the big 2020 review and plans for the new year

let’s start with the first project of the new year:

Years ago I got a very old, wobbly, pink console table at a flea market in Brooklyn. Turning it into a place to make my little daily paintings was the first project of 2021. My current living situation (Guilford, Connecticut since June) is serviceable but I have not really made friends with it. The pink desk is the first thing that has made me feel at home, less disoriented in disorienting times.
It needed a thorough cleaning to brighten the odd pink paint and tightening the leg screws completely eliminated the wobble.

art and drawing supplies on a pink desk

Ritual and habit anchor me. And the pink desk adds to the painting ritual. They happen mostly in the evening, the last thing I do each day. Pretty much. I haven’t missed a day in two plus years. I love that it’s waiting for me. It removes an obstacle to beginning. Removing obstacles is super helpful when committing to practice, to building a habit.

art and drawing supplies on a pink desk

more on new year plans in a minute, first let’s look back

Amidst the swirling debacle that was 2020, two lifelong dreams were fulfilled.

You know I love a list. Partly because I like to look back and see what stuck and what didn’t. What plans turned into reality and what stayed in the someday folder. I made an intentionally audacious (audacious for me anyway) list in 2015.  Looking back at it now I’m surprised how much of it came true. It also pointed me back at some things I’d still like to accomplish and some I’m probably letting go of. Like surfing. Mostly cause I’m scared of sharks.

Two big items on the list happened this past summer:

I planted a garden and took a pottery class. The hurricane at the beginning of August dropped a huge tree on the little garden and pretty much wiped it out but still… some stuff survived (mostly herbs and radishes) and I got to play in dirt and ate stuff I grew myself. I also learned a lot about bunnies, bugs and deer…

3 ceramic handmade plates

The pottery class was at the Guilford Art Center over the summer. It took most of the ten week class for me to figure out what I want to make and learn even the basic rules of clay. I am swirling with ideas and all the energy of being a beginner.

hand holding a tiny ceramic mushroom

And I made a painting. I’ve been intending to bust out the mini scale of my painting work and experiment for a long time.  At the end of the year I made it a priority. It was an experience. I learned a lot, including that paint is expensive. It’s something I’ll continue to experiment with but at a less ambitious size unless I win the lottery.

blog and shop stuff

A few highlights : The Elegant (and sometimes nude) Rag doll pattern was released as well as 9 new free tutorials:

picnic bugs
wire doll house bed
overalls for the tiny rag doll and mr. socks
miniature paper hens
scrap flower garlands
chicken ornaments
owl ornaments
pin girls
lucky fish

mouse doll house tea party

My favorite project of the year was the mouse house. Made for joy. 100% Joy. And that’s my plan for 2021. Look for Joy. Indulge in and commit hard to things that bring Joy and let go of things that don’t.

Two of the big lessons from 2020 for me were:

1. Take nothing for granted.
2. I’m capable of more than I think.

Weeding out the things that don’t really bring Joy is harder than it sounds. But I can make it the first question. Put it at the top of the list when deciding what to spend time on, let it steer me. I think the daily painting practice helps with that. Showing up and listening to myself.

If you’re feeling up for a daily practice the 100 Day Project is a good opportunity to test drive one. The next round starts January 31st. Think of it as an opportunity to listen to yourself.

I’m still feeling around for my goals for this year. There are a few things I know for sure in the short term – in the next few weeks you will see a new sewing pattern (the crow), prints and notecards made from daily paintings and plans for the third annual international scrap festival.

Lots of other ideas are still swirling and percolating and I’m giving them room to do that. Building more time in my days to feel around for Joy.


  1. Hello Ann,
    So excited to hear the raven pattern is coming! Will you have a print edition?
    Yes please! I don’t have the ability to print a pdf at this time, so I am happy to purchase your patterns that
    Love your blog, and art…

    • Thanks so much Olivia. There will eventually be a print version but probably not until late in 2021. The patterns take forever to make.

  2. Sarah Lowes

    My word for 2021 is PLAY. This can be a surprisingly hard thing to do – especially if you’re from a goal-oriented family/culture!

    I have a book of handmade Khadi paper and I’m covering whole pages with watercolour washes and then cutting out pictures from magazines and sticking them on – and it’s so soothing!

    • Play is so important! And a great place to start- your project sound perfect.

  3. Laura Maclay

    Re the cost of paint: I’ve had quite a bit of fun with inexpensive acrylic craft paints that come in the little 2 oz tubes. And it comes in a bazillion colors. If you want you can check out my instagram, lauramaclay. As always, your newsletter is a highlight of my day!

    • Thank so much Laura! So glad you enjoy the newsletter ! For me the paint thing was volume – I think my plan going forward will be to work smaller and maybe on paper. I will check out your insta!

  4. Love the elegant rag doll. I have made a bunch and gifted them. Also love your ship pattern.

  5. Judy A Klem

    I LOVE the idea of looking for JOY in each day!! 2020 was such a difficult year for the whole world. We all need some joy in our everyday lives. Thank you, Ann for your blog, your talent, your generosity in sharing what you do! You have brought a lot of joy into many, many lives.
    You are truly a gift to us all. May God bless you with overwhelming JOY this year and always!

    • Thanks so much Judy. I’m so grateful to everybody who shows up here. Hoping for good things for the year ahead.

    • Right? wish I had tightened its screws years ago – it makes a perfect painting desk. Thank you!

  6. Oh my word, your plates are absolutely lovely! I have two words for my year. Grateful and focus. Sometimes the days go by too fast and I forget to be grateful. If I focus more I’m hoping I will slow down and notice all I have to be grateful for. I am grateful for your blog. It feels like eating a quality dark chocolate to me.

    • Thank you so much Carla. That is a high compliment. Also I now want some chocolate. The good stuff. The gratitude thing is so important. I’m trying to keep it at the front of my mind.

  7. I love your pottery! The little blue mushroom is so very sweet.
    I’m curious about your painting journal on your lovely new old pink desk. Did you make it yourself?

  8. The Crow! The Crow!! The crow is coming!!! You have made my day.❤ loved this newsletter.

    • Thanks Maggie – I’m looking forward to getting it out finally!

  9. Susan Turner

    Hi Ann, I too am excited that your crow pattern will soon be available! Looking for Joy is an appealing approach to the new year. My approach to 2021 has been to tell my family that my Want To list is going to be focused on a bit more than my Have To list! We’ll see, as I tend to be a bit OCD about the house and yard, LOL. Thanks for sharing and here’s to more Joy this year.

    • Absolutely Susan – wishing you lots of Joy and a big Want To List this year.

  10. Love your pink table for painting. I am waiting for my son to move out and then I will have a room to create in! It will be pink. I had to laugh though when I saw your water jar. I paint at the end of our dining room table. My daughter saw my water jar and said mom that’s gross. I showed yours to my husband and said, look hers looks just like mine, it’s not gross! Love everything you do! Thanks for all your inspiration, tips and tricks. I use many of them each day!

    • Thanks Kathie! I love my water jar! I’ve had it for years and it’s been to france with me twice!
      Enjoy your new space.

  11. The pottery class sounds fun! I have always wanted to learn and don’t know why I haven’t. ‍♀️ Sign me up for the scrap festival, again, this year! I had a great time exchanging fabrics with my “fabric friend” last year. As always, I love your newsy letters. Thanks!

    • Thanks Dorylyn! I hear you on the pottery – wish I had done it years ago.

  12. Bay Le Sage

    Dear Ann,
    I’m so glad you’ve found clay. It’s amazing. I did the 100-day project last year and it was wonderful, sometimes hard, sometimes frustrating, but wonderful just the same.
    Thank you for reminding me about joy.

    Bay Le Sage

    • Thanks Bay. That’s exactly right about the 100 day project – hard and so worth doing. I am loving the clay. Hope you are well!

  13. Gillian Banks

    Dear Ann, I have so enjoyed making from your patterns, song birds and owls mainly.
    Now you have me dreaming of the crow, can’t wait.
    Here’s too 2021
    Kind regards

  14. Shirley Morgan

    Dear Ann and followers. Hello from Ballarat, Australia.
    Ann you’re such an inspiration in my life. I haven’t yet begun making songbirds but gathering materials and will one day show them, as I revamp my small potting shed with attached aviary (now defunct of real birds). I want to turn it into something so utterly magical with cd’s of songbirds playing in the background. Your inspiration will make it happen. Wishing you all a magical day.

    • Thanks so much Shirley. What a marvelous idea – it will be magical.

  15. Alexandra Biggs

    You inspired me to have fun making sail boats. Each has been fun and with each It becomes easier and more detailed. Thanks for sharing your patterns and images.

    • Hi Alexandra, so glad you are enjoying the process. You do find all sorts of new things to try as you make more of them.


    • Bless your joyful hart Trixie. My Mom also turned around her age, when it suited 🙂
      Keep forever young

  17. Discovering you and your art has been the most joyful thing of this year. I have the teacup and boat templates cut out, hopefully I can start making them this weekend

    • Thanks Lynette. I’m so happy to hear it. I hope you have fun with them.

  18. Wow, who would have thought when we were all taking part on the 2020 scrap swap that the year would turn out like it did. I was looking at some of scraps I was sent last night and despite everything they always make me smile and want to plan. Your words are wise as always, and I am going to try the 100 day project again but with something that brings me joy! If you can get any British TV look up the great pottery throw down – it is fabulous. Looking forward to following your adventures in 2021!

    • Thanks and I’ll look for that. I’m super into the pottery right now!

  19. I truly enjoy your News letter, can’t wait for Saturday mornings to see if there is one 🙂
    Thank you for inspiration for a hopeful great new year
    Love the pink table, the contents look familiar but from my side lack motivation to produce anything as great as your daily art pieces – love them to bits
    May we all experience a Happy creative and Joyful 2021

    • Thank you and yes – hoping for a happy 2021. I’m so glad you enjoy the Newsletter. I love making them And. I’m still nervous every time I send.

  20. This post is so inspiring for me Ann. You accomplished so much even with a few bumps here and there. Your clay plates are so cool, and I LOVE the large painting! I am with you on the cost of paints, same with pastels my preferred medium. I like sketching and watercolor, seems a bit nicer to my wallet. I sometimes think I’m getting no where in my creative life, but if I look back and tally what I did accomplish it is enough. I do believe this year will be the year of making a list for myself as well! Seems good to do and then be able to reflect on after the year’s done to see what was deemed important, or needed, enough to become real. It feels to me as if it’s always 3 steps forward and 1 back in my quest to ‘do’, but as long as I move forward with my dreams then I’m okay with a few delays along the way.

    • Thank you! And it’s true – there’s huge value in just moving forward. One thing leads to another…

  21. Lea Vollmer

    Finding joy and happiness! One of my goals for 2021 – too gloomy around here. I will also continue to try new things and hope to become more focused on what my art will look like (I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none!) – trying to find my “style” so to speak. I want to do all the things!! Enjoying your newsletters!

  22. Peggy in Tennessee

    Your pink desk is divine!

    As a lover of old crumbly things and a former health & safety writer, might I suggest that you seal your beautiful piece with a couple coats of matte, water-based varnish just in case the old pink paint contains lead.

    Love your blog and all that you do to inspire creativity in others. Many thanks, Ann!

  23. Margot From BC Canada

    Great Stuff! So excited for a New Year. I am trying the little acorns tonight for fun. Found and ordered some acorn tops. 🙂 I made 2 horses and they turned out really well! I am sending on to a lady who lives far from me. She is elderly and lives alone. She has a horse she cares for and it keeps her busy. She is lonely with the Covid thing. I hope she enjoys the little horse and my letter.
    I love your little paintings – adorable.
    Crafting makes me happy and so does your blog.
    Thank you for sharing.

  24. Love the large painting!
    I just made a Dastardly Owl for my niece for her birthday. I’ll post photos as soon as she opens it…it was really fun to make something out of my comfort zone. Thanks for the inspiration!

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