Archive for Collage


Letting Go of Mistakes

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A peek into “someone’s” (ahem) art supply closet.

Like most people who sew, I’m a bit of a fabric-aholic. I have a huge stash.

Last week, as I was (semi) organizing my studio, I packed up 2 big bags and gave it away–including a whole bag of pillow forms that I had gotten from someone else.

This was hard to do because I felt guilty about buying the fabric and then not using it. Wasteful.

But I was also happier when it was gone because I didn’t have to go through the guilt of looking at it every day anymore either. And I realized that I had given myself permission to let go of my mistakes.

Why it’s Complicated

I have a friend who is a professional organizer and I have these imaginary conversations with her in my head when I’m tidying my studio. Often these conversations happen because I have piles I can never quite get rid of completely (and I’m wondering how on earth to do that) and sometimes because I’m mentally defending my mounds of supplies that I won’t toss.

I have a box of feathers, for instance, that I’ve owned for over 20 years. Literally. My mom scored them for me at a yard sale in the early nineties. The thing is, I used some of those feathers the other day.  And I could tell you that I use them regularly, which is true lately, but I’ve also gone for years when I didn’t use them.

Hence the agony of the arty person. We can have a seemingly ragtag assortment of stuff that sits for ages without getting used. Normally, in the organizing world, that means you must not really want it and you should toss it.

But that’s not so helpful for the arty collagist type person. It’s true that I could never use it but it’s also true that I could.

Some Guidelines

While I’m definitely a work in progress on clutter and organization myself, I do think, when it comes to art supplies, that normal rules of keeping and tossing don’t apply.

But I also think you can hang on to things too long out of guilt, feeling wasteful, or unrealistic expectations and accidentally create a clutter that interferes with your creativity. This we don’t want!

So here’s a few questions I try to ask myself when I’m attempting to create more order in my studio:

Do I own these bits or do they own me?

Does your stuff control the way you move around? Does it oppress you? Do you feel overwhelmed by it?  Being enslaved by your stuff is a sure sign you need to get rid of it (or at least some of it if that statement just gave you a heart attack!) Either way, don’t let your stuff control you–and don’t feel bad about needing help to figure it out either.

Is this stuff about my “Present Me” or my “Past Me?”

Sometimes we hang onto old stories about ourselves when they no longer serve–except to provide us an identity or a comfortable explanation that we’re used to saying: “I’m a _________ (fill in the blank) type artist and that’s why I have all this kind of __________ supplies.

For instance, you might be defining yourself this way: “I always frame all my artwork myself, so I have all this mat board leaning against the wall over there and all these odd sized frames in these milk crates that I scored at yard sales and that big cutter that’s partially blocking the back door until I set it up again…”

But do you still do that? Do you want to? It’s okay to have changed, moved on, realize you don’t like doing that, etc. It’s okay!

(Or if that definition of yourself means a great deal to you and it hurts to get rid of that stuff because of you still want to be that someone who frames all her art, it’s just that you’re not making any art right now, which is what REALLY bums you out….well, it might be a good time to sign up for a phone coaching session where we can figure out how to get you back to that!)

Is it really so precious or could I actually get it again if I got rid of it now and decided I needed it later?

We artists often collect unusual bits that can’t be gotten in a store whenever we feel like it. But that said, we also have an abundant universe.

Even if you can’t get that exact thing again, if you believe that you can always get what you truly need when you need it, you can have faith that when you’re struck by inspiration, you’ll not be suffering without “x” because you tossed it or gave it to charity or sold it at a yard sale to another quirky soul six months ago.

Don’t forget, you’re creative. Part of being creative is coming up with creative solutions. Your creativity is not dependent on your stash of cool bits.

Is it serving me? Is it feeding my creativity? Does it give me joy? Or do I just feel bad about getting rid of it?

You can think something is neat/cool/fun/handy and still get rid of it. By getting rid of it you’re not saying to it: “You are worthless.” You’re just saying, “You’re neat, but I’m about other things now.”

If it truly has value, then you know a thrift store or charity shop will be happy to have it.

Is this about my beliefs about things other than art?

For instance, do you allow yourself to have made a mistake? Sometimes hanging onto stuff forever is about that: never say die!

Or are you like me–is it hard to feel like you “wasted money” and if you throw that out you’re conceding that that’s what you did?

Remember, an abundance of supplies is an expression of loving to create–it might not have been the smartest economic decision ever, but are you giving that mistake too much weight? I mean, have you never ordered the wrong thing at dinner? Bought shoes that don’t fit right?

We all make mistakes, we all use our money unwisely sometimes. If your art supply shopping is preventing you from paying your bills or feeding your kids, okay, you’ve got a problem. But I doubt that’s your situation. Don’t beat yourself up!

Okay, admit it, did you actually forget about it?

Even though I’m a big believer that you have to see your supplies if you want to create, I still have stuff I’ve put in boxes and forgotten about completely. Then, when I open the box I think, “oh yeah, I forgot about that. Hmm…that’s pretty neat.”

Neat or not, that can go. My life was fine without it. My creativity was not informed by it. I didn’t even remember owning it for goodness sakes.

What do you think?

How are you doing with your stuff? Do you allow yourself to make mistakes? Do you let stuff go? Would you feel more free with less clutter?

What are your strategies for keeping on top of your supplies or organizing your studio/workspace corner?

Please leave a comment–we’d love to hear from you and don’t forget, your experiences might help someone else!


I think most people underestimate how vulnerable a person can feel creating their art and having people see them doing it.

When you’re creating something, it’s usually hard to finish it in one sitting. So unless you live alone, it’s highly likely that other people are witnessing your process, your “muck” half way through.

If you make work all the time, this probably isn’t a problem because you’ve got some key factors working in your favor:

  • momentum (huge)
  • confidence (huge)
  • habit (everyone around you is used to you doing it-huge)

But if you are trying to get back into the swing, or you create sporadically, or even if you make things all the time but are nervously TRYING SOMETHING NEW,  it can be hard to feel so……………exposed.

Which can stop you even before you get started.

Because really, this fear of exposure is most likely a fear of failure.

It’s hard to make something bad. Or risk making something bad. Because usually, you leap to the (incorrect) conclusion that it means that you’re bad/not talented/a big loser–you know the drill.

(Of course, it does NOT mean that, but a lifetime of conditioning can take a while to undo.)

So how do you move forward while still struggling with your demons?

Two words: Protective Sentences.

I have long relied on protective sentences as a way for me to do what I want and dodge “helpful advice” (not), potential or imagined potential criticism, or even just the potential need to explain myself or what I’m doing to anyone–friend or stranger.

So what’s a protective sentence? I’ll tell you.

Someone says, “What are you making?” or even better…”What is THAT?”

You say your protective sentence:

“I don’t know, I’m experimenting.”

or just “I’m experimenting.” (without pausing to look up because you’re too busy experimenting to stop.)

Then they say, “Oh.”

Because really, what can they say back? It’s beautiful in it’s simplicity.

In fact, if someone else walks up and says “What is that?”

I’ll bet you 10-1 that that first questioner will answer for you, “Oh, she’s experimenting.”

It’s perfect. It’s a huge cocoon that requires no further explanation. It’s my all-time favorite.

And hey, it may not be the bravest thing to do in terms of self-actualization or whatever, but I don’t care about that kind of brave, I care about a bigger braveyou making your stuff or you pushing to your particular edge, or digging deeper, or reaching higher. And if you’re stopping yourself because it feels hard or you may fail or look ridiculous, then it’s imperative to create the conditions you need to take that risk anyway–however teeny or pointless it may seem to someone else.

A good, simple protective sentence can do the trick.

And best of all, they’ll never know!

And while you’re at it, come experiment with me this Sunday!

Sign up for the Creative Breakthrough’s Collage Tele-Class–it’s over the phone (not online) and it’s super simple and fun to participate. It’s happening this Sunday,  October 21st, at 3pm EST.

(And if someone asks what you’re doing, tell them “I’m experimenting.”)

Do you have any protective sentences that you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!



What You REALLY Want

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You want to make artwork you feel proud of and love to look at. Work you think is really good.

You may also want other people to buy your work–your paintings, your beaded jewelry, your silk scarves, your stories, your songs–whatever art or craft work you’re passionate about creating.

You want to sell your work because it feels like a great way to do what you love doing all the time.

However, the other reason you might want to sell your work is that if your creative endeavor makes money, it will be considered legitimate in the larger culture.

Because in our culture, making money equals being successful. If you make money at it, then you’re a “real” whatever it is you are–artist/crafter/singer/writer.

And because the favorite introductory question in our society is “What do you do (for a living)?”, naturally you want to give the answer that reflects your true calling: “I’m an artist.”

Now, whether or not you can make money making your art (whatever that may be) is actually not the point.

The point is that the goal of making a living making your art often creates a serious confusion that muddies your creative goals and ruins the pleasure of the creative process.

It’s the cart that’s sitting in front of your horse.

Your horse is your artwork. It’s the doing, the creativity itself, it’s even the quest to make something great.

But instead of concentrating on creating great work, you’re concentrating instead on how to make a living being creative–and all your work gets tainted by this other, (very difficult, btw) making-a-living goal.

And ironically, this goal is secondary.

What you really want is to make things that are deeply satisfying, work you love to look at–work that you’re proud of.

You want to make your best stuff.

Concentrate on that, and address the money/making a living aspect later.

Don’t ask your art to solve the problem of hating your job or fixing your financial woes. Your art doesn’t deserve that pressure and it spoils your relationship with it.

Solve that problem a different way (at least for now).

Instead, focus on making work you love.

Making a Date with Your Creativity

In order to make work you love, you must make a lot of work. You’ll like some of it, hate some of it, and love some of it. But you have to make a lot.

And that has its own challenges–finding the time, facing your inner critic, honing your skills, etc.

So you need a structure in place to help you make a lot of work.

And one simple, structured way to do that is to make a regular date with your creativity. Which is why I created the Creative  Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class.

I created this class to provide a structure for you to lean on. To make it easier to show up every week for your art because

  • It can be hard to muster that energy on your own–even when you want it.
  • Because showing up every week is how you eventually start showing up several times a week.
  • And showing up several times a week is how you create a lot of work.
  • And creating a lot of work is the path to creating work you love.

It’s not easy, but it’s simple.

Making collages with me every week will help all your creative endeavors–regardless of your preferred medium. And making a weekly date with your creativity will genuinely help you build a creative momentum which, in turn, will enable you to make work you love.

And even though I talk about the Creative Breakthroughs Technique, it’s not something to learn and master, it’s more of an avenue in to your own aesthetic journey–a way to explore and consider both the formal aspects of creating–like light, color, balance, and scale–as well as the more expressive considerations–like mood, emotion, memory, and intuition.

So it’s a technique in the way that meditation is a technique: it’s simple enough to learn how and understand the point of it, but the reward is all in the regular practice. It’s a lifetime’s work play.

So create work you love by creating a lot of work. Create a lot of work by connecting it to your life. Connect it to your life by regularly making time to create.

Make time to create by signing up for the Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class. I teach it every Wednesday at two different times–1:30 EST and 7:30 EST.  Sign up for the one that’s best for you.

And jeepers, the first one is free so what are you waiting for?


What Do You GIVE Yourself?

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Last week, I mentioned that I was teaching The Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class as part of the delightful Jennifer Hoffman’s January-A Call to Nourish program at Inspired Home Office.

Well, class was yesterday and we had a great time. And as I was talking to the class participants about the benefits of carving out a creative time for yourself on a regular basis, I realized how much I was needing this class myself.

Because lately, I’ve been stretching myself tthhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnn-thin-thin. I’ve been doing the juggling act of a lifetime, and some days, I think my head’s going to fall off.

And yesterday afternoon, teaching the class, I could feel the benefits of being creative–it genuinely lifted me out and up from my stress. And the relief I experienced–both physical and mental–felt like a nothing short of a godsend.

I love teaching this class, and I love living the benefits of the class. In the past several weeks, this has been the only art-making I’ve been squeezing in amid my myriad obligations and challenges–and frankly, I was grateful to have it.

There was a time when my creativity would have simply gone out the window with the kind of schedule I’m trying to maintain right now.

And yet, ironically, it’s exactly what I need in order to be able to continue to keep all my balls in the air.

I talk so often about how much this class helps you get unstuck, lets you explore and experiment, helps you build a creative momentum so that you can live your life as the true artist you are–so you can regularly enjoy that feeling of being immersed in aesthetic decisions and artistic expression.

And as artistic people wanting to create artwork, that’s huge.

But in the context of Jennifer’s program, I fully appreciated, maybe even for the first time, the fundamental role in self-care that making a date with your creativity can have. It does nothing less than maintain your sanity and renew your energy.

Creativity feeds our human spirits. We need it. Tapping into your non-verbal mind, moving away from logic and planning, allowing yourself to feel your way along–all these things are essential to your well-being.

Like meditation and exercise, taking the time to be creative regularly will:

  • help you perform better at work,
  • improve your relationships,
  • return you to your child’s mind,
  • insert more FUN in your life and
  • connect you to your spirit and your wordless understanding of the world.

So please think of the Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class as part of your self-care regimen.

What? You mean you don’t have a self-care regimen? :-)   No time like the New Year to get started! Making a weekly date with your creativity can be the first step in creating one.

And while I believe carving out time to be creative is truly beneficial for everyone, it’s absolutely critical for creative people like us. Your very soul requires it.

So. It’s a new year. 2011! What’s your commitment to your creativity and self-care going to be?

And when I ask that, what I ‘m really saying is:

What are you going to give yourself this year?


Get Inspired by Mark Bradford

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The Creative Process

This summer, one of my best friends  saw the collage artist and recent MacArthur Award winner Mark Bradford speak at a conference for art teachers in Chicago and was blown away.

This weekend, she came down from Vermont to visit me and we hopped on the subway to the Studio Museum in Harlem (great museum with a warm, lovely vibe) to see his latest work.

While we were there, we sat down to watch a PBS Art 21 episode about him, and it was awesome.

I love the way he talks about his creative process!

And since you know I like to talk about the creative process a lot here on the blog, I wanted to share the link to this video with you. Please, WATCH IT–you’ll be inspired, I promise.

It’s so good. He’s so good. Art21 is so good.

It’s all good-good-good.

Mark Bradford Video

Here’s the link:


Receive by Letting Go

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Every Friday for months I’ve been writing the 20 Minute Club Minutes–because using a timer for what I call the 20 Minute Technique can keep your creative momentum going in your busy, time-crunched life–20 minutes at a pop.

This week will be the last of the 20 Minute Club blog posts because I’ve decided to create an extra special “something” just for the 20 Minute Club–like an actual/virtual club! I hope to have it started by the new year.

In the meantime, just know I’ll be working furiously on a fun, cool way for you to connect with other busy, creative souls just like you who want their creativity to be as important as all the other parts of their lives.  And we’ll do it by supporting each others’ efforts to build a soul nourishing, mind-expanding creative momentum–20 Minutes at a time!


This Week with the Timer

Over the past 6-7 months, I’ve been working on transitioning my digital collages from small to big.

Lots of trial. Lots of error.

My initial small glass pieces were created using an unusual transfer method that I loved, but knew would be impossible to do really big–although I did keep trying to emulate the end result.

Big time-waster.

Which I only realized when my husband finally said to me, (after another disappointing attempt) “I think it’s a mistake to try to make them be the same as the small ones–make a new thing.”

OH. Yes, of course.

And once I truly did let go of wanting my collages to be the same only bigger, a new solution presented itself–quite quickly, I may add.

(See how the universe is? It’s so cooperative when you’re willing to listen.)

And now, the big ones are what they are–30″ x 40″ and laminated onto brushed metal with a sheer matte finish. Yay, sheer matte finish! I’m excited.

This picture shows one of my pieces, Tepotzlan, hanging in a room. What do you think?

The Waiting

During this problem solving period, I didn’t want to make any more digital collages because I knew the final scale and output “substrate” would have a big impact on what I created–so how could I create when I didn’t know those things?

But now I DO know those things, so I decided it was time to get back in the swing.

I used my timer and the 20 Minute Technique to start a new digital collage and I’m really liking how it’s working out. In fact, I think it’s almost done…although you and I both know how that last 10% of any project can take the longest!

I’ll keep you posted. :-)


Appreciating yourself is an important part of the 20 Minute Club because it helps you keep your creative momentum going.

Carving out the time to create is important of course, but it’s not enough. Getting (and eventually staying) on your own side is a critical factor for helping you take bigger risks with your work, get yourself out of a creative rut, or just enjoy the process more.

Taking the time to remember to appreciate yourself and all your efforts (big or small, creative or not) is a powerful way to make this happen.


Here are my five this week:

1. I appreciate my willingness to grow.

2. I appreciate my willingness to do hard things.

3. I appreciate my willingness to learn the difference between giving something time to work and changing it for the better.

4. I appreciate my desire to change family patterns that don’t work for me.

5. I appreciate my love of creating.

Your Turn

What did you create this week? Did you use a timer? How’d it go? Making any gifts? Please leave a comment, I love hearing from you!

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20 Minute Holidays

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Every Friday I write the 20 Minute Club Minutes–because using a timer for what I call the 20 Minute Technique can keep your creative momentum going in your busy, time-crunched life–20 minutes at a pop.

Please join in and share your 20 Minute Experiences in the Comments–good/bad, it’s all fair game, because sharing your experiences about the process is a great way to figure things out and increase your creativity.


Brain Wave!

It’s almost November. The holidays are right around the corner.

Wouldn’t a great use of the 20 Minute Technique be to use it to work on making some holiday cards or gifts?

Heck Yes!

You know you wish you made (at least some) of your gifts–and finding the time is always the big challenge. But this way, we can make it actually happen together–20 Minutes at a time.

So what do you say we all try to carve out 20 minutes 3x a week to create handmade bits for the holidays?

Are you in?

The trick is to keep it manageable and fun for yourself. Remember, small, handmade gestures go a long way–don’t let your brain turn this idea into such a gigantic project that you end up doing nothing.

With that in mind, I thought I’d create an do-able idea list to inspire your imagination–so after you read this, if you don’t have a timer yet, head over to local electronics store and get one already.

You’ll be amazed at what you can get done–20 minutes at a time!

Handmade Holidays Idea List

  • Handmade Gift Tags or Holiday Cards
    • For another easy, handmade touch, buy your gifts but make your own fabulous gift tags or greeting cards.
    • These could also be stamped and embossed–You could make classic “From/To” tags, or use ribbon and tie your tags around a wine bottle for a cute hostess gift, or send your 10 favorite people a handmade card.
  • Decorate Holiday Gift Bags:
    • Rather than create wrapping paper, it’s simpler to decorate plain bags.
    • Just cut strips of decorative paper and/or use paper punches to create repeat patterns that you can glue onto plain gift bags. to make it feel festive, use lots and lots of curly ribbon around the handle.
    • I made this one on the right for a crafting store one season. (You can get often get pre-cut strips and shapes that make this super easy.)
    • Also, here’s a cute, simple Hanukkah gift pail example I also made just using stickers.
  • Fabulous, Fast & Easy Decoupage Vase:
    • Get a cheap vase on sale at a big box discounter–look for an elegant, simple shape and don’t worry about the color or design on the surface–it’s even better if you hate it–and transform it with decoupage.
    • My Fast & Easy Decoupage Vase video shows you how. People really love this technique–it’s very do-able.
    • Or, use all the same techniques I show on the vase, but on a simple frame or box instead. Make a set if you’re feeling ambitious.
  • Earrings:
    • Earrings are great gifts and perfect for the 20 Minute Club–they’re great gifts and you can make them while watching TV. It’s also a fun way to enjoy using a variety of exciting, special beads without breaking the bank because you don’t need that many.
    • If you want to get started beading or learn about some great online bead resources, click here, here, and here.
  • Frame Your Artwork:
    • Use your coupon for a FREE trial of the Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-Class and give a work of art or three. I LOVE this idea and may do this myself with some of the collages I created that I’ve really liked.
    • Make it really special with a gallery mat and get an inexpensive metal or wood frame from a big box craft supplies store–they’re always having sales.
    • You’ll be surprised how much matting and framing will take your collage to the next level.
    • A Tele-class session could also be a great way to create the design for your holiday card this season–all you need is a color theme to give your image holiday feeling–blue and white, red and green, metallics, you name it!
  • Make Pretty Ornaments!
    • My Glitter Decoupage Ornaments are pretty, inexpensive, and super fast and easy to make. Great teacher and co-worker gifts.
    • My Byzantine Baubles Ornament kit is my personal favorite and also great for the 20 minute technique because you’ll probably work on it in stages and it looks GORGEOUS when you’re done.
    • (Buy any 2 kits and the shipping is FREE.)
  • Sew, knit or crochet a gift:
    • It probably helps if  you already know how to sew, knit or crochet, but making a gift can also be an incredible incentive to learn, so if you’ve always wanted to ___________(fill in the blank) maybe now is the time?
    • If threading your sewing machine often stops your sewing efforts, watch my clear how-to video.
    • If you’re looking for inspiring sewing projects for the holidays, I noticed Threads Magazine just released gift project issue.

I’ll keep adding to this list as I think of more ideas.

And if you’ve got some good, do-able ideas as well, please share them in the comments!

Just remember, your handmade gift ideas don’t have to be big. It’s important to keep things doable.

I’ll share my 20 Minute Club gift making efforts with you here each week this holiday season, and I’d really love it if you joined me so you can find yourself adding a wonderful handmade element to your holiday season.


Appreciating yourself is an important part of the 20 Minute Club because it helps you keep your creative momentum going.

Carving out the time to create is important of course, but it’s not enough. Getting (and eventually staying) on your own side is a critical factor for helping you take bigger risks with your work, get yourself out of a creative rut, or just enjoy the process more.

Taking the time to remember to appreciate yourself and all your efforts (big or small, creative or not) is a powerful way to make this happen.


Here are my five self-appreciations for this week:

1. I appreciate that I took a photo of my latest incarnation in the evolution of my digital collages because I was so struck by how seeing a photo of it hanging up in a room made me feel–so resolved finally–after 6 months of problem solving!

2. I appreciate how much my life in product design has taught me the patience to hang in there through difficult design problems. It took me ages to figure out how to offer my collages big and still have them look the way I wanted them to look, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, (often 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there, no lie.) until it worked itself out.

3. I appreciate a shift in my thinking this week where I’m no longer questioning whether things I’m trying are going to work, and instead, just working on making them work.

4. I appreciate that I nervously bought professional lights for my videos and photos a couple of  months ago. Owning them is really benefiting me and my projects now, even though I’m still a novice. The right tools help!

5. I appreciate that I’m getting better and better and not letting the quest for perfect get in the way of the good. It’s very helpful. I hope I keep it up. :-)

Your Turn

What do you think? Are you up for creating gifts using your timer and the 20 Minute Technique? Or have you already started on some holiday projects? Please share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!