same issues as I do and so many of my artists friends. In a nut shell, so little time and so many ideas to explore. I think most creative people probably have the same problem. I personally can’t imagine just sewing or painting or crafting or gardening, etc. etc. I do agree that if one does focus on one area that there will be quicker growth in that area, but can you really find your true voice if other ideas keep calling to you? A question I keep asking myself. For me, the exploring of different mediums seems to increase my creativity in all mediums.
    I look forward to continuing to read your blog and your artistic journey. I also hope that you will continue to share your thoughts and artful creations on one blog….perhaps that is a little selfish on my part, but it makes me feel more connected. Artist to artist.
    Blessings, and thank you.

  32. nicky hampton

    Hi Ann, In your struggle to find your own voice, you have inspired so many of us to find ours. By that I mean, to just show up and have a go. Do what’s best for you and keep it simple. I agree with Linda. it’s all wonderful. Thank you for being you in all your many guises. Hark I hear a voice singing… onward. Blessings. Nicky

  33. This post resonated so much with where I am at the moment. I like the term “multi-passionate creative” which I learn from the book “The Right Brained Business Plan”. I often feel like a grasshopper, jumping from one form of art or craft to another. Thank you for sharing your story.

  34. Here’s to the dabblers/polymaths!
    I’ve been reading your blog for quite a few years (7?) and it’s the only one I keep returning to. The artistic process is much more interesting to me than the finished products I see everywhere else. I feel that great artists/humans dare to dabble, and not necessarily go along with what doesn’t suit their art/life. It seems to make art/life an awful lot more interesting.

  35. Dear Ann, I am right there with you as a delver into a variety of art forms. I keep wishing for some spirit guide to tell me, “This is the ONE thing you need to focus on,” so I understand where you’re coming from. But I have to agree with so many of the comments here, that I love seeing the variety of things that you do, right here in this one place. I do love, though, how your newsletter sort of breaks it down: If you want to read about this, click here; if you want to read about that, click there.

    All in all, I don’t know if it’s best for your business or for your sense of organization and sanity, but I do love seeing all that you do.

  36. Ann, you are golden! Loved meeting you at The Makerie last year and reading through a few comments here on others who have had the pleasure of you and your website….. just know your work is valuable, as is what you are sharing authentically on your blog. Please do keep doing what you are doing! xo

  37. Wendy Pullin

    Hi Anne Wood,

    Is there a pattern to buy to make the Fox in the Kimono? I would really live to make him. Please let me know?

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