Weekly Roundup

Mal | Resources,Roundup | Sunday, July 19th, 2009

Stats Spike

This was the look of my stats counter a few weeks ago after someone on StumbledUpon and rated one of my posts. It’s quite incredible to go from a few hundred hits a day to a few thousand. Beyond that, though, every time I would see this spike — the visual representation of a sudden and dramatic increase in activity — it felt like a metaphor for my emotional life. Between visiting my parents’ house, relationship stuff, and work politics drama, you may remember that I was pretty maxed out.

Fortunately, I’ve come back down to earth. My psychic energy has been freed up and I am back to working on creative projects and relationship-building in my free time.


I was honored to be featured on WhipUp.net for my fabric folding tutorial. Hope people get mileage out of it! It definitely saved us at my mom’s house, and now I’ve folded all of the fabric that I “inherited” from her stash and put it into my own system. I guess it’s time for photos of my new studio work corner. Stay tuned.

I also had a photo highlighted over on the Sew, Mama, Sew! blog. Thanks, ladies! I’m a long-time fan of the Mamas.

Comments You Should Read

Its been a while since we featured comments, but there have certainly been some great ones!

Great reader contributions on my review of Mihaly Csziksentmihalyi’s book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

Mal, Interesting commentary. I find that for me, being in the “zone” makes me a more relaxed and happier person. And that the creativity seems to unintensionally spill over into other areas of my life. And I absolutely agree that while sometimes creativity is spilling over (I call it having itchy fingers that just want to sew), other times I have to sit down and make myself sew and the next thing I know I’m there, (or in a place that leads me “there”).

Shelly of Shelly’s Quilts

I’ve always found that the first step to “getting into the flow” is just DOING something. For me, it translates to a natural progression of ideas and work and then i DO forget all else. This also happens on the rare occasion that Greyman and i take off for a weekend—-when we are in the moment in the wild of the mountains, our separate ” lives” disappear except for the exact minutes we are there—we have even forgotten about our “babies” for awhile (the cats :}). I have done that at work also while arranging flowers!

There is a very refreshing feeling to this when it happens and it happens often enough that i am taking great joy in my/our life for the first time in years.

Arlee of Albedo Design Journal

On the entry about organizing things in rainbow order, lots of fellow color-organization “freaks” came out to comment!

Mr. BIV lives at my house, too, esp. in Fabric Land. I have warm colors (ROY) each in their own containers but all next to one another. I have cool colors (G. BIV) same situation. Then a container each for White/Cream, Beige/Tan, Gray/Black. A zipper bag of fabrics which can represent soil (White Sand to Black Clay).

My “theme” fabrics are in their own containers: Food, Quilts of Valor (lots of donated fabric here; I don’t want to mingle it with my own), Reproduction (19th c. vs. 1930s), Holidays, Cats, Dogs, Bounty (harvest related), Tea/Coffee, Critters (mostly fish and birds, but some juvie lizard prints, too), Batiks, Hand Dyed, and Bright Multi-Colored What Color Is It Really? (one container). Probably missed a couple, but you get the idea….

I like the fruit color sorted, though I haven’t done it yet–it looks very cheerful!

Cynthia, no blog (but great reader/commenter!)

Interesting comments, too, when I shared about The Intervention —sorting through and purging my mom’s hoarded fabric stash.

That’s inspiring- seeing all the pretty organized colors, purging, admitting there is a problem, but I can also imagine the daunting feeling hanging over something like that to even get started.

I have the fabric I have because my aunt has brown boxes filling her garage. Luckily though, when I said I was taking a class and needed some- all my aunts opened their doors. I’m working really hard on making things with what I have before accumulating anything more. I only buy something if I cannot in any way substitute something I already have.

Thank you so much for the organization inspiration, congratulations on all the hard work you’ve accomplished so far and definitely sending positivity to you for the future goals.

Liz of Chunk of Cheddar

There were some fun declarations of independence on the giveaway contest a few weeks ago. I encourage you to read them all! Here’s a sample:

I declare my independence today from worrying about the future, it’s a waste of time.

Deborah (no blog)

I declare my independence from procrastination! I’m taking care of some pesky details instead of letting them cause me to fret.

Courtney of Woodland School

I am declaring my independence from thinking I have to do everything without asking for any help.

Patty (no blog)

Finally, some good thoughts arose from my post about video games and creativity (constructive vs. destructive freetime pursuits).

I absolutely believe there is something healing in using our creativity. About a year ago, I went through a bout of depression after losing my job (and the circumstances surrounding it). I did nothing but read, losing myself in imaginary worlds. I read 23 books in two weeks. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t sew, couldn’t make decisions. I finally realized that I had to make myself do something to break the cycle. I chose to design and sew a complicated quilt block. I wanted to do something that required focus and attention to detail, but had no consequences if I failed. I credit that quilt block with starting me back to health. I named it Anxiety. Shortly after that I designed an entire quilt, followed by a couple more. I found a new job, and while things could be better, I also know they could be a LOT worse. I feel my best when I’m working – being creative in some form, even if it’s just figure out a software program at work. It’s when I stop sewing at home that I feel myself sinking again. So… gotta get sewing!

Sandi of Piecemeal Quilts

Good Reads Around Blogland

I’m really behind on my blog rounds, but here are a few things I’ve been reading lately.

Book review: Flow (4.5/5)

Mal | Art Process and Creativity,Resources,Reviews | Saturday, July 11th, 2009




In addition to having the most unpronounce-able name in all of western psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is also one of the most prominent “positive psychology” theorists and researchers around. It’s no surprise that his book, Flow: The psychology of optimal experience, describes the “state of concentration so focused that it amounts to absolute absorption in the activity.” What might surprise you is Csikszentmihalyi’s claim that flow (optimal experience) is not elusive or mysterious, that it doesn’t just come and go at random. Rather, he asserts that flow can be cultivated, courted, and put to use in our self-development.

I’ve chosen to re-read and review this book because I think that so many of us art-makers have experienced flow, and could benefit from Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas about how to create it and experience it more often.

I’ll cover some of the book’s content below, but you can skip directly to my opinion if you prefer.

(Read on for more…)

Independence Day Giveaway

Mal | Give-aways | Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

 Patriotic Fabrics

I have just returned from my parents’ house where we touched, folded, sorted, and discarded thousands of pieces of fabric. Maybe tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? I don’t know. It was a lot. We are slowly working through my mother’s hoarded stash and trying to create a functional sewing room for her. I think we removed around 800 pounds of fabric from the house and we still have more to go.

There are several patriotic-themed quilt stores near my mom’s house, and having easy access to cute red, white, and blue fabrics has driven her into the belief that she needs to be making patriotic quilts. I guess were all guilty of being influenced by marketing. I am a sucker for new drawing pens, myself. But, I don’t relate to the need for projects that are designed to be used only a few days a year. My apartment is too darn small to be storing Christmas quilts, Halloween wreaths, or any of a number of other holiday-related items. I only have room for things that I’ll be using year-round.

In that light, I am giving away some of my mom’s patriotic fabric stash. The giveaway may or may not include the fabrics shown above — I honestly can’t remember at what point in the process that photo was taken. We may have kept all of these, or discarded them all. Rest assured, the winner(s) of this giveaway will receive very cute American-patriotic themed fabrics. I just haven’t pulled them out of my car to snap a photo, yet.

To enter, you must declare your independence from something today. Earn points in the giveaway by:

  1. Leaving a comment on this entry telling us what you are declaring your independence from. This is the easiest way to win a point, so do it right now!
  2. Posting about this giveaway (and your declaration of independence) on your blog. Please post a comment on this post with a link to your blog entry.
  3. Declare your independence on twitter. Be sure to link back to this entry and include @turningturning so I can find you.
  4. Subscribing to receive turning*turning updates in your reader or by email. I’ll secretly declare my own independence in the feed for the next few days. Email me my declaration with the subject “Giveaway secret phrase” for another point. You don’t need to be a new subscriber — current subscribers can also earn this point in the same way.
  5. Once again, doing all 4 of the above steps will earn you a bonus point. Send me an email with the subject: “Giveaway bonus point” and you’ll receive your 5th point.

Entries will close on Sunday, July 5th, when I go to bed. I’m very tired, so you better enter soon! Winners will be announced on Monday morning. Thanks for playing, and I hope you win.

Weekly Roundup

Mal | Roundup | Sunday, June 14th, 2009

Testing beaded fringe

When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

Buckminster Fuller

This week

Most of my free emotional and mental space (where the blogging and crafting used to fit) is all filled up right now. That surplus of creative energy with which I usually write, sew, and paint is currently employed with trying to find creative solutions to some major, major problems that have arisen at work and in my family. I sense that we are working toward solutions, but it has certainly slowed down my blogging, hasn’t it?

Please note

My cartwheel quilting method was highlighted on Joan’s Quilting on a Budget blog. She said some very nice things. Thanks, Joan! It’s always nice to meet people who respond to what I’m trying to do with turning*turning.

Comment highlights

Still, t*t readers continue to contribute wonderful nuggets of thought and wisdom. Here are a few that came through this week.

We’ve gotten a few more thoughts about making time for creativity.

Making time is always a challenge- for me its about finding the balance. I am so “all-or-nothing” that I tend to dive in and get swallowed up in whatever I focus on, whether that is ‘making’ or attending to daily responsibilities. I do think of making time as ‘me-time’ and it often comes last.
this past year I have had some physical limitations that have ended up being a gret ebenfit to me in this area. Not being able to sustain activities for any length of time has forced me to figure out how to do a little bit about a lot of things. Surprisingly, this piecemeal approach has resulted in several unfinished projects getting done, and even a couple of bigger ones! Now I try to spend a little time instead of trying to do it all in one sitting, and so far, its working!

Catherine (no blog)

Delurking to post a quickie: Like some of the others who responded, I try to work a little time for projects into my crazy schedule. Sometimes that means cutting out stencils or hexagons (!) at lunch in my office, or doing web-based research during slow time at work. Recent research projects: search for outlines of sparrows, ravens, hummingbirds, late ‘60 R/T Chargers and VW Bugs to make into stencils or stamps; hexagon quilts – which is how I found your wonderful blog; American pioneer / prairie dresses vs English muslin dresses of the early 1800s – just looking for stuff to inspire or inform future projects. Like others, I know I’m spending more time admiring the work of others than actually working on my own stuff. Sometimes I only have the time (or the energy) to be be inspired, and I’ve learned to accept that.

When I was able to take public transportation to work, I would knit or crochet on my commute. Now I must drive, which takes away my commute-time crafting, and ooooooh was I bitter about that! Recently, though, I realized that my car, which I park all spring / summer in a warm location, makes a perfect bleach stencil making / stamp curing location. Here’s what I do: I make the stamp / stencil during breaks at work, and the next morning, when I park my car at work, I put together the project & let it cure. When I get back to my car at the end of my day, my project has BECOME something in my car. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me…

Anyway, thanks for the inspiration you’ve provided & that which is to come.

Muna Samira (no blog, but photostream over on flickr)

I like the way that quilting can always stand for ‘getting it together’ — that is, the way the actual piecing of disparate elements is in and of itself an integrative act. That means that when all else feels like it’s whirling in chaos or falling apart, I can look at whatever I’m making and say, “but THIS is coming together…. “

Dee of Dee Mallon & Cloth Company

Good reads around Blogland

And finally

Not only am I facing some work challenges and gearing up for a trip to my parents’ house in the next couple of weeks, but also I just submitted the application for my state psychotherapy licensure. (I’m nationally certified but am pursuing a state license to practice independently.) This means that I’ll have two major exams to study for over the next couple of months. It’s going to be a miracle if I can keep making things and/or blogging about them! Please send all positive, creative, calming vibes my way!

What to do: Make time for making

Mal | Art Process and Creativity,Give-aways | Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

100th post giveaway

A few days ago, I asked, “How do you make time for making?”

I’m honored that so many of you chose to respond, as this is a topic that we all have to confront from time to time. So, here is a breakdown of the recurring themes in your answers, in order of popularity.

1) Squeeze creative time into small moments, whenever you get a chance, such as between other chores. Here, we have the “just do it” approach. This was our most popular answer — take advantage of small opportunities that present themselves most every day.

I make time by not waiting until I have a big block of time. I used to think I had to have a dedicated chunk (like 2 hours or more) to get anything done. But now I just keep a running list of bite-sized tasks, and if I have 15 minutes, I do one. The next time I have 15 minutes, I do another one. It adds up, and I’m getting a lot done! I also find that this lets me have multiple projects going at once. If I don’t feel like doing task 5 for project A, maybe I can do task 2 for project B instead.

I also stopped waiting until I had time to myself…

Evelyn of Use the Loot

2) Ignoring other “important stuff” — this includes things like housework, social obligations, and other negotiables but also includes neglecting things like sleep, cooking, and health issues. I’m not sure I can advocate this technique, although it certainly seems to be common! Christine’s entry makes me laugh, but many of the comments in this category are a little concerning.

I make time for making by leaving out non-essential things like eating and sleeping. Haha, sane? No… chocolate covered bridge mix helps with the eating, the sleeping problem? Haven’t figured that one out yet. I can’t help it that I sometimes stop quilting because my foot is cramping up and see that it’s 1am. Oops, how did that happen…?

Christine from Cutting Edge Quilt

3) Have a schedule, make dates/appointments with yourself. This is something that I will probably never be able to have any success with, but I’m happy that it works for so many of you!

When I see a free day on my calender- I try to actually make an appointment with myself. It helps me not have any excuses with other tasks. When I find 5 or 10 min a day that I don’t have anything going on I check out the web- blogs, flickr etc for inspiration so I’m ready for the days I plan to be away from technology with all these mental images and sketches that come from them!

Liz of Chunk of Chedder

4) Cutting out TV or time on the computer. ULP!

I make time to ‘create’ by GETTING OFF THE COMPUTER!!!! I spend so much time admiring stuff online; it does inspire me, but I just keep reading and playing.

Shelley C (no blog)

5) This wasn’t necessarily a “popular” answer, but it is probably my favorite one and one that I would say has been true in my life recently: Broaden your definition of creativity.

How do you make time for making?
It seems I never stop “making”. I see patterns everywhere I look. I dream about sewing. My color favorites are seen in the Fall season. A field of wheat waiting for cutting, pale blue sky and the turning leaves are my pallet of colors.
I set rules for myself. A little housework then the reward of sewing something. I even find joy in super-cleaning my sewing machine or winding a box of bobbins so I am ready to go with the next rush of sewing.

Subee Mohr of Subee Sews


Congratulations to Casey of Casey Random who wins the mini quilt with her email announcing that she had earned the bonus point. All of the entries — comments and emails — were lined up in my email folder and Casey’s was number 33. This means that Casey commented, twittered, subscribed, and blogged. Go Casey!

Honorable mention goes to Tracy of Unfolding Moments who wrote an entire blog entry inspired by the question.

If you haven’t answered the question yet, please share: How do you make time for making? Does it fit into one of these categories?

Tutorial: Cartwheel Quilting Motif


I got lots of questions about the quilting detail on the 100th Post Giveaway mini quilt. Some thought it was a simple square motif. However, you can see from the illustration above that it is a bit more complex than that. The shape is almost like a 4-leafed clover, with intersection-points in the center of each cartwheel. You can start at any point on the motif and quilt in a continuous line until you reach that point again.

Here’s the view from the front.


The mini-quilt was machine quilted, but I think this motif would work equally well with hand-quilting.

Stay tuned! The winner of this mini-quilt will be announced tomorrow.

Weekly Roundup

Mal | Roundup | Sunday, June 7th, 2009

MAL Quilt

Special thanks

The photo above (and those that follow) shows a wonderful mini-quilt made for me by Victoria of Bumblebeans. She wanted to swap for the collage that I made last week and I’m only too happy to send it to her! The quilt she made says my name, MAL, and she used it to practice her machine quilting skills. Looks great to me, lady! Thanks for your generosity!

I can’t wait to hang it on the walls outside my bedroom, where I’m hanging other mini-quilts.

What I worked on this week

Welcome to my slowest blogging week yet! Situations at work and with my family have eaten up most of my brainpower this week, and I am behind not only on blog writing but also blog reading. I’ve canceled all of my plans for tonight, though, and will be catching up on both reading and writing. It’s good for my mental health, and after a week like I’ve had, I’m particularly interested in what we, in The Biz, call “self care.”

MAL Quilt close-up

5 comments you should read

Of course, You All haven’t taken a break from contributing excellent and thought-provoking comments and I’m so glad to be able to highlight some of them. Be sure to always check and see what your fellow readers are saying!

(Read on for more…)

100th Post Giveaway

Mal | Give-aways | Monday, June 1st, 2009

 Mini quilt on fence 2

On January 18th, I broke my years of blogging silence and rejoined the ranks of crazy people who share their lives with total strangers. 5 months, 550 comments, and many miles of email exchanges later, we arrive at a milestone. It’s no full-sized quilt or bundle of designer fat quarters, but I am pleased to give away this mini quilt in celebration of my 100th post.

 Mini quilt close-up

The little quilt is dedicated to my readers in every which way. It combines elements of some of my most popular entries — modeled after my first mini-quilt, and made with the two colors you identified as your favorites during the last giveaway. Truly, this is the mini quilt that my readers built.

I’m so grateful to all of you who have contributed to the collaborative spirit of this blog. The comments are consistently well-written, thoughtful, and provocative. I learn so much from my exchanges with you — both those that happen here in public and those that happen behind the scenes in email or by phone.

 Binding on back 1

If you’re new here, welcome! Please feel free to jump into the conversation and share your views. If you’ve been following for a while, here is a rough draft of what you can expect in the next 100 posts.

  • Streamlined organization of the site, including better category structure and collective lists for series such as the What to do posts.
  • Active recruitment of guest posts from like-minded folks.
  • Tutorials?
  • Putting my art therapy skills to use with some kind of collaborative art project that you can join.

 Quilt on wall 1

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk on this blog about setting priorities and making time for creativity, so put on your thinking caps. Enter to win the mini quilt with one (or all) of the following methods.

  1. Comment on this entry by answering the question: How do you make time for making?
  2. Post about this giveaway on your blog, then post a link to your entry in the comments section here.
  3. Subscribe to this blog, then send me the secret phrase you’ll find in your feed reader or emailed entries. (Current subscribers can enter this way, too. You don’t need to be a new subscriber.)
  4. Post about the giveaway by twitter, including the phrase: “I make time for making by ________________. #turningturning.com” (Fill in the blank with your answer, of course!)
  5. As always, earn a 5th entry bonus point by doing all of the above. Just email me with the subject line “Giveaway Bonus Point.”

 Mini Quilt on Fence 1

If you’d like to hang this quilt, I’ll gladly stitch a pair of loops on the back. Just let me know! Entries are open until Sunday, June 7th. Good luck in the giveaway — I hope you win!

Weekly Roundup

Mal | Roundup | Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Jump straight to:



It was good to have Dee of Dee Mallon & Cloth Company back this week from her short hiatus. You can imagine my delight to notice that she was also my 500th commenter! And such an insightful comment, too. I highly recommend you go read the whole thing, but here’s a taste.

I grew up in a house where my mother deemed her activities ‘creative’ and my father’s not (he was an engineer, she was an art teacher). I have striven not to be so linear and confining in what I consider ‘creative’ — surely building an organization, planning a birthday party, figuring out how to juggle various responsibilities, are all creative acts. One of my sons specializes in making wallets out of duct tape… what’s not to love? … I see artistic/craft endeavors having many categories — super challenging ones that push one’s technical capabilities, stuck ones (that need to go to sleep as another reader mentioned) and peaceful ones (perhaps like your hexagons?), where one can sit and relax and build something with enough time and effort. I think it’s important to have some of each.

Thanks, Dee! You’ll be getting a little prize package in the mail.

What I worked on this week

5 comments you should read

I’m going to experiment with format on this feature — attempting to limit the list of most compelling comments from the week. Then it might be less of a dump of everything that was interesting this week whatsoever and a little bit more of a reward.

(Read on for more…)

Book review: A big new free happy unusual life (2.5/5)

Mal | Resources,Reviews,Universal | Wednesday, May 20th, 2009




Nina Wise is a performance artist who has “taught improvisation since 1972.” Her book, A Big New Free Happy Unusual Life: Self Expression and Spiritual Practice for Those Who Have Time for Neither, boasts one of the longest, most confusing titles I’ve ever read! Clearly, this is a book that aspires to be all things to all people.

I have actually owned this book for many years because a good friend (a free spirit, spritely, fairy of a friend) recommended it to me. In all those years, I have never been able to get through reading the entire book. I decided to give it one more shot before I parted with it, read it cover to cover, then sold it almost immediately after listing it for sale on amazon. I guess that speaks to (a) the popularity of the book, (b) the allure of the title, or (c) my incredible ability to miss the point.

You can read an excerpt of the book on Powell’s.com. You can also skip the overview and get straight to my opinion.

(Read on for more…)

Weekly Roundup

Mal | Roundup | Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Huge stash

What happened this week

  • Worked on finishing up my submission for the Phat Quarter swap. The theme was anatomy. (I’m super excited because MrXStitch was assigned to send his to me!)
  • Made more progress on the sorting and organizing in my apartment. Hopefully after tomorrow I will have good pictures to post.
  • Finally finished up the stash project and got the giveaway prizes ready to mail.
  • Worked on the method for joining my mini quilts into a journal format. Really excited to show you this one.
  • Commiserated with many people have already discovered the magical, curative powers of showering in the dark. Here’s a list of fellow weirdos who’ve come forward so far: Emma of Furrybees, Montse from Kismet-M, Stacey from disco underworld, Deb of Emma Tree. If reading their comments doesn’t convert you, then nothing will!

Blog Highlight

Gorgeous photos and generous tutorials moved Rachel Griffith’s P.S. I Quilt out of my “Auditions” folder this week. (Warning, site plays music.)

Comments you should read

Lots of good responses on my post, What to do: Make do, encouraging us to use what we have and explore the concept of enough.

Thank you for the reminder. I’d like to think that working with less could increase my creative output but I just get so mired down in lack of. Lack of space, time, energy, whatever. I’m going to keep the words MAKE DO in the forefront of my mind and see if it helps. (Amy of A Commonplace Life)

Although I still haven’t completely conquered the desire to purchase fabric, when DH and I hit a rough financial patch three or so years ago, I developed a mantra w/regard to both quilting fabric and quilting books:

“I don’t have everything, but I have enough.”

What I found was that, if I turn the “I don’t have enough XYZ” complaint on its head–and who on Earth would ever have “everything”?–I do have enough. Enough to get started, enough to do *this* quilt top, oooooh enough to do *these* borders, etc.

And, when I made a concerted effort to use up some thread, I was astounded at how long it took to use up a large spool (like the Star brand cotton thread). So…I *definitely* have enough thread to do *these* quilt projects I’ve already cut out or pulled fabric for! (Cynthia, no blog but wonderful contributor to the discussion over here!)

Love your post. Most of the time I have more than enough. If by chance I think I need something, than comes the question what will also add something special? Use this technique not only when I’m busy with my embroidery but also when I’m cooking or any other creative work. (Elizabeth from Landanna)

Goes back to the WWII chant — use it up, wear it out, make do or do without! One more step to becoming self sufficient! (Melissa from Brinkley’s Place)

(Read on for more…)

Weekly Roundup

Mal | Resources,Roundup | Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Life is Short

What happened this week

  • I’m so pleased that turning*turning.com was honored as a “Website to Watch” in the latest issue of Disco Underworld. I’m doubly honored that Stacey, DU’s editor and creative force, has offered to write a guest post for this site! Disco Underworld is a beautifully written and visually captivating magazine honoring the life and work of everyday people around the world.
  • I finished re-reading one of my favorite books again, The Time Traveler’s Wife.
  • I’m still stuck in the organizing/purging phase of my apartment overhaul, but I have carved out more space and time to be making things.

Comments you should be sure to read

On the DVD Review: PBS Craft in America, I gave 4 stars. Lois said:

I think we all love to ‘listen in’ on what others are doing and absorb little bits here and there. Sometimes it is with complete awe when the process or result is so different than any I have ever seen. Other times it is with a warm sense of the familiar and it is good to know someone else sees, thinks, or creates in a similar way.

On Seams Behind the Scenes, I showed progress on the mini hexagon project (finally!) and talked a little about the psychology of hiding my stitches. Wendymoon is in a different place than I am right now:

Haven’t started joining them together yet, so not sure about stitches showing or not. I think I don’t mind in this case. After doing a bunch of machine sewing, I’m glad for the change and wouldn’t mind the hand stitches showing.

On What to do: Embrace Mistakes, lots of people responded. Here are some of my favorites:

(Read on for more…)

DVD Review: PBS Craft in America (4/5)

Mal | Art Process and Creativity,Resources,Reviews | Monday, May 4th, 2009




The PBS Series Craft in America is available on DVD and I rented it through Netflix. It contains one DVD with three “episodes.” I’ve caught snippets of the episodes on my local PBS station, but was under the impression that the only way to get your hands on a DVD was to pony up during the pledge drive. Silly, silly Mal. It can also be bought on Amazon.com.

If you like, you can skip my review of the content and get right to my opinion on it.


The three episodes, beautifully and cinematically directed by documentarian Dan Seeger, are called Memory, Landscape, and Community. I was especially touched to find that the intricate theme song of the series is Simple Gifts — the lyrics of which are the inspiration for my blog’s title.

It’s interesting to note that the series won a Peabody Award. So did Stephen Colbert, so you have to take that for what it’s worth (Hi, Stephen! If you’re reading this, call me!) Here’s a nice summary of the series from the good folks at Peabody:

“Craft” is a term packed with many meanings. This series of three interrelated, one-hour programs sets out to unpack those meanings and to explore the history and continuing significance of craft work. Each of the three topics provides unusually specific focus for this task. Memory examines the history of craft movements in America. Landscape situates craft and craft workers both geographically and in terms of the materials used in creative activities. Community again places people and objects within contexts, in this case the very special networks of schools, mentors, pioneers and practitioners. But all this conceptual elaboration is presented through the most exquisite visual framing, the focus on the works themselves. Clay rises on the wheel, formed into pots. Glass melts into stunning shapes, fiber is woven into fabric, scraps of cloth are sewn into quilts. The treat for the viewer is in what is seen, in watching beautiful objects emerge, and what is said, as craft makers explain what it means to be so intimately involved in these creative endeavors. For examining processes as old as human experience and as fresh and vibrant as the latest local craft fair, a Peabody Award goes to “Craft in America.”

Before we get going, it’s important to mention that when this documentary speaks of “craft,” they are not necessarily speaking of pompoms and glitter. These are not camp crafts or kits or any other type of “quick and easy” projects that you can buy at Hobby Lobby. Rather, the emphasis is on practical, durable, hand-made items and the artists who make them. It is a documentary about hand-made products which highlights the making process. That’s what I ultimately like about it.


Part 1: Memory

This episode features two furniture makers, two basket makers, and a blacksmith.

Glass, clay, wood, fiber, metal. Human hands transform humble materials into works of function and beauty, creating objects that hold the memory of who we are as people. How are the traditions of craft kept vital by today’s finest artists? And how has the legacy of craft been re-imagined as a modern art form?

There is discussion of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the Arts & Crafts Movement. I appreciate its emphasis this episode places on learning from (and breaking with) the traditions of the past.For instance, at one point the blacksmith, Tom Joyce, talks about how he spent years learning the traditional skills and techniques of metalwork before he could branch out into more modern and “artistic” applications. The basketweavers are both grounded in the traditions of their ancestors (African American slaves and Native American Indians, respectively) but have found a great personal meaning and purpose in their modern creations.

As may be expected from an episode called Memory, there is also a lot of talk about handing down traditions and questioning those who came before.

Part 2: Landscape

This episode features two jewelry designers, another woodworker, two ceramic artists, and a ski lodge. Seriously.

Sweeping pastoral vistas. The refuse of city streets. The limbs of a particular tree. The headlines over the morning paper. Artists look to the world around them for inspiration. How does landscape influence the act of creation? And how do artists translate this influence into a landscape shaped by their own hands?

We are invited to reflect about our surroundings and how they contribute to the process of making art.You might think that this episode would be locked into discussions of trees and flowers, but I was highly intrigued by the work of Jan Yager, who uses drug paraphernalia found in her rough Philadelphia neighborhood and transforms them into visually interesting pieces of art. Her commitment to using materials found in her immediate vicinity — no matter how ugly or rough — is pretty inspirational.

A break in the documentary’s form occurs when they highlight Timberline Lodge — a ski lodge built after the Depression by the Works Progress Administration which employed not only welders and brick-layers, but also apparently artists and craftspeople. It seems like a strange inclusion in the documentary, but it (mostly) works.

Part 3: Community

This episode features glass artists, ceramicists, quilters, two more jewelry artists, another basket weaver, and a roster of craft schools and organizations.

A quilt made for a loved one. A piece of jewelry passed down from one generation to the next. Crafts connect us to other times, other places, other people. How do simple, beautiful objects bind us together and how do they come to embody our sense of community?

This episode sticks most closely, in my opinion, to its theme of community. It shows artists working in residences, schools, and other group settings. Readers of this blog will be glad to see that a modern quilting-bee community, Mississippi Cultural Crossroads, is highlighted. Not surprisingly, with the exception of the glassworkers (a craft which I imagine is extremely difficult to complete in isolation), most of the artists featured in this episode are women. This makes sense, given what we see of women finding communities of creativity even here online in blogland.

My take on it

The people and products in this documentary are so lovingly and generously filmed that it will sometimes take your breath away. I frequently wished that I could reach through my television to caress a particular curve of a rocking chair, or feel the weaved texture of a basket or a rug. Fortunately, the camera does a pretty good job of caressing for us. Truly, these episodes are shot with a cinematic view and there is plenty for the eye to take in.

As someone who truly enjoys learning about not only art but also artists and their process, these episodes are jam-packed with gems. Please remember, however, that I am an art therapist and I could sit and listen to people talk about their artwork and their creative process all day every day. (Oh wait. I do. But, I never get sick of it.)

There are things about the documentary which fall a little short for me, too. For instance, I found the organizational structure of the episodes a little baffling. The worst offender of the episodes in this sense is Landscape — which inexplicably (and jarringly) leaps from highlighting artists who are making art based on their physical surroundings to an artist that makes art in protest of war. Huh? This episode also features Timberline Lodge, which is a cool collaboration of artists that came together during a difficult time and… therefore… wouldn’t it fit better in the episode called Community?

Also, those of us who are trying to incorporate art wherever we can in our modern, average lives may have to dig a little to find useful ideas from these full-time, studio-based, livelihood artists. I believe the gems are there, but I had to kind of commit myself to not being jealous of their set-ups. That said, the quilters are of course just everyday women. None of us should find this to be much of a surprise, I guess.

I was also struck by what is missing from this documentary — as I alluded above, it lacks a taste of everyman, of common folks who are using art or craft to enrich their lives. Because of this, there are great swaths of media that are not discussed. The episodes deftly avoid highlighting fine artists (painters, sculptors, and the like) in favor of crafts-people who are creating beautiful (yet largely practical) art. However, I would have liked to have seen more time devoted to things like embroidery, sewing, paper arts, bookbinding, and other more accessible media. I found myself wondering more than once, “Really? Another furniture maker?”

Finally, the “episode” format of this documentary is very tantalizing. My one remaining criticism is that there are only three episodes, with  no apparent plan for continuation. If they could reduce the production value a little, we might get fewer sweeping vistas and perfectly-lit images of glazed pots, but if it would have resulted in a longer-running examination of art and artists, I would have been glad of it.



Overall, I give this DVD 4/5 stars.

The pros: Gorgeously filmed, beautiful work. Lots of artists are highlighted and they talk at length about their lives and their creative process. There’s an emphasis on getting back to handmade, simple objects and moving away from machine-made.

The cons: Organization is a bit loose and, at times, jarring. Many of the arts and media highlighted are out of reach of the average Joe. Potential for an interesting, ongoing series is somewhat wasted with only 3 episodes.

If you’ve seen this documentary (or choose to watch it in the future), please comment on it below!

Weekly roundup

Mal | Resources,Roundup | Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Studio Corner Sneak Peek

What I worked on this week

Out there in Blogland

Some Challenges/Swaps to consider joining

 Recent comments you should read

On What to do: Kill your darlings, there was some good feedback about editing your work. 

Lainie takes me to task and gives me my favorite phrase of the week:

I’m ambivalent – not because ruthless and unsentimental editing isn’t necessary, but because we’re not always our own best editors or judges. I’ve thrown paintings (and ideas) away only to have someone else rescue them, and later these became some of my favorites. Maybe we should put our darlings in the rest home for a little while, so to speak, and check back for signs of life before pulling the plug.

Arlee wisely suggests:

I regularly go through my UFO languishers and CANNABALISE them—if *i* worked on it, there has to be parts i like, or i wouldn’t have done them to begin with, so why not just use them elsewhere?

On Life in the Shadows, many responded about what makes a “real” artist.

Cynthia (no blog) says some of the things I wish I would have said:

From the quote you’ve given in Julia Cameron’s book, it looks to me as if Ms. Cameron is a purist. There’s nothing wrong with being a purist in your own life, so long as you don’t put other people down when they don’t (or can’t) abide by your precepts.

I particularly keyed in on her sentence, “Remember, it takes nurturing to make an artist.” It also takes instruction, whether one on one or in a class (which takes $), time–to develop one’s skills to the professional/mastery level (living expenses during those years), and supplies (which take $). Many “artists” (vs. “shadow artists”) also feel that, unless one has a dedicated studio (more $), whatever one creates cannot be art, but is craft. And, of course, in the “pure” art world, craft is just…craft.

Yes, it would be wonderful if we could each follow our path of artistry in our dedicated studio and earn a living doing it. In reality, very few people can do this relative to the number who would deserve to do it based on their level of skill. Was William Carlos Williams a “shadow” doctor or a “shadow” poet? Given Ms. Cameron’s requirements, he wasn’t a full doctor OR a full poet. Hmmm…

And, lest we forget, those composers of yesteryear, like Mozart and Beethoven, died in abject poverty. Music was the only way they had of earning a living. If they didn’t have a patron to cover their living expenses, then that period of their life was very difficult, since even Mozart didn’t earn a decent living, much less a comfortable one, strictly from his composing, performing, and conducting activities. Even when he added tutoring and his wife gave private vocal instruction, Herr und Frau Mozart lived in very straitened circumstances.

And what about writers like Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson, who lived as single women with their families but never earned a living with their writing? In Dickinson’s case, she wasn’t even known to have been a writer until after her death! I suppose this is OK with Ms. Cameron: so long as the artist lives in abject poverty but is pure, that’s OK. Or, in the case of Austen, so long as the artist is denied a full life (dying, ill and single, at the age of 42, never able to lie on the family couch because it was her mother’s “place”), she is a pure writer.

There’s something wrong with this kind of mean-hearted analysis. I leave it to others to determine exactly what.

Judy is going through a struggle that is close to many of our hearts:

Personally, I am wrestling about whether to give up something that I’m good at and that people want to buy (painting) and go with something that I love to do (sit and stitch). When I see ancient and folk textiles covered in hand stitch in museums I am overwhelmed by their power – this emotion is what makes me want to go with the hand stitch and leave the painting to others who are more passionate about it. The fact that I am a music teacher – well as well – I don’t even consider. I just do that like I make dinner for the family. My heart is in my hand stitch.

On Getting back to it, I asked what people do to motivate themselves out of creative slumps.

Lots of you came out with great advice about how to get the creative wheels turning again. My favorites are from Elizabeth (here), Emma (here), Stacey (here), Rebekah (here), and Leslie (here).

Roundup: Anatomical Art (Therapy)

Mal | Art Journal,Art Therapy,Resources,Roundup | Sunday, April 26th, 2009

 What hurts?

One great way to facilitate a good mind-body connection is to make artwork about your body — its ailments or its triumphs. Today I’m thinking more about ailments.


I made a lot of art about my own body last year before, during, and after surgery. I even wrote about it here and here. As an art therapist who works in a hospital, I’m always interested in representations of physical, mental, and emotional pain.

Frida Kahlo famously lived with pain caused by childhood polio and then a traumatic bus accident. Her art is generally labeled as Surreal, though I see it as a therapeutic reflection of reality. Frankly, with varying degrees of technical skill, this is the kind of art that shows up a lot in a hospital setting. The problems of pain and the foibles of the human body are, as we all know, very very real.


 My painting carries with it the message of pain. (Frida Kahlo)

The Problem of Pain

Obviously, the human anatomy is a common theme in artwork of all kinds. Click the image above to find out more about the artists and their work.

Other very excellent examples include:

Of course, actual physical representation is not necessary. One of my favorite flickr images is by karmapolis and is called “Mi enfermedad” (My Illness). It depicts a dragon, not a body or a brain. Other people may just use color, shapes, and lines to abstractly depict what they go through.

Parts of me

What about you? Have you ever made something about your body, an illness, or a physical ailment or triumph? Please share!

Guest Post: Frustration in the Creative Process

Mal | Guest Posts,Resources | Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Welcome to our latest installment of the Guest Post Series. Holly chose to write about the creative process and some of its frustrations. There are some choice phrases in here that have stuck with me for weeks, so I’m pleased to present you with her words. In the meantime, if you’re interested in writing about your creative process, your emotional connection to your artwork, or thoughts about a specific project, please contact me!


The creative process is powerful but it isn’t always wonderful. Sometimes it’s fraught with self-doubt and anxiety. I’ve been sitting here for hours staring at this blank page, why can’t I think of anything??

It always feels bad when you try to “force-create.” I’m sure you all know the feeling — staring at a blank page, willing the ideas and creativity to flow. Maybe there’s a birthday/anniversary/christening/special occasion coming up and you’ve promised to make something, but what? It has to be perfect, and no pressure, but you’ve only got a few days to make it so better get cracking. Gotta get those ideas flowing. Come on now, time’s running out.

I don’t think there’s any way to avoid force-creating — we’re all going to come across it at some point — but how I like to deal with it is to get up and walk away for a while. Give it some space, come at it from a different angle. Often my best ideas come to me while I’m doing something completely unrelated. 

My actual creative process is usually very subconscious. It always starts with an idea. It starts foggy at first, like the phenomena of seeing something from the corner of your eye, but when you turn to look it’s not there.

The idea creeps around the outside of my mind for a few days. I like to think of it as an incubation of sorts. I don’t interfere – I let it sit and incubate and grow and develop until it’s ready to reveal itself to me. Then comes that deep-in-your-stomach flutter of excitement as you think yes! Yes this is really great! Yes I can do something with this! Then it’s like a fever takes hold. A fever where eating seems irrelevant, where sleeping just slows you down, where your head is full of wonder and light and colours.


Sometimes notes are made and sketches are drawn, sometimes I just roll up my sleeves and jump in. Often it’s messy. Often the casualties are grand. If you have ever seen someone trying to design a new plushie, you will know how big the pile of mutant discards can be. Club legs, misshapen heads, darts gone wrong.

But sometimes it’s not until you put it all together and you stuff it and you look at it for a while that you realise… something’s just not right. You might not even know what doesn’t suit to begin with, but if something’s off you’ll have a nagging feeling in the back of your mind. Often I have to talk myself into fixing things, instead of continuing to work on a piece that I’m just not happy with, or letting it languish because I’m not happy.

Admittedly, ashamedly, I do have a short attention span and a lot of my creative ideas fall prey to the thought that if I don’t do them now, they’ll slip back into the edges of my mind and get forgotten. But I do love the fever pitch of a new idea. It’s like the honeymoon phase of a relationship, all giddy and exciting.

Other days… it’s not so great. My creativity comes in spits and spurts. Usually I feel my most creative when I have a lot of things I need to do, and suddenly my productivity increases – of course, not toward anything that actually needs to be done! I don’t try to start anything when I’m in one of my down periods, as I hate to force create. But I have a few projects I can pick up when I’m in a creative lull – like a cross stitch or some embroidery — just something small to occupy my hands until my brain fills up with ideas again.

For me, creating is living. Creating is finding myself, validating myself, exploring myself, trying on different things for size. I am a plushie maker, I am a stamp carver, I am a quilter, I am an OCD sufferer with a penchant for organising my fabric in a rainbow fashion. I struggle with creativity, but I know, now, that I couldn’t live without it.

Through creating I’ve learnt that not all criticism is bad. I’ve learnt patience and persistence, and I’ve watched myself grow. I’ve learnt to go slow, but not too slow – you’ve gotta keep working at being creative. I’ve learnt new techniques, I’ve met new friends, and I’ve learnt to respect myself again. I’ve learnt that not everything works out the way you want and you know what? Maybe that’s okay.

Holly McGuire is a mild-mannered bus driver by day, bringing her love of craft to the people on the streets, one bus stop at a time. By night, however, she is a rogue crafter and lover of all things handmade. Too excitable to be tied down by one craft she dabbles in many – plushies, stamps, quilting, bag-making. You can follow her creative adventures (and mishaps) over on her blog, Two Cheese Please.

Granny Day Giveaway Winners

Mal | Color study,Give-aways,Resources | Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Thanks to all who entered the Granny Day Giveaway by choosing a color and associating it with an emotion. Winners are listed below. But first, I thought I’d play along too.

At some point in the last week, my emotional color was yellow — not a nice, warm, orangey-yellow, but a lighter, green-like yellow. These photos were mostly taken around my apartment on Saturday morning.

Yellow mosaic

Unlike many who commented about yellow, I don’t always associate the color with sunshine and cheery mood. This dank, green-ish yellow is more of a desperate color for me — something tight and trapped, something stuck. I don’t know why. Guess its been a weird week.

Before I reveal the winners, I want to give a special nod to Dawn (warning: music plays on her page) who took my Granny Day Celebration one step further and created her own Granny Creed. I love it! The world would be a better place…

At any rate, without further ado, here are the winners of the Granny Day Giveaway. Yup — I said winners plural. Because this is the first giveaway, I thought “aw, heck.” Let’s get crazy.

Congratulations to ecky (no blog) who said: i’d say brown…earthy and calm. (Well, calm can be considered an emotion so there you go!)

Congratulations to gahome2mom whose email with the secret subscription phrase was also chosen. She says: I’m entering to win blue because it makes me feel relaxed. (gahome2mom also entered via twitter. Hip!)

And finally, congratulations to Patricia Ojeda (no blog, but that’s a twitter link), who said: I’m feeling red today! To me, red is an exciting, energizing, and vivid color! Red just screams vitality! This is the way I am feeling today. I love red in the quilts that I sew. There must be a touch of red in every quilt I make. Red makes colors pop! The color red is also in my garden that I planted for spring! Against all the green grass and bushes, red just stands out so pretty! (Patricia also entered multiple ways, so that’s also extra yay-worthy.)

Honorable mentions to Dionne, Margi, Liz, and Elizabeth who went the extra mile and earned the bonus point.

As a final point of interest, here is a list of the selected colors in order of popularity. Interesting trends!

  1. Blue
  2. Green
  3. Pink
  4. Yellow
  5. Orange
  6. Red
  7. Purple
  8. Brown
  9. Aqua/teal
  10. Black
  11. White/Cream

I had a great time with this fun giveaway and it really brought out the lurkers! My feed reader is now bursting at the seams with new blogs that I never would have discovered otherwise. I highly recommend you pop back to the original entry and check out the commenters. Visit a few blogs you’ve never heard of before. Expand your circle and start leaving comments. Let’s get interacting! I know I am looking forward to interacting with you all more.

Please don’t forget — this is just the first of many giveaways I’ve got planned, so you’ll all be able to enter again! I recommend subscribing to this blog so that you don’t miss anything good.

Tutorial: Invisible Ladder Stitch for Quilt Binding

Mal | Media,Quilting,Resources,Sewing,Tutorials | Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Update: Apparently this stitch is called the Ladder Stitch. Personally, I prefer my title for it: Invisible Mamma-Jamma Stitch. While ladder stitch is common to embroidery, applique, and closing up stuffed plush dolls, apparently very few people have applied it to quilt binding. Let me know if you try it!

I mentioned before that my mom had taught me a stitch for quilt binding that was so simple and obvious yet so wonderful that I wanted to share it with you.

Quilt binding with whip stitch

The photo above shows the back of my rough draft quilt.

Whip-stitched bindign in action

Following the many tutorials and demonstrations online, I whip-stitched the binding to the back of the quilt.

Whip Stitched Bindings

But, as you can see in my photo and the ones above, whip-stitching can leave a very visible line of tiny stitches. In addition to being sort of unsightly, I worried a bit about the stitches getting caught and, God forbid, ripped.

Creative binding solutions

Some people go to great (and creative!) lengths to machine stitch their binding, as seen above. I imagine that at least some of them are frustrated (as I was) with the result of the whip-stitching and looking for alternatives.

When it came time to bind my friend’s baby quilt, I whip stitched the entire thing and hated it. On the phone with my mom (sewing consultant extraordinaire), she said there was a better way and that if I would be willing to re-do it, she would teach me. It only took me 3 evenings to unpick all that stitching, and 3 weeks for her to arrive in town with thread and scissors in hand.

Mom proceeded to teach me the ladder stitch — a stitch that is easy, fast, and nearly invisible! She uses it for both quilt binding and hand applique. I think it would work for any application requiring joining of two fabrics where at least one of them involves a fold.

The basic idea is to think of the shape of a castle wall.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch Illustration 1

(I work mine from right to left, because I am right-handed. Lefties may wish to mirror-image the process.)

When you tighten up the thread of the castle wall, the bits that were visible disappear into the fabric like this:

Tutorial: Blind Stitch Illustration 2

So that all that’s left visible on the outside of the fabrics is a tiny dot of thread where the needle has passed from one side to the other. In my experience, you have to really hunt if you want to see that thread. Awesome.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch Illustration 3

After my brother’s wedding, I took some action shots of my mom teaching the stitch. Hopefully you’ll find it useful!

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 1

Start off with the Mamma Jamma knot I already taught you. Then, insert the needle on the back side of the binding to hide the knot. Only go through one layer of the binding, as the goal here is invisibility, man.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 2

When the needle comes out, it should be between the two layers of binding fabric and smack dab in the middle of the crease of the binding’s fold. If you felt like popping the knot through the fabric to bury it, nestling it right into the inside of the binding’s fold, you can do that. My mom didn’t do that, though — you can see the knot poking out on the right if you look at the image below.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 3

Make sure the exit point is directly parallel from where you want to insert your needle into the quilt. Check the diagram above — you shouldn’t have too much diagonal or angled anything while working this stitch. In this case, mom started about a quarter of an inch from the previous stitches, since that’s about how far she spaces this stitch. For my part, I space them a little closer.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 4

Then stitch down straight across from that exit point. Make your stitch just above (on the quilt side, not the edge side) of your line of basting stitches.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 5

Come back into the binding fabric directly across from the previous exit point. You want to stitch right in the fold of the binding, because the thread will ultimately nestle there, perfectly parallel to the fold.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 6

Alternate stitches between the quilt and the binding, always inserting your needle directly across from your previous exit point. Again, refer to the diagram above if you have questions.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 7

When you’ve done a few stitches, gently tighten up the thread. As you do, the stitches will disappear and the whole thing will be held together by thread which is tucked neatly out of sight, buried inside your work. Be careful, though, not to tighten too much — if the quilt stretches more than your stitches, your stitches will break and your binding will come undone.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 8

And voila! The stitches are now only visible if you go looking for them.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 9

Continue along this way until you reach the end of your thread.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 10

To finish off, take a couple of stitches in the quilt, between the basting stitches and the raw edge.

Tutorial: Blind Stitch 11

Mom likes to finish hers off by bringing the end of the thread through the loop before tightening the last back stitch to secure it.

And there you have it! If you try this stitch, if something doesn’t make sense and you need more/better explanation, or if you dispute the name of this stitch, please leave it in the comments!

Color Study: Mexico

Mal | Art Journal,Color study,Links to Others | Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Mexico Courtyard

With the Granny Day Giveaway going on, I’m thinking about color this week.

Somehow I had missed (or forgotten) that Geninne lives in Mexico. Her recent post about the colorful country she lives in reminded me of my trip to Mexico from a few years back. (I highly recommend you click over to read that post, as it is very beautiful and insightful. Go ahead. I’ll be here when you get back.)

I first visited Mexico in 2004 for some art therapy classes and was so into sketching and visual journals at the time that I didn’t even take a camera with me! This strikes me as absurd — my first time visiting in a new country and no camera!? — but I sketched my way across the Mexican countryside as evidenced by this photo below:

Sketching (under the arrow)

Yeah, that’s me. Under the orange arrow. Note that I am the only person not paying rapt attention to the speaker, and instead am sketching the cactus to my right. I remember it was bursting with small fruits and I couldn’t NOT capture their deep burgundy-gold-ness. The photo was taken by a friend who sent it to me with a note: “This is what you looked like the whole time in Mexico, FYI.” I think she was a little annoyed, but my sketchbooks from that trip are their own reward.

Mexico Colored House

While I was in Mexico, I read a quote that I thought at the time really summed up my thoughts on color in that country. In hindsight, I think it is rather Aryan-centric and a little class-ist, but I still think it’s interesting:

In Mexico, the people who have no money make their walls beautiful to show off their one element of wealth: COLOR.

— Elena Ponintowska

And, it’s true. My journals from that trip are filled with warm oranges, reds, yellows, and pinks. The blues are really bright, and the greens kind of fade away. Here are a few more scans:

Mexico Fountain

Mexico Blue Sky Church

Mexico Bar

Mexico Umbrella

There’s still time to enter the Granny Day Giveaway. Just think of your current favorite color and an emotion you associate with it. There are 5 ways to enter!

(Note: There are also giveaways at Bumblebeans and Mrs. Schmenkman Quilts. Go stash up while I work to stash down.)

Guest Post: Healing Space

Mal | Guest Posts,Resources | Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

This is the second in a series of guest posts written by creative types about their creative process, their experience with art and healing, and their emotional connection to artwork. If you’re interested in contributing, please contact me!

When Julie explained her reasons for not wanting to capitalize words and sentences in her guest entry, I agreed wholeheartedly and left Julie’s original grammar choices intact.


at the end of 2007, i left my job. it was a hectic, fast-paced, cut-throat, high-powered, career-track kind of job that i had, for a long time, really loved.
in a way, leaving a job like that is like a divorce. you loved it once, deeply and completely, and were blind to its faults. but slowly, over time, without really noticing, you fell out of love with it. although you may be happy that you’ve gone — especially if it was your decision — that doesn’t really make it any easier.
i worked at the headquarters of a multinational firm that was the largest in its field and by far the most significant company in my country of residence. it was a very traditional company in a very traditional, conservative, very masculine kind of business, so i had to be extra tough to get along there as a woman. and while i loved that in many ways, i found that i couldn’t shed the constraints it had given me overnight.


when i look back, i realize that it took nearly a year to be free of them. i spent the best part of 2008 getting back in touch with a creative side that had become subsumed under the crushing wheels of the career and the company. such a conservative, traditional business demands certain frames and constraints on the kind of creative thinking i had been accustomed to. it’s not that there was no creative thinking, it just wasn’t the kind that allows a person to stand before a canvas and freely paint.

i tried to rush my recovery. i immediately signed up for a painting class which ended up a source of frustration to me because i was completely blocked by nearly four years on the fast track. i had been so (re)defined by the expectations of that conservative man’s world that as i stood before the canvas with paint and brush in hand, i felt cramped and unable to break free. i found it difficult to even know where to begin.

one of the reasons i had felt out of touch with my creativity in my job was that i was simply too busy. when i finally got home at the end of a day at the office (or after my nearly 200 days of travel a year), i was too exhausted to sew or draw or paint or do anything creative. throughout college, i had always had all kinds of projects going on — sewing, painting, decorating, cooking — but i didn’t have time for any of that while at my job. the entire notion of dragging everything out, doing the project and then putting it all away again before i had to go back to work on monday morning was simply overwhelming and it shut down any impulse i might have had to do it.


what i came to realize as i struggled to reawaken my dormant creativity (because i never believed it was gone, just that it was in hiding), was that what i craved was a space in which to be creative — somewhere to leave works in progress without them being in anyone’s way (in other words, not our dining room table). somewhere i could retreat and think. somewhere with an atmosphere conducive to creativity. where my muses would be comfortable and happy and venture forth once again. somewhere i could be alone or create together with my daughter.
so i put a lot of thought into what that space would be like. it would be separate from the house, it would have plenty of light and be very open to take advantage of any summer there might be (it can be quite rainy in denmark in the summer), but very cozy when the rainy grey days inevitably would come. it would be inviting yet private. there would be room to have several projects of different kinds going at once.


all of my supplies/stash would be at hand on shelves and in drawers. it would be ok if paint got on the floor. it would have wi-fi and a stereo. there would be room for books and items of inspiration. there would be plenty of space for kids to work alongside adults. it would be ok to make a big mess.
there would be a wood-burning stove for heat and coziness. it would be a space where everyone wanted to hang out and make something and there would be plenty of inspiring supplies at hand when inspiration struck.
even before i left the hectic job, we were already discussing my dreams for the space with our architect. and thankfully, over last summer, the space unfolded before me. it has four sets of double doors that open wide for those summery days. it has a cozy wood-burning stove for those days when it rains and is so grey and chilly you think the sun will never shine again. the supplies are there. the books are there. the walls are a rich turquoise and the ceiling is a darker, deeper teal. it is both cave-like and light, warm and cool. it is all of the dichotomies rolled together into one fantastic vortex of creativity.


there are snips of fabric and bits of paper on the floor. the sewing machine stands out at the ready at all times. there are projects in various stages of completion on the coffee table and the sideboard. the drawers are filled to bursting with pretty paper and fabrics. music spills forth from the ipod. there are inspiration books on the shelf, beckoning to be taken down when one feels like drawing or quilting or making clay figures. paints and pencils and canvases beckon. embroidery threads, rolls of felt and rubber stamps whisper ideas.
it is a good, healing space where my muses have been set free. they are still walking on tippy toes, but they get stronger all the time. perhaps virginia woolf was right; one does need a room of one’s own.

julochka is an american living in denmark after following a lovely danish boy home from the balkans more than a decade ago. she works as a journalist in the shipping industry. additionally, she is a blogger and photographer and learning to call herself an artist. her blog is moments of perfect clarity and you can see her photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/julochka/

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