Friday, February 27, 2015

summer minibook 2013

The Eastern US is still consumed in a polar vortex, so let's take our minds off the endless winter with a summery project, shall we? In addition to daily cards and now art journal pages, I also occasionally make minibooks. My foray into minibook-making, as with many of my other projects, was 100% inspired by Elise's amazing archive. I bought this book from her two summers ago to document my first summer of gardening and finished filling it up last February. This is my paper-crafting magnum opus and for sure one of my favorite things I've ever made.

Other than the Elise Joy minibook and a bunch of stamps and labels, there aren't many pre-made embellishments in this book. (I'm happy to share supplies info if anyone is interested).

Instead, I had a great time collecting stuff throughout the summer to include in the book. In addition to more pictures of my garden than anyone wants to see, it includes seed packets, plastic garden markers, my sketch of the garden layout, a companion planting guide, and brochures from farmers' markets and gardening programs around the District. I cut up a free planting calendar and used those to mark off the months, along with a few lines of context about what was happening in the garden each month. I love the garden-y, organic (ha!) effect. Super fun to put together and fun to look through now. Now I just need spring to roll around again so I can get back into the gardening and crafting game.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Get Messy public link-up: February

Full disclosure, I had the idea for this spread before the public link-up prompt went out. The prompt was What is the one thing you most want your children (real or imaginary) to know about love?

I was thinking about the e.e. cummings prompt from last week and how much I love this poem. But these words don't exactly ring true for me. Because I like my body all (or almost all) of the time, not just when seen through the mirror of another person. I am lucky to never have seriously struggled with body image issues (and I truly think it is luck rather than strength of character or anything like that, and I have so much compassion for those who do struggle). And I appreciate my body even more nowadays. Bar Method shows me day after day that strong, healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes, including mine. So the "when it is with your body" is crossed out (kind of hard to tell here since it's in gold paint).

I realized along the way that this idea fits perfectly with the prompt. Because above all, what I want to impart to my future children is how to be comfortable in their own skin and in their own heads. To love themselves first before sharing that love with anyone else.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The daily card, week 6

Hurray for week 6! I like this week. Lots of orange and turquoise and not having a plan until I sat down at the craft table.

We took a trip to Charlottesville and Richmond for the long weekend, so I put together a little travel kit. While in Virginia, I did a series of mountains in three media (magazine clipping, watercolor, paper cutout).  It was great for keeping things simple while traveling while capturing the feel of the trip. I think this will also be a handy trick when I'm out of ideas -- playing with the same concept in different media.

The "this is an adventure" card makes me smile. It's a favorite quote from Life Aquatic that popped into my head when I sat down to throw a card together after a late night of last minute planning and airbnb-browsing for Virginia. I flipped through my stack of old National Geographics looking for an underwater scene, and instead found this photo of Mallory's 1924 Everest expedition. Just as when Steve Zissou makes the declaration in the movie, I love the wry contrast between the chirpy phrase and the knowledge that the adventure is probably doomed. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The woman in the mirror

In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert tells a story of how she once saw herself in a mirror after rushing into an elevator and, for a split second, thought "Hey! You know her! That's a friend of yours!" before she figured it out and felt a bit silly. When she's struggling, she reminds herself: "Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend."

I started following myself on Bloglovin to make sure my posts are going up correctly. Every time I scroll through and see a new post of mine, I have a split second of thinking "Hey! I like that blog!" before remembering that, of course, I like it because I made it. I get a huge kick out of that. It's that elevator moment for the modern era - that split second of seeing ourselves reflected back and unguardedly admiring what we see, if only for a moment, before we go back to wondering what we should tweak and how it measures up to everyone else's.

If you too think "Hey! I like that blog!" you can follow me on Bloglovin here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Get Messy Season of Love (Week Two, Part One)

When I was about 10, I wrote out a bunch of lists in a notebook - things I wanted to be when I grew up, favorite books, stuff like that. One of them was a list of my favorite things, which I remember included reading, bouncy balls, coffee ice cream, and the color aqua. I got to the end of the list and thought "Hey, I'm pretty interesting!" Because what could possibly be more interesting than those? ;)

The 100 things challenge for this week's Get Messy prompt was like a grown-up equivalent of that. Pretty fun to make a list of all the stuff I love that, deep or superficial, contribute to making me who I am. I may or may not have included ten separate entries related to Mexican food. And the photos make it clear that my favorite things are plants, food, and alcohol.
The light-hearted topic seemed to call for something colorful and photo-heavy. Thus far, my art journaling style seems to be a bit scrapbooky, clean and with lots of photos. I didn't draw on either of the art prompts this week because I don't have a sewing machine and the e.e. cummings poems (which I love) didn't quite fit with what I had in mind. But I'm excited to use the prompts to stretch out of my art journaling comfort zone going forward.

     I couldn't fit all 100 things on the spread, so I included some overflow on the next page to make sure I got everything down. (I'm at 95, still ruminating on the last five). I actually finished the pages for the "people you love" prompt as well, but not until the sun had set, so I'll post that later this week. This is too much fun - excited to keep up with the group.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Getting messy

So it would seem that my blog has done a 180 from what I originally intended for it. What was meant to be a travel blog when I was volunteering in Palestine appears to have evolved into all crafts, all the time. But the one actually has the roots in the other.

I was accepted to the internship in Palestine as an arts and crafts teacher - a fact I found equal parts hilarious and terrifying because I was sure I didn't have a creative bone in my body. But I really wanted to go to the West Bank, so I was all in. I signed up for a Pinterest account and started pinning kids' arts and crafts ideas. I stayed up late prepping craft projects so they'd be easy to tackle for a group of rowdy nine-year-olds. And along the way, I became enthralled with art journals on Pinterest and started craving a creative space of my own. As my travels came to a close, I wrote a 23 at 23 list (I had also started reading blogs while abroad) and one of the items was "start an art journal."

Since then, I've scratched that creative itch through minibooks and some careful, controlled art journaling. But now I'm ready to dive in head-first. The daily cards gave me a big boost. And I think I've been successful at them (so far) because of the structure of creating every day and the accountability of sharing online. So when I came across the Get Messy group, I was excited about the prompts and about the gentle push to make at least a couple pages every week.

So without further ado... here are my spreads for the first week of the Season of Love!
Some of the text intentionally smudged - I'm still working out the boundaries of what I'm comfortable sharing online.
Spoiler alert, a blank spread in a notebook - and the goal of expressing something a bit more personal - is a lot more intimidating than a plastic playing card. But if there's one thing I've learned from the cards, it's that the antidote to "out of ideas" is to sit down and start moving your hands and picking up paper. This spread started with the washi tape heart and then one thing lead to another until I had a full spread. The tools in my creative toolbox are still somewhat limited, but since taking Kal's script school I have loved brush script, so I gravitated back to that. I think there's something to be said for applying old, comfortable techniques as you're getting used to new, unfamiliar formats.

       I am usually all about the bright colors, and the next two pages are more reflective of that. After the first page broke the ice, these felt fun and easy. I realized as I was making it that the paper tree is not unlike an art project I taught to the kids in Palestine - and I love that it secretly harkens back to where this all began.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The daily card, week 5

Welcome to week 5! I still love this project. Especially because I've realized that it's like mandatory, small-scale art journaling. I have always loved the idea of art journaling, but the whole artiness of it, combined with the fact that I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, made it feel paralyzing. The fact that I have to create and express something every day has freed me up to make things that are not great. And as a result, I end up loving most of what I make.

The "now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good" card (a quote from John Steinbeck's East of Eden) pretty much nails it. When I sat down to make that card, I felt like I was out of ideas for the first time this year. I was about to paint a card white and write "I am out of ideas" when that quote popped into my head. It perfectly summed up the project and the reminder that not everything I make has to be brilliant.

I love this batch. The "MEPI is the bane of my existence" card is one of my favorites. For those of you whose day jobs don't involve supporting democracy in the Middle East, just know that MEPI is an office in the State Department focused on assistance to the region. I have no beef with them in general, but I had spent most of the workday wrestling with their tricky budget and reporting templates, so this was the sentiment that best summarized the day. I get a huge kick out of this card - I love the tongue-in-cheek effect of using a girly design to express a mundane bureaucratic frustration. And I like the idea that scrapbooking and art journaling doesn't always have to be days at the zoo and deep dark feelings - career ups and downs are fair game too.

The "with time you will see if I am a real artist or not" card was made after I finally saw Exit Through the Gift Shop. It's a line from Thierry Guetta, who pulls together a hugely popular but somewhat derivative street art show after studying under Banksy. He makes the point that creativity isn't a one-off show or event, it's a process over time. I love the line in the context of the movie, and I love how it applies to this project. A month of cards is cool, but keeping it up is what will make me a creative person. Creativity unfolding over time? Count me in.

Monday, February 16, 2015

One reason we haven't gotten married

Austin: Why do people buy wedding dresses instead of just renting them?
Anna: Because it's your special day!!
Austin: But you don't buy the band into slavery just because it's your special day.

We clearly don't see eye to eye on wedding planning.

(Happy Valentine's Day weekend, everyone!)

Friday, February 13, 2015

The genius of April and Andy

Photo credit NBC
I, along with everyone I know, am on a huge Parks and Rec high at the moment. They are ending it on such a high note - harkening back to some of the series' most memorable jokes without getting too heavy-handed. (Exhibit A: Treat Yoself 2017!) And the characters have all developed in believable ways since the show left off three years previous.

But I think my favorite part of the season so far is April and Andy and how they've evolved over the course of the series. When they first got together, April, for all her anti-social quirks, was the responsible one with a steady job. Andy was a sort of dopey guy who mostly wanted to play with his band and shine the occasional shoe. Now, a few years later, Andy has parlayed his childlike sense of fun and imagination into a successful, fulfilling creative career. He's doing a grown-up version of what he’s always loved. April, on the other hand, is fumbling a bit, feeling like she's wasted ten years of her life on a job that's not her real passion, but unsure what her real passion is. And along the way, they each made a few attempts at new careers that didn't pan out – Andy with the police academy and April with veterinary school.

That portrayal of a young couple figuring out their careers feels so realistic to me. The roles can reverse, over time, with regards to who is secure and confident in their path and who is searching and struggling. It’s not that there are some people who always have their shit together and some people who never do. Instead, it’s a constantly evolving process as we all go through periods of stability and periods of questioning in our career paths. It rings true with what I’ve learned about life and career so far – that periods of feeling lost and uncertain can lead to greater growth and fulfillment (and, apparently, TV gigs as Johnny Karate). And that just because you know what you're doing now doesn't mean you always will.

Of course, I also love the portrayal of Leslie and Ben addressing the challenge of balancing their relationship with their careers in politics and public service. But they're a bit further along than I am in their careers and family life. At this point, April and Andy are where it's at.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The daily card, weeks 3 and 4

                       I started making cards on January 1 but got a late start in posting them, so I'm playing catch-up on the blog even though I'm up-to-date in real life. I'm a huge fan of this batch overall - at this point I felt like I was getting the hang of it and coming up with ideas I really liked. Lessons learned so far: I have found that I sometimes have great ideas during the workday but then less motivation to translate them into reality when I come home at night. So I'm glad I have the daily challenge to make sure that I actually use my ideas.  It's also a bit frustrating when the cards don't come out quite like I'd imagined them, since I'm still mastering techniques like "holding your hand steady while stamping on photos," but that's all part of the creative process, I suppose.
Love these cards, love this project, excited to share weeks 5 and 6 next week.

Monday, February 9, 2015

This is your reset position

In 2014, I became a huge Bar Method addict. “Reasons I love Bar Method” is a topic for another day complete with promotional video. But I go to class most weekdays and it has become a huge part of my daily routine, one that keeps me healthy and balanced and starting my mornings on a positive note.

During one of the exercises, you support your leg with your hand between reps, and the instructors will say “this is your reset position.” It seems to be part of the Bar Method phrasebook along with “you’re shaking so hard you look like you’re going to fall over.” (It's all about the shake.) and “Retuck, resqueeze.” (It's also all about the tucking and squeezing). 

Last spring, my organization held a huge event with almost 100 young party activists at a hotel on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia. (Tough gig, I know.) Like a lot of work events, it was intense and round-the-clock – lots of work, lots of socializing, lots of political debate. I found myself escaping to the beach to walk through the waves before breakfast or to watch the sunset after I'd closed the laptop for the evening. I tried to make it at least once a day.
Sitting on the beach one evening, after the sun had set, the phrase popped into my head – this is your reset position. And it was true. It was a literal and figurative breath of fresh air in the middle of long, crazy days. Work trips entail a huge, exciting, exhausting overlap of work and life and travel. In the midst of all that stuff piling up, I needed that time to myself - to come back to myself. It was like wiping the slate clean and starting fresh. Washing everything away. Refreshing the page. Starting back at zero.

This is your reset position.

Lots of things can be reset positions. Writing and reading and creating and running and going to Bar Method and walking on the beach and getting 10,000 steps and drinking wine. They are so necessary, especially for a textbook introvert like me. You need those pauses, rests, times to refresh, times to come back to yourself.
This is your reset position.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Why I'm Writing

Photo chosen because there's a degree of shamelessness involved any time you share your life online, right?
Hmm. I'm still figuring out what I want from writing in this space. And how what I am interested in writing intersects with what people are interested in reading. There’s something so awkward about trying to get strangers on the Internet interested in your life, isn’t there? (This is an interesting take). It's hard to imagine developing a huge following, and I'm not looking to turn this into a career. I do not plan on being a social media expert or a life coach.
Why am I writing, then?
Most of all, I am writing to push myself as a writer. I want to write more and better. These days, no one is assigning me to keep a weekly journal or to expound on my personal philosophies on life and literature, and I miss writing outside a professional setting. If I push more of my thoughts out of my personal journals and into the world, I'm hoping it will push me to think clearer, to write better, and to connect my own words with what could be valuable to someone else.
I am writing to work towards (if not hit) the 10,000 hour mark of mastery. 
I am writing to document, hopefully with some consistency. I have intermittently kept journals my entire life. I love both the process of emptying thoughts onto paper so I don't have to hold onto them so tight in my head, and having the record of how I saw the world at nine and sixteen and twenty. So I love the idea of having almost ten years of archives documenting your growing into adulthood.
I am writing in hopes that, in the process, I will find my voice, written and otherwise. I think finding your voice is one of the most important things you can do as a young adult. (Beyond growing in compassion and trying to save the world and all of that). 
I am writing because I want to practice condensing my thoughts into their most interesting kernel, omitting the whole lengthy backstory. 
I am blogging because as much as I like the idea of writing New Yorker-worthy essays, I perhaps have no imagination for fiction and no energy to research and write nonfiction, at least at the moment. Bits and pieces of my personal life, on the other hand, are right there for the inscribing. And what could be more interesting, to quote Dave Eggers, than the "many twists and turns of my own thrilling and complex mind"?
I am still trying to work out a cohesive subject matter, if such a thing exists in blogland. I will keep writing about my travels, and I hope that will push me to pay closer attention when I am traveling. I will post the occasional craft, and I hope that will push me to be more creative. But mostly, I plan to keep writing about this process of growing up, and to see where it all takes me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Introducing the daily card project

When Elise wrote out her business story this fall, I discovered her old daily card project and was inspired enough to buy a deck of playing cards, thinking they would be fun to play with someday. I figured I'd decorate a card a week, or when I felt like it, or something else that seemed manageable. 

During a crazy fall, I mostly forgot about the cards until I heard Elise's podcast with Crystal Moody. In 2014, Crystal embarked on a year of creative habits, making a drawing a day and sharing it on her blog and Instagram. I definitely recommend listening to the podcast, but the main takeaways were that quantity leads to quality and creativity breeds more creativity. 

I fell in love with the idea of daily creativity and decided to "make something every day" in 2015 and quickly thought "why not a card?" I think it was a good call. "Do something creative every day" is vague and I know I would have been tempted to bend the rules as to what counted as creative. (Making boxed macaroni and cheese is still making something.) It's a case where having structure, rules, and limits can make you more creative.  Too many options and you freeze up.

I made a card on January 1, thinking I should cover my bases for anything I might want to do every day this year. (I also went for a run, took a photo, and wrote in my journal). And I have not missed a day since then. About mid-January, the excitement of starting something new wore off a bit and I realized how many cards stood between me and the end of the year -- but I kept it up. (The first couple weeks of cards are pictured).

And so far I am in love with this project. I am hoping it really will make me more creative. I go through phases when I have a ton of ideas - phrases, reflections, etc. - playing around in my head, and others where I am mainly thinking about what I am going to eat for dinner. I am hoping to tip the balance towards the former.

I'll be back next week with more card photos and more thoughts on daily creativity.

Monday, February 2, 2015

a year in sunsets (an addendum to the "best of" series)

(From top to bottom: Shenandoah, Virginia; Chelan, Washington; Cap Bon peninsula, Tunisia; Tunis, Tunisia; Washington, DC; Newport Beach, California)

This blog has gotten pretty photo-heavy lately. Which is funny because I consider myself more a writer than a photographer - at least not a capital-p Photographer. (Though I am not really a capital-w Writer either.) But you don't have to be a capital-p Photographer to capture amazing sunset pictures. They are pretty much handed to you on a silver platter. It was fun to look through my iPhoto and remember the different places I've seen the sun go down this year.