Archive for In the Studio


Beautiful, Easy to Make Teacup Candles

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teacupcandleMy sisters and I inherited my mom’s gorgeous china when she passed away in late 2014.

Gorgeous, fancy, formal china–especially the teacups with their tiny, curvy handles.

We all knew, with our casual lifestyles, that we’d never really use the teacups. And after over 50 years of use, it’s also an incomplete set. Still, I thought the cups were too pretty to tuck away in my basement or donate to charity.

I finally decided to use the teacups to create candles for all my mom’s adult female descendants. That way, each of us would have a way to enjoy her beautiful china and be able light a candle for her using something that she chose as a bride-to-be way back in the 1950s.

Fun and Easy

Making these was way easier and more fun than I thought it would be. I was also thrilled with the end result, so I’m sharing how to do it, in case you’d like to make a few for Valentine’s day or Mother’s day.

These teacup candles would also make a great hostess gift, bridesmaid gift, and for the ambitious bride, a fabulous (and relatively inexpensive) wedding favor.

List of Materials

Here’s my list of supplies, including links to the bits I bought online. I’m sure there’s other great options out there, but what I bought all worked for me on the first try without a hitch. As someone who once made a living designing literally hundreds of craft projects, I find that to be a minor miracle.

  • Teacups.
    My teacups have a particular significance for me–they were my mom’s, who passed away in 2014, but you can also collect teacups at the thrift store, yard sales, or your favorite antique store for a dollar or two.
  • Soy Wax Flakes:
    (Out of ignorance, I bought the 10lb bag. It’s A LOT. Feel free to get less.)
    You can use any wax, but I really recommend the soy wax–very low smoke. The soy wax flakes are also easy to use and melt nicely during the creation process.
  • Candle Dye:
    I chose a solid version that came in a small variety pack because I didn’t know what I was doing and wanted to test a few colors. I was happy with the result.
  • Fragrance:
    I thought it would be fun to add scent to mine, but it’s not necessary. Again, I bought a variety pack. It was fun, but the smell in my studio did get a bit overwhelming. Still, I’d do it again.
  • Cheap Bamboo Chopsticks:
    If you make stuff, let’s face it, bamboo chopsticks are darn handy. But these aren’t completely necessary. That said, I tried to get away with not using them, but found it so annoying that I went online and bought some. I’ve used them for all kinds of projects since.
  • Glue gun or super glue.
    Almost all the instructions I read say to use a glue gun to glue in the wick. I generally don’t use a glue gun and I didn’t want to buy one. So I used super glue which I found awkward. It worked, but I’d have turned to a glue gun for sure if I already owned it.
  • Candle Wicks.
    I bought a small packet of 3″ wicks at my local Michael’s store that were pre-waxed and had the little metal thingy on the bottom to secure it to the base. If you search online, you’ll see that both Michael’s and Amazon only sell big quantities of wicks. However, when you go to the Michael’s store, you can get a little packet.
  • Candy Thermometer.
    I got mine at a local hardware store. You need this if you’re going to add color or scent. For some reason, I found the prospect of using the candy thermometer intimidating, but it was very easy to use and a great help.
  • Some sort of double boiler or heating device.
    I used an old deep fryer we weren’t going to cook with anymore.
  • Tin cans. Clean and dry. One for each color.
    That is, something to melt the wax in. Poke around your house. I used diced tomato cans.

How to Make Teacup Candles: Step by Step Instructions



~Because I was using an electric deep fryer, I set up a small table in my studio, covered it in newspaper, and treated it like a workstation. If you’re working on your stove, I’d still recommend that you protect your counter with newspaper or something.

~I filled a deep fryer with a few inches of water and heated it up. Do the same or fill any saucepan you might have with a few inches of water and heat it directly on your stove. Keep an eye on the heat.

tincans~Compress one side of your tin can to make a pouring spout (see photo on right). Fill it with wax flakes, and set the can into the water to slowly melt the wax. (As you can see from my cans, I used a different can for every color, and I labeled each according to how many dye squares I used to make that color.)

~Add more wax as it melts until you have approximately enough to fill your particular teacup.

~As the wax melts, affix the wick to the bottom of your teacup. If you’re using superglue, this may take a couple of tries, but it works.

closeupofchopsticksandwick~Slide a pair of bamboo chopsticks around the wick to hold it in place. (See photo.) The first time I did this, I tried leaning a pencil against the wink to keep it centered. It worked, but the chopsticks were way easier.

Adding Color

~If you want to add color, this is where you need the candy thermometer. Just set it in your wax filled tin can and keep an eye on the temperature.

~Once it reads 170 degrees, break off a square or two of your chosen color, drop it in, and stir.

~To test the color, drip a little on a piece of white paper to let it dry. Once it’s dry, you’ll have a sense of the color. NOTE: It will be much more pastel than how it looks in the can.

~In fact, the color will keep getting lighter–even after my candles looked completely hardened, the next day, the color had gotten even lighter. For instance, I thought I had made the candle in this top pic a perfect salmon combining the yellow and orange, but in the end, it became more of a pale pink.

~Feel free to combine the dye colors, it makes it more fun. I created an ad hoc chart on scrap paper as I worked, noting my dye combinations with a sample wax drop of how each looked. I also labeled the tin cans with the leftover wax inside. (I’m finally wising up in my old age.)

Adding Scent

~I based all my scenting actions on these fairly clear instructions I found online. Below is my simpler variation on their explanation.

~Check the temperature again, and make sure it’s still around 170 degrees because scent starts to burn off at 205 degrees.

~They suggest you add 1 oz of scent to 1 pound of wax. I had no idea how much wax I was using, but I knew it was way less than an pound and I only had an ounce of each scent anyway. So I just poured a decent dollop from my little 1 ounce jar into my can of wax. (At this point in the process, you might want to open a window and your cat may leave the room from the overwhelming odor but remember, your candles will smell pretty!)

~They also stress that you need to stir the scent for a couple of minutes so it thoroughly penetrates the wax.

~I followed all their recommendations–paying close attention to the temperature, using more scent and stirring much longer than I would have if I had just guessed. It worked out great, even though I was using an entirely different brand of both dye and scent.

Pour the Wax

~Using a potholder, lift your can out of your saucer and pour your wax into your teacup.  Avoid the chopsticks as you pour. This step was actually much easier than I thought it would be–especially because I had taken a moment at the beginning to make a crude pouring spout. Pouring Spout = No Spilling.

~When you’re done pouring, adjust your sticks and wick to keep the wick centered if necessary. You’ve got plenty of time to do this, so don’t stress.

teacupcandles-groupshot~Now leave it alone and let it harden. Leave it for hours. Don’t poke. Don’t decide to pull off the chopstick because you’re dying to see how it looks without it. Instead, make another candle in a different color. Then another. I made a different color for each woman in my family, and it was a blast. (See photo.)

~Several hours later, remove the chopsticks and trim the wick if necessary.

~Voila! The perfect Valentine’s, Mother’s Day, hostess, or bridesmaid gift. So much fun and pretty as can be. And now you have another great reason to poke around the thrift store or flea market.

I love everyday creativity like this: it felt great spending time considering what each woman would like best and adjusting the color til I thought it was perfect.

What do you think, will you try it? Do you have any questions?

Pin to Pinterest or leave me a comment….or both! I’d love to hear from you.




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!


Shopping as Inspiration

So on the off chance that today is not the end of the world, I’m desperately trying to finish my Christmas to do list because I am woefully behind.

I did a little more Christmas shopping and a little less Christmas making than usual this year, which really didn’t go too well–mostly because I spend half the time thinking, “I could just make that” and the other half thinking, “Well, I like it, but will she?” and then leaving the store because I decide that she won’t.

After lots of looking, I did end up finally having a strong reaction to few somethings and buying them. But more importantly, I also got some fun IDEAS–because in fact, I can make a lot of the things that I saw and liked, and some hip designs in a few boutiques inspired me to come home and make a few gifts with supplies I already had hibernating in my studio (yay me, for using supplies I already own!)

When I designed products for a living, shopping was ALWAYS an idea-gathering experience because that was my job–go see what’s happening out there in retail land and come back and design cool stuff that will (hopefully) sell–so that’s what I did-I went out, saw some cool stuff, came home and created.

It felt good. I’m happier when I make stuff.

What’s the moral of my story? Shopping can actually help you create–who knew? So go out there and shop! Ha, I said it!

It’s a Wrap

With that in mind, my assistant and I did some research link shopping (new phrase I made up right now) for you in case you also do the Christmas thing, are as behind as I am, and need some inspiration.

Since it’s so close to the holiday, I thought we’d focus on wrapping and presentation, along with 2 quick gifts that let you re-use or re-purpose things you might already own (always great when it can happen.)

So I invite you to shop from these links to find something that inspires you and maybe helps you create a little gift giving special-ness in time for the holidays.


I love wrapping paper and presentation–it’s half the fun of giving the gift! I thought these all had an interesting twist:

“21 Easy Holiday Gift-Wrapping Ideas”:

Lots of fun gift wrapping ideas here–click through the slide show…

True to their website name, I found this project novel and charming:

And on that same theme, I also liked this one:

Using Textiles to Wrap Gifts

Here’s a good simple tutorial from HGTV about furoshiki style gift wrapping:
(you might not know this about me, but I have a textile background AND I’m crazy about most things Japanese–and they are planet Earth’s presentation experts  as far as I’m concerned!)

AND, Here’s a great pdf diagram from the Japanese government on various Japanese fabric wrapping gift styles:
(Can you imagine our government offering such a thing!!! )

One Cute low-Tech/High Tech Holiday Decor-ish thing:

“Egg Carton Flower Lights”:

Two Gifts from Second Hand Stuff:

Gift One: Fake Mercury Glass.

I LOVE mercury glass. This tutorial looks like a great way to fake it although I haven’t tried it yet myself. But because I’ve written hundreds of instructions on hundreds of projects, I’m pretty good at telling when something will work or not.

You could make some non-descript glass you already have look way more beautiful or you can toddle down to your local thrift store and find some diamonds in the rough (Michaels, TJ Maxx or Home Goods should also have lots of good options for this as well) and transform them into something really special.

This could be for your own holiday decor OR be a lovely Holiday Gift…(This technique could be employed to make lots of great wedding decorations as well!)

Gift Two: Teacup Candles.

I’m in a candle-y way this holiday. Every gift I (almost) bought involved a candle. And I almost bought a lot of them. Why? I have no idea.

But then I saw this tutorial and thought I finally know what to do with all those teacups my mother-in-law foisted on gave me. So pretty.

How About You?

How’s your holiday prep going? Are you making anything? Do you ever shop to get ideas for what you want to make? Do you like to wrap your presents? Any links you want to share for pretty gift wrapping or ridiculously quick decor or gift ideas? Please post them in the comments. (And please forward this to anyone else you think might find today’s list handy!


Truth & Beauty

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Making it Real

Happy New Year!

Last week, I talked about choosing a theme for your creativity in 2011 and I LOVED-LOVED-LOVED all the theme ideas that everyone shared in the comments. So smart, thoughtful, and inspiring.

If you haven’t seen them and are still looking for the perfect theme for yourself, I invite you to please take a look. You might find the perfect idea from someone else’s comment.

My theme for this year is Persistence and I think my tagline is going to be Collaborate (I’m still “honing”).

Now I want to help make it real by creating a vision board or a mind map based on my theme. Will you join me?

This can involve cutting out lots of different images from magazines that relate to your theme, but if that feels too complicated or you can’t find the right images, feel free to just get yourself lots of magic markers and let yourself doodle your way to a fun and inspiring vision board.

Here’s a mind-mapp-y visiony thing I made last year when I my theme was Break Through and my tagline was Have Faith.

I used a giant piece of paper and it took up a huge chunk of wall which I totally recommend if you have the space because it really helps make your theme a priority in your life.

The process of creating a visual expression of your theme helps you develop your ideas about what it means for you and transforms an abstraction into something more concrete. Simple imagery and symbols are a POWERFUL way to help your subconscious really internalize your theme’s message.

For instance, persistence could be expressed by an image of a river.

If I use that as my hook, I could keep exploring that angle by using blue and green markers to doodle up some rushing water swirls and shapes while also expanding on the river idea with more water images that feel persistent–maybe a gorgeous and powerful waterfall, or a picture of a mossy rock softened by a slow imperceptible drip. My tagline, Collaborate, could be expressed by images of symbiotic relationships in nature or even straightforward photos of hands or people working together.

I know all this might sound corny, but it works because our brains respond strongly to symbolism–and the more personal, the better. Remember, it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone except you!

Another Cool Way to Start Your Year Right

The lovely and smart Jennifer Hofmann from Inspired Home Office, (a very cool organizing business for us right-brain-y types) has a super cool program for starting your January off in a very supportive, un-January type way, and I wanted to tell you all about it because I’m thrilled to be involved.

She’s created a month long series of classes and programs called “A Call to Nourish“. And as part of that awesome call for sanity and self-care, I’ll be teaching a Creative Breakthroughs Collage Tele-class, and I’m so excited.

It’s truly an inspiring month of great programs run by very cool roster of powerful and creative women.

This program also includes the chance to participate in 4 of Jennifer’s Office Spa Days which are a fantastic way to get your studio or craft room organized in a sustainable fashion that makes sense to you…I’m planning on attending at least one myself–and as I look around at the chaos I call my studio, maybe make that two…

She’s offering it all at an insanely good price, so please check it out here, and if it feels right, sign yourself up for some sanity and self-care.

Your Turn

How’s your new year starting off?

Do you think you might create a vision board using your theme as your guide? Are you still trying to catch your breath from the holidays? Are you ready to organize your studio or make a date with your creativity by taking a Creative Breakthroughs Collage Class?

Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!


Great Expectations

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A lot of energy can go into trying to make sure you don’t make something “bad.”

Playing it safe, doing what you know, or simply not making anything at all–just to really seal the deal.

The thing is, do you really know when you’ve made something “bad?”

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that what you made didn’t meet your expectations.

And perhaps it’s those expectations that need re-examining.

Are they accurate? Fair? Helpful?

Do they leave room for experimenting? Practice? Being a beginner?

What are you asking of this one moment in time? Of this particular object or artwork?

I personally have had family members retrieve work out of my garbage pile that is hanging on their walls right now–work I now actually like myself.

Things I thought were bad because they didn’t meet my expectations.

When we stop and consider what our expectations are, we become aware of their actual existence, and that can be an eye-opener.

Because usually they’re harsh and unforgiving. And usually, we mistake them for reality–for the nature of things–like the air we breathe.

And when you experience your expectations as the nature of things instead of thoughts, you’re stuck with the unhappiness they cause.

But they’re just thoughts. And while they might be compelling, they’re only permanent as long as you remain hypnotized by their stories.

This is a huge relief. Because even if you’re not sure yet how to let go of these harsh expectations, how to stop believing their lies, once you realize they aren’t the truth, they’re no longer quite so in charge as before.

Not that it’s easy. Lord knows.

And certainly, throughout it all, we all want to make work that we care about, feel proud of, think is “good.” That’s natural.

And I know that as long as I continue to make things, I’ll continue to think some of them are “bad” and you know, some of them will be.

I just won’t always be right about which ones. And neither will you.

And, just as important to realize, it works the other way too.

Something you love right now may not do it for you in the long run–may not have the staying power you…..expected.

Which almost makes it funny, really. How perverse our expectations are. How unimportant and relative. How little they have to do with our creative essence.

They simply don’t deserve the serious attention we give them.

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Naming Contest!

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So normally I’d be writing the 20 Minute Club minutes here and you’d be seeing this blog post tomorrow, but it’s a long holiday weekend coming up and I’ve decided to break with tradition because well, I’m stuck and I need some help from you!

What’s in a Name?

This summer I’ve been creating how-to videos for my 3 holiday ornament kits and I’m almost done with my latest here on the left.

(I know the holidays seem far away, but people who make their gifts need more time to plan them and get them done than people who buy their gifts.)

I love this ornament and always call it the Faberge Egg Ornament Kit in my head, but I just realized that I can’t actually name it that because well, Faberge is taken.

However, I can’t get that one out of my head, and all the new names I’ve come up with so far….stink.

This is a problem because I need to finish the how-to video by like, yesterday, and it needs a name for me to finish it.

This is where you come in.

Naming Contest!

I’m having one. Starting right now!

I’m so excited, I’ve never held a contest before.

The winner gets a single-color 3 ornament kit as the prize. (That’s a $47.00 value!)

(Or, if you like my Glitter Decoupage Kit better, you can choose one of those instead.)

All you have to do think up a fabulous name or three and leave me a comment telling me your suggestion(s).

(Or, if you’re shy about leaving comments, you can shoot me an email.)

Because I need to get this how-to video done already, the contest will only last for one week.

All suggestions must be submitted by Thursday, September 9th by 5pm!

I can’t wait to see your ideas!

P.S. I realize I wasn’t very clear–I don’ actually want to use the word “egg”  in the name here–the reason I thought of Faberge Eggs initially was  just that they are all glammed up and glittery and I made them to look like they could open which reminded me of Faberge Eggs. I was more taken with the word Faberge. ;-)

If you liked that post, then try these...


Make Friends with Your Sewing Machine

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This week the hubby and I worked on making frames for my artwork because I want my final framed pieces to look how I want them to look.

Except they don’t quite yet, because I’m still not that good at it.

So this first frame will require lots of sanding along with some wood filler to compensate as I learn to use the tools better.

But that’s what it’s all about right? You can’t expect the first one, two, three of anything you make to be perfect.

(Although I did think buying the right power tools, like a miter saw, would eliminate some problems. Turns out that it doesn’t preclude actually being good at using the tool itself. Oh, that.)

And, as is true with art supplies, I’ve been wondering how much easier it would be and how much better it might look if I were using top-of-the-line equipment instead of the cheapest ones I could find.)

And, as is true with art supplies, I’m thinking…hmm, probably a lot.

But, as is true with art supplies, sometimes you just have to buy what you can afford and make what you want to make anyway. So that’s what I’m doing. :-)

And it’s good. I like learning new things and I like that it requires that I pay attention in new ways.

And we worked in short (20 minute-ish) chunks which made the discomfort of not-knowing-what-I’m-doing easier.


(If you want to find time to nurture your creative soul by making things, it helps a lot to honor the process. To respect everything you ARE doing about making that happen because it’s so easy to discount your efforts or not notice them, which, well, doesn’t help your creativity at all.)

Appreciating yourself is an important part of the weekly 20 Minute Club Minutes.

Here’s mine for this week:

  1. I really really appreciate that I allowed myself some much needed time off last week, along with injections of fun and frivolity. My productivity shot up as a result. (Note to self: Inject more fun and frivolity on a regular basis and justify with reminders of productivity improvement.)
  2. I appreciate that I honored my thinking/ruminating process as legitimate work for my business, even though it’s invisible and sometimes involves lying on the bed. Good ideas fulminated as a result.
  3. I appreciate that I worked through the discomfort of making these frames when most of the time I didn’t know what I was doing. (I also really appreciate my husband’s wonderful help and optimistic inventiveness as we soldiered along.)
  4. I appreciate how much I learn by continuing to engage with pieces that I’m pretty convinced are only “okay” and might never be “good”…but by resolving them, I learn so much artistically.
  5. I appreciate every time that I’m patient with myself, including be patient that I still get impatient so often.

Your Turn

Can’t wait to hear about your creative week or to read your self appreciations. And don’t forget–it’s all good to share, even the frustrations or when you’re still searching for ways of making that 20 Minutes happen.