Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Scrapjournaling & Creative Bookmaking - A New Class

A page from one of my Scrapjournals - a letter from a man I'll never forget


When I am interviewing creative people, one of the questions I often ask is,"What was the first project you remember doing that ignited that spark in you and made you think . . . I want more of this?"  Mine was using wrapping paper scraps that I found in a closet to cover a box I was creating for a babysitter that I had not met.  I was sure, positive, certain that when she saw it, she would have dizzying disbelief at its magnificence.

An agenda of sorts that I made using brown paper bags


But that sort of ended my creativity for a long time.  You see, I am the youngest of 6, and every single one of my siblings is MAD, WICKED creatively blessed.  They were the artists, not me, so I stuck to writing.  Thank the Lord.


Using a photo and more scraps to capture a moment in time


I tried daily journaling, only to fail over and over again at the daily part while I was growing up.  When I tried to scrapbook, it was hard for me to organize my creativity around a systematic, chronological order.  For example, doing the Baby's 1st Year album stumped my creativity, since it was more about putting everything in sequence, then about being creative.  I would spend more time trying to get the sequence perfect then working on the book itself. 


I wrote pages, added half pages and added strange things I could not let go of.

I started to make my own books that were completely free-form. Some were awful.  But I kept going.  I experimented with types of bookmaking, even using the sides of beer cartons as my book covers or some old UPS box. I bought nothing.  I used whatever was in the house and anything in my pile of scraps was fair game - the bookmark my mom gave me attached to a birthday card, an old button of my grandmother's, a feather that Lucy and I found in Colorado.  I started to look at my book as an artist's sketchbook that could include journaling, a photo, a painted page that was going to be the inspiration for the kids new bathroom.  It became my idea book, record of my life and journal all rolled into one.  I want to bring the JOY back to recording your life.



Join me next year for my class, Scrapjournaling & Creative Bookmaking,  Saturday, February 7th and Saturday, April 4th.


The only tool you'll need is your imagination & your random collected bits.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Fashion Blogger Who Knows History & Not Just Trends



Are there a few people in your life that you know or are known by many that have influenced your style?  That cool girl at school who showed up wearing her sweat pants with her cowboy boots because she saw it on the cover of Seventeen?  Or was it that actress who was always dressed in white that made you want to throw out all your color and pattern (i.e. the great Olivia Pope)? Whoever it was, let me say now, they better move over for Michelle Braverman

michelle (on the left) modeling for one of the anthro fashion shows

I met Michelle when I was applying to Anthropologie and she was my first interviewer.  I'll never forget the pants she had on either. Peach lace cropped pants with flats, styled just like Laura Petrie from "The Dick Van Dyke Show."  I knew right then, I had to work there and get to know her.

Starting her career as an Art Director in New York City working for CBS, Michelle lived in Brooklyn.  Although school prepared her to be an Art Director, she says it didn't quite tell her how to be an Art Director.  Working for magazines such as Glamour and Women's Day, she learned all the parts of putting a magazine together (before computers, when it was laid-out by hand).  She had the artistic freedom to not only plan articles & create sets, but to try out ideas of her own for articles.  This is what makes her blog discernible from others.

Living now in Houston, she writes one of the most clever and historically correct fashion blogs on the web, at least on my web, known as AllWays in Fashion. Rather than displaying mood boards of fashion items you should buy now that you can pin to your Pinterest board later, she focuses on the literary discussion of fashion, where she might see a trend and help you figure out what to wear with it or highlight the designers someone like Michelle Obama has worn after she wears her first Oscar (as in de la Renta).  A review of a new book or play about fashion might be the subject, or it could be about a current death in the fashion world and an ode to their work. Even if you don't like fashion (and I will be frank and tell you that's a pity), you would like her clever writing.....


I know reality TV is as real as, well, imitation crab. Not to be crabby about it, but how gullible do they think we are? 

She started her blog after foot surgery three years ago, and had the goal of writing a post every day (until that darn foot healed). She loves to research the photos and see how much we are influenced by our past.   Like many of the most successful bloggers, she wrote for herself.  On her list of wants would be a copy-editor, since she has to be her own, but other than that, there isn't much.  Getting to sit down and write, where time sits still, and make observations, when your instinct is correct and on-point is why she does this.  It's like your own free magazine delivered to your inbox with only one woman producing it, so go ahead and subscribe.



a pin that michelle just whipped up one day - damn her



Monday, October 27, 2014

How to Find Inspiration Standing in a Field



For my 49th, my 3 sisters (Karen, Kathleen and Beth) took me to a food experience by an organization called Outstanding in the Field. It took place at an organic farm, known as, Animal Farm in Cat Springs, Texas.  It's a "roving culinary adventure" and their mission is to
re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.
Karen on the left and Kathleen on the right

We had to hike to get to the main building.  It wasn't far, but your boots better have been on your feet.  Some got the memo...some ladies did not.  We walked on all types of surfaces.

We arrived at the main building and had our appetizers which were fresh Gulf oysters with fish sauce mignonette, and you ate them right out of the shell...no plate, just a napkin.


The next appetizer was grilled Animal Farm shishito peppers, preserved lemon, kimchi emulsion.  They had these grilling on a fire pit in the middle of everything...


We saw all types of flora that not one of us knew.
Edible, poisonous?  Please let me know, someone.



We hiked in low grass,
on dirt roads,

and in taller green stuff.
We saw greenhouses filled with flowers

Horses with no names

My sister Kathleen

Here comes the inspiring part.  And it's a W-H-O-L-E lot better than my set-up. Standing there with the sun shining down on him, Jim Denevan, the founder, had a profound message for all of us creatives.  Although I didn't interview him, I want to share some of the story he told.


He started doing these events in 1999.  His first supper had 12 guests.  12.  He was a starving artist.  He carted the people and the equipment in a bus.  A broken down bus.  Going from state to state partnering with celebrated chefs and serving primarily local foods at these events, he also did the layouts of the tables at each venue to meld with the surroundings of the unique outdoor setting. Sometimes when the event was near the ocean, he would do large scale drawings in the sand.  He sold his first piece of art for six figures after one of these epic sketches caught the attention of Range Rover, who asked him to do one for their upcoming campaign. Since then, his oceanside art has taken him all over the world and received national recognition in museums like the MOMA.

My sister Beth and I
There is so much more I could tell you about this day: More about the food we ate, the bugs everywhere (the caterpillar on my shoulder and the lovebugs in our water), the rain that fell, things we laughed about . . . it was magical.  I felt just like a kid seeing something for the very first time - that sense of awe powered by the excitement in my stomach. I wanted more bugs, more dirt roads, more rain. Wanting to smell every smell, pet every flower with my camera at my side made me realize I don't want more stuff for my next birthday, I just want this all over again. 

My sister Karen
Thanks to all my sisters for showing me how to work hard, how to be creative, and for continuing to be my cheerleaders.  They were the first people to boost me up about starting my business and that is a gift in and of itself.  Oh, and by the way, two of my sisters are single . . . what can I say?  I'm always trying to help others find love.


Friday, October 24, 2014

You Can Have A Guru That Doodles






I want to introduce you to Jenipher Lyn, my Instagram friend, whose doodles have become part of my morning ritual.  I head to Starbucks, grab a green tea, open Instagram and look for her daily doodle that often sets my intention for the day as I sit down and start to journal.  She has become my doodle guru, since I saw her work in my coach and now friend, Michelle Ward's nursery. 


The last three interviews I have written had to do with leaps of faith artists have taken and these themes were not brought up by me or planned ahead.  With Jenipher Lyn, she wasn't afraid or hesitant to express her fears, insecurities, and obstacles as she expands her artistic wings.  The intention of this interview with her is to inspire you, to empathize with other creative entrepreneurs, and to show bravery in action.


When I first started interviewing people, I did lots of research and had a script. Then, one day, I couldn't find all my prepared questions amongst my stacks of notebooks and unfiled papers, so I ad libbed.  In those first panicked moments, I settled down and let the artist speak.  It changed my interview style forever.  When Jenipher Lyn started speaking, her honesty was enthralling, uncensored, ego less and plain adorable.


After her jobs at car auction houses and a call center (which has to be the WORST job for a sensitive soul), she made the joint decision with her husband to do this art thing full-time.  She does a line of unique greeting cards with her doodles, has an Etsy store where prints are also sold, and sells wholesale to stationery stores in NYC. Additionally, she wrote and published a book titled How Being Stubborn, Depressed and Unpopular Saved My Life. Currently, she is working on a revised edition that will have an additional 60 NEW pages that she is on track to finish by December.


Wearing the hats of artist, business manager, promoter and marketer can be overwhelming at times for any artist.  This is why so many give up and get a "real" job.  They struggle with the dreaded "I have tremendous guilt if I'm not working" mindset that this artist so adequately defined for us.  Elaborating further, she pointed out "I work for myself, but I don't let myself enjoy the fruits of working for myself.  I have to be productive." 


As she tries to figure out how to convert her social media presence on Instagram from a great conversation and community to sales, she battles between being the creative and the business person. When someone is so gifted on the right side of the brain, how does she activate the left-side without draining her right-side completely?


She takes a leap.  Jenipher Lyn has signed up for what she described as a big local trade show.  When I said to her, "Is it the National Stationery Show in May?" Her reply was "Um, yes.  You know it?" Having worked in stationery design for 12 years of my life, I want to tell you this is not a local show, but THE SHOW. Every retailer in the United States is there.  She is getting a booth of her own at the show of shows hoping to expose her work to stationery vendors, gift stores, and licensing people.  I can see her work on mugs, notebooks, journals, napkins...I really can.  This is bravery in action.




What I want to convey to you today is that even though some creative types might work out of small, unorganized homes without office space and our jobs may seem unconventional, we still show up every morning to our jobs.  We often stare at a blank page, canvas, or computer with fear and hear this undeniable voice, strong in our head and heart that screams, "You must do this. This is your purpose, your calling.  And you must use every bit of your energy to share it with the world."  Jenipher Lyn, I admire you for your inspiration, hard work and ability to be be real.  Don't stop. Some people have Gurus in India.  I found mine in New York City on Instagram.  What a world we live in.






Sunday, September 28, 2014

Meet Kathleen - An Artist Who Is Drawing Blindfolded



One of Kathleen's Metal Sculptures on Her Front Porch



I traveled to Glen Flora, Texas to meet with this artist, which didn't bother me a bit, since she is my sister, Kathleen Quigley.  I thought she was going to have an agenda for our meeting, and was ready to let her direct me to any subject she wanted to tell me about.  I imagined she would be saying things like "This is what I am currently working on; This is a piece I have recently done and my inspiration was, etc." I was spellbound when I sat down with her on her patio last Thursday and she wanted to tell me her story instead of focusing on anything about her art.


One of the Drawings She Did Blind - A Color Combo Which Surprised Her


Before I tell you more, let me give you the history of what happened to her in June of this year.  She got sick with a lung problem that doctors could not identify. Initial diagnoses were TB, pneumonia, and then the one that landed her at Methodist Hospital: a growth in her lung and the possibility of lung cancer.   Having survived Stage III Breast Cancer, you can imagine how the prospect of another form of cancer would sit with Kathleen, along with the fear she was feeling.  Another symptom was a rash that covered her hands, the back of her neck, and encompassed her chest that no doctor could identify. Normally, Kathleen is a person who has extremely high levels of energy, only to find herself barely able to get out of bed to make herself a bowl of soup.  Doctors gave her no answers.  After 25 blood tests, 2 biopsies, 3 rounds of antibiotics, seeing over 12 specialists (auto-immune experts, dermatologists, internists), she was no closer to a diagnosis.  With more rest then I think she has had since she was a baby, she started to heal slowly.


A Close-Up of Some Lamps That Kathleen Designed and Made


She felt well enough to go on an already planned and paid-for vacation to Maine two months later, knowing she was still exhausted and would need to continue to rest.  While there, her neighbor gave her a book , and in it she found a premise that spoke to her.  This Hawaiian tradition is about taking 100% responsibility for your life, which made her see she was 100% responsible for her health.  It was not the job of others to save her.  It was hers.  She had been heading in a spiritual direction with herself for a long time, but she forgot to include her body on the journey.  She started juicing every day, cut refined sugar out of her diet, and started to listen to what her body needed. She focused on eating foods with high alkaline levels and not counting calories.  When I saw her I barely recognized her. She had lost about 25 pounds, looked vital and was calm - her breathing had even changed.  


Oil Pastel That Kathleen Created While In Bed Sick


One day, she made the flower above using oil pastels while sitting in her bed. Unable to practice her traditional forms of art (sculpture & painting) through her rest period, she invented an exercise for herself to do calling it "100 Days of Drawing."   The challenge was to do drawings with oil pastels while her eyes were closed. She thought it would be interesting to not pick the colors ahead of time, but to also pick them with her eyes closed. She does the sketch for 3-4 minutes, opens her eyes and does not pick new colors or alter the design.  She simply finishes the piece by filling in the drawing.



One of the Drawings Made With Her Eyes Closed

What she has found is there is not one drawing where the color combination does not work or a design that she does not like. Making her realize that her eyes and the eyes of many artists get in the way of their creativity.  They censor the artist.



Another Blind Drawing



"My eyes are a tool, and my mind gets in the way of what I create. When I was 28, I was building furniture that was sold in Galleries. I was building a large screen and painting flowers on the interior, when I did an experiment of painting a flower with my eyes closed. I liked the flower created by my blind eyes better.  My hands knew what to do.  This is probably why I like welding, because your eyes are pretty much closed with the headgear and the fact that it is high heat makes you have to work very fast."


Her Gallery Space - The Overhead Lighting Fixture & The Vases On The Wall Are Her Designs


"I think I needed rest this past summer.  Everything in my life had changed: my job, my marriage, where I lived and what city I lived in.  Instead of resting, I just kept going in order to not sit with myself.  I create now because I enjoy it."




Her house itself is an experience to walk through. Looking at the display in her bedroom made to organize her scarves & jewelry with branches she found on the beach and some discarded antlers boggles my mind.  It's an effortless endeavor for her to see found objects and form things.  A combination of the sculptor in her and the courage to follow her gut.


One of my favorite things in her house are these mushrooms.  The one at the top of the photo is a real mushroom, and the one at the bottom is a bronze of one of the mushrooms.  It's this kind of unexpected placement of items and the twist she puts on ordinary objects that makes you leave her home inspired to look at your own space with fresh eyes.  She is fearless, and has been since the moment our father found her sitting on the top of the kitchen counter in the middle of the night with her hand in the cookie jar. She was 15 months old and had crawled out of her crib.


Real Mushroom and Bronzed Mushroom


I asked Kathleen if her art was innate, and she said, "I just don't know if it is innate. It's my essential self." I left her house with a new-found love and appreciation for my sister, who chose to share her struggle to inspire others rather then promoting herself. An astrologer once told her she was an artist and a healer.   I know this about her now - I saw her truth as she spoke.



In The Waiting Place With Your Art? Meet Kim Hooker Ballesteros

Kim's Studio Wall - Where She Takes Vintage Thrift Store Art and Adds Little Bluebirds


When I was an artist's rep, I knew little about how artists thought. After doing it for several years, I saw repeated themes amongst all my clients, no matter what their medium was or their level of success. Here are the ones I heard most often:

  1. I'm tired of doing the same thing over and over (even if it was their best seller).  I want to do something new.
  2. I wish something would happen and I'd know I could make money at this.
Being an artist is a different pursuit than being a salesperson, as an example. Because you are selling something you made - it requires tremendous courage to put a part of yourself out for the world to see, and watch people praise it and reject it.  It's sort of hard to not see them rejecting YOU when they say disparaging things.



A Corner of The Crafty Bluebird Studio Space at Aurora Studios in The Heights


Interviewing Kim reminded me again of these themes.  Not the theme of rejection - she's fine if you don't like her things. More the theme of 'I wish something would happen.'  She is not alone, for I have been there and every single artist I know has too. Maybe, just maybe, you are there now too.  Not only do you have to have courage to be an artist, which she has plenty of, you need to have tremendous staying power.  Finding a network of people to cheer you on at this point is critical. 





Besides sharing her feelings about  being in the waiting place, Kim took an incredible step of courage this year by renting a studio space for her to create, and not necessarily to sell things.  She had the intention of using the space to teach, after all she has her MLA in Art History. She also wanted to rent it to create things for her own personal purposes.  Being a wife and mother of a 10 year old boy, her house was not a place for her to create.  There was always laundry to do or the kitchen to clean. We probably all know that when we leave our creativity on the back burner, everything else gets done, leaving no time for what we need to do for ourselves.




Not only did Kim rent the space, she started teaching again at Leisure Learning: How To Classes on Vintage Button Jewelry, Felt Flower Pins, Cupcake Stands, Terrariums.  An ever-changing seasonal list of classes are planned and you can find them on her website.  Using Leisure Learning as the platform for marketing and connecting with others, she will start using her studio space to offer classes, and for her own artistic pleasure.





Teaching for her is easy because she is "sharing an experience with someone.  When people left my classes in the past, they would feel great about themselves."  She taught at Leisure Learning years ago, a class on Gift Baskets (since she did this for Central Market), and often got thank you notes from her class members. "Teaching someone how to tie a decent bow, and watching them feel like they accomplished something was rewarding."  She wants to broaden her scope of classes, offering ones that also can incorporate her style.


Kim has always inspired me because she has the willingness to try something new, and in this case, she is using a new type of formula; finding the space for herself first and dreaming up ideas to facilitate her mission second.  Her mission is to help others through her gift of teaching so they feel they can be creative too. When you go to her website, and read the testimonials like this one below, you too will see this girl is enthusiastic and not centered around her ego:


"Kim is the most creative person I've ever met! She amazes me with her ability to come up with idea after idea of truly unique and fun projects. She is so gifted and so loves what she does that it is impossible to not catch her enthusiasm. My boys and I looked forward to every one of her events!"
~ Becky Shaw, Georgia

How many artists do you know that are not focused on their art, but instead focused on helping others find the artist within themselves? I love that when I picture Kim in my mind, I see her with a smile - always.  I think her decorating style makes Anthropologie look like amateurs and her insatiable need for travel (she just got back from Thailand and Beijing a day before this interview) shows a spirit that is soaring...just like a little crafty bluebird.  And as Kim says on her website...


"The Crafty Bluebird carries the sky on her back,
glitter on her wings and 
ribbons in her beak."


And Of Course, A Smiling Picture of Kim


Sunday, September 21, 2014

This Artist Teaches the Superpower of Courage




All classes are about courage, which is the one Superpower I am big on.  Being vulnerable enough to be able to imagine what is possible.

Have you ever loved an actress, singer or someone creative so much that you have watched all of their movies, know every song they sing, and read everything written about them?   One day you find yourself in NYC or LA, walk into an elevator and see them, to find in that moment you have no words to say to them? You want to tell them how much you love their work and the influence they have had in your life because you feel like you know them.  Yet, when you see them, all those trite things come out of your mouth "I've seen everything you've ever done. No really. I'm your biggest fan."


This was exactly what I did not want to sound like when meeting Andrea Scher for the first time.  I even negated doing our interview by Skype, for fear of my 'fangirl mentality' taking over what I wanted to accomplish with her.  I have followed her and admired her writing for over 8 years.  While getting ready for our interview, I saw something in her description of herself that seemed wrong.


painter, photographer, coach + mentor

What?  She's been blogging for over 10 years and does not consider herself a writer?  Why?  How?  With most interviews I have a script of questions laid out, but with Andrea, I didn't need to know more about her, for I knew I was her biggest fan already.  I decided to do something fresh; omit the script and ask her to just talk and see where it went.  I found my Superhero Mentor a little unsure at the beginning of our phone chat; after all, she's not on a press junket promoting her latest book, and I'm a stranger to her.  I gave a few guided prompts and then the wisdom and one-of-a-kind storytelling that made me fall in love with her and her writing started to unfold.



Like almost every creative I talk to, their formative years started with artistic endeavors that were the road map to their destiny later in life.  For Andrea, it was two things that she recalled to me.  The first one started at the retail store her parents owned in Carmel, CA, where she spent many hours as a child.  To relieve her boredom, she started making jewelry and went around to the other retailers and asked them if they were interested in purchasing it.  When an uber-cool store that sold expensive Italian jeans bought her jewelry, she was a paid artist at 10 years old.  The second thing that sparked her artistic nature was getting an SLR camera at 12. Obsessively taking pictures, she was staging her friends in mock slumber party photo shoots with "lipgloss, Bon Jovi, and a hairdryer on full blast." Talking about this, she added, "My photographic style is still very similar to how I did those early shoots."  

These two events were the beginning of her life's theme:
"The need to make things and the gift to be fearless."

As she advanced in years, life took over.  She was a cheerleader in her teens (which made me squeal, "No way!"), went to high school and college, where she graduated with a degree in Economics (the cheerleader surprised me more, I got to say).  At 21, she did a Landmark course where 3 days into the workshop, she had the breakthrough that she was an artist.  She started to photograph and paint again, but wasn't sharing her work with others.  Moving to New Orleans, she visited a tarot card reader who told her she was an "artist" and then said, "her real work was as a healer.  She would heal people through her art." After this, she had the same struggles we all do when trying to define our creative lives; the epiphany was followed with the 'How am I going to do that?' Ten plus years later, this is how she defines her art.





"I am a healer and a storyteller and
I do my work with creative practices."

To explain and define more about what she does,
I am quoting what her 'Meet Andrea' section says..
I’m Andrea Scher, creator of Superhero Life — where we all learn together to use our voices, share our superpowers and live life in full color. As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.

This is how I think she took the healer's proclamation and turned it into her career in four distinct ways: through storytelling on her blog and pod casts, through teaching one of her 8 original e-courses, through her certified coaching sessions, and through live events like "Storybowls" and "Opening the Creative Channel."  She has a specialty service for anyone that is thinking about creating their own e-course or e-book called Super Sonic Sessions.  This is an all day private session with her that you can start at any point in your process of development.  You can discuss things like table of contents, the content arc of the journey you want to take people on, and even the technical options of delivery. When I am ready to launch mine, I have her number.


I have done three of her courses: Mondo Beyondo, Superhero Photo & Treasure Hunt.  Her photography e-courses were some of my most favorite ones, because they didn't focus solely on technical aspects. They taught me theory, styling, new ways of looking at objects and lining up subject matter.  I got so inspired talking with her the other day that I signed up for Mondo Beyondo again because it's time for me to start reaching for new and bigger dreams, not just setting goals. This class teaches you how to "manifest the impossible."


When she teaches any course, she "wants it to be a waking up practice."  In the middle of one of her courses, I started to see the world in c-o-l-o-r and notice the nuisances in my daily life.  I learned how to tell my stories with not just words but to take the picture and then add the words. You don't have to be a photographer to take her photo classes or a writer to attend a Storybowl event.

"If you do not fancy yourself an artist, these classes are here to get you close to the edge of practicing courage by using a creative medium." 




Thank you Andrea for sharing yourself, finding how to heal us with your work, and taking the time to talk with me.  It was an opportunity for me to share another creative's journey to find their purpose.  My favorite blog post of yours was probably this one, and I want to tell you with the biggest fan girl scream, "I love you, man!"  Many hugs to your sweet, kind soul.