We Are All Dots (CATALOG 10/29/2021)

Welcome to this “catalog” of what piqued my interest in recent days…

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We Are All Dots: A Big Plan for a Better World by Giancarlo Marci is one of my favorite kinds of books merging the simplest kind of illustrations with tight text with an important message.

2. What is your learning style? I share this video and survey with my students to help get down to the bottom of theirs.

3. Do you resonate with LinkedIn’s findings on stress levels?

4. Mind maps are an effective note-taking and study tool for students—and useful for grown-ups too!

5. Enjoy this massive collection of visual insights courtesy of Qaspire Consulting.

6. I love it when people think of an idea, then go full tilt with it—like these painted plates of last meals by Julie Green.

7. Lisa Congdon is one of my favorite artists—this Dieline article sums up her work and inspiration well. (And now I’m determined to collect all of those cool Method hand soaps by Lisa’s design!)

8. I’ve made two of these teardrop hanging baskets for storing keys, masks, gloves, etc.

9. ‘Tis the season to be grateful! Share your stories of gratitude with Chicken Soup for Soul for possible publication! (Don’t worry, the deadline for submission isn’t until January.)

10. Anchor provides an easy—and free—way to produce podcasts, even working hand in hand with WordPress to import blog content for conversion to voice. Why not, right?

Have a link to share with me for a future catalog? Please comment below. Thanks for reading!

Where There’s a Wall, There’s a Way (CATALOG 10/08/21)

Though StrengthsFinder 2.0 pegs one of my top strengths as Input, there is only one blog I read with any regularity: that of author and artist Austin Kleon. Its appeal? Once a week, Kleon sends his followers a top-ten list of creative and curious links from across the Web, including his own blog posts.

I don’t care to read much via any kind of electronic device (even though I produce my share of online content), so Kleon’s approach speaks to me. Full disclosure: I want to know a lot but, at the same time, to do as little as possible to get the gist. So my blog post this week pays homage to Austin Kleon and features my own “10 things I thought were worth sharing”:

1. The inspiration behind this week’s blog: Newsletters by Austin Kleon.

2. Where there’s a wall, there’s a way… Such was the motto of an artist who, during 130 days of the 2020 COVID lockdown, painted an awesome visual diary.

3. Crochet-alongs marry the challenge of an intricate pattern with the opportunity to bond as “happy hookers.” Beginning next week, designer Breann Mauldin prepares us for Christmas with a tree-skirt crochet-along.

4. A fascinating documentary on the Met Gala and the people who make it possible (and so pretty): “First Monday in May.”

5. …which led to my curiosity in Andre’ Leon Talley and his story: “The Gospel According to Andre’.”

6. What exactly is dyslexia? Groves Academy set me straight.

7. Again from Austin Kleon—and in light of this past week’s Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp outage—a reminder to “rewind your attention.”

8. Call it the HairClub for educators… With The Writing Revolution, I’m not only a better tutor—I’m a better writer.

9. Book: Freely and Lightly by Emily Lex, who pairs personal lessons on faith with everyday illustrations in watercolor.

10. Thanks to my artist pal T.B. Sojka, I learned about Sara Thurman’s Artists Rising Retreats—and dream about planning my own someday.

If you have a recommendation on something I should read, watch, wear, see, try, make, etc., please provide the link in the comments section below. Who knows, perhaps it will become part of my next “catalog.” Thanks for your input!

On Reading I JUST LIKE TO MAKE THINGS

IJustLikeOn the recommendation of a creative friend, I picked up I Just Like to Make Things: Learn the Secrets to Making Money While Staying Passionate About Your Art and Craft by Lilla Rogers. The author is both an artist and an agent who has secured contracts, licenses, and other agreements for herself and others who have a knack for modern illustration. The book is filled with testimonies and tips on how to make a mark in children’s books, textiles, craft papers, and other goods that carry color and design.

 

I most enjoyed the bookends of I Just Like to Make Things, first Rogers’ use of a bird analogy to demonstrate how we artists can visualize our life’s work:

 

…for every person on our planet, there are fifty birds. Wow! I would love to meet my fifty birds. They are all out there, and we don’t even know which ones are ours… If you think of the life of your career as having fifty birds, what would they be? Let’s let them equal fifty meaningful events or highlights in your career. They are out there, but like your birds, you just don’t know what they are yet. You won’t know until you reach the end of your life and look back; but in the meantime, they will happen. 

 

I love this visual. I love that my success doesn’t have to be defined by just one epic moment—a sum of many makes up the whole. I also love that, like birds, my art can boast diversity and color and merry tunes of all sorts. Yes, this imagery will indeed stick with me as I discover my artistic identity and calling. 

 

IMG_3739The other bookend? One of the concluding exercises of I Just Like to Make Things is to consider the many different turns an art career can take. Rogers presents forty-plus ideas to help “garner some self-awareness” and arrive at “what you really, deeply want to do next” in the creative realm. As she suggests, I photocopied the page, cut all the options into little rectangles, then drew five pieces randomly from the pile. I was skeptical of this assignment at first, but in the end, I gained some valuable insight:

Open an Etsy shop
I attempted this about a year ago with some scarves I made, but I think I definitely need a lot more stuff and a more defined personal style. I plan to work on the latter to arrive eventually at the former.

Volunteer to help creative kids
I love this idea! My dream of dreams would be to facilitate a kids’ knitting and crocheting group. My daughter is attending a fine-arts interdisciplinary school this fall, plus my church is starting a free after-school program for grades K-5. Perhaps I could start groups at those venues?

Sew for fun
Another option that piques my interest! It was at a Fourth of July parade that I became aware of the efforts of Iowa-based Dress a Girl Around the World, and I’ve been thinking about making simple little dresses for charity ever since. I also came across a few fun videos on Creativebug on “Patchwork Improv.” I’m in!

Start your own company including manufacturing
I began my own company about twelve years ago when I became a freelance writer. I changed the name of it some time later to make sure it could grow beyond communications. My next steps? To honor my intentions from long ago! To get creative! To make stuff!

Make jewelry
This option wrinkled my nose at first, but it grew on me when I thought about how I can use my current skills, know-how, and supplies to make small items for sale. I plan to experiment a bit with crochet and buttons and yarn and beads in the weeks ahead.

 

I know I’ve read a good book if it motivates me to some kind of action. Boy, do I have a to-do list from this one! Stay tuned as I get to work.

On Trying CROCHET-ALONGS

I knit. I crochet. I’ve made hats and sweaters and blankets and so much more over my past twenty-five years of experimenting with yarn and needles and hooks. But it wasn’t until recently—last summer, to be exact—that I tried a “crochet-along” or “CAL” for short (you guessed it, there are “knit-alongs” too).

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Just a few of the hats I made last summer as part of a crochet-along

Through the Hooked on Homemade Happiness Crochet Community on Facebook, I signed up to join thousands of other crocheters from around the world to work on different patterns together. The group’s organizer, Breann Mauldin, is an accomplished crocheter and pattern writer who shares free PDFs (for a limited time generally) of her original creations, thus rallying the rest of us to get hooking too.

During a CAL, a new pattern is released weekly, then we post photos of our finished products on the group thread. It’s amazing to see how the same pattern results in such unique works of craftsmanship—it’s fun to see how people put their own spins on it. Different colors. Different textures. Different adornments. Artistry abounds!

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Here’s my progress so far on the sampler afghan CAL pattern. Each week entails adding another few inches of a different pattern to our blankets.

The Hooked on Homemade Happiness Crochet Community is currently in the middle of another hat CAL, which I completed for the first time last year. In the end, I donated about twenty finished hats to the cancer patients of the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, which is where one of my dearest friends fought and won her battle with the disease. I also enjoyed taking part in a sampler afghan CAL over the winter. My blanket is still in progress, but I’m determined to get it finished before the snow flies again. Just a couple more sections to go and some kind of border, then I’ll be done!

There’s something special about knitting and crocheting, how versatile they are not only in what I can make, but also in where and with whom I can focus on my projects. In the quiet of home. At a coffee shop with a friend. Around a computer with the rest of humanity. There’s no doubt I’ll keep knitting and crocheting along!

What I Did This Summer

A number of months have passed since my last post, but I wouldn’t say it’s been any kind of lazy-days vacation; I’ve continued to enjoy my adventures in creative discovery and dabbling. Here are my top 5 artistic memories from Summer 2018:

Writers Workshop at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts – For its third year, Banfill-Locke hosted its writers workshop, this time around the theme “Tending Your Word Garden.” Through three breakout sessions, plus a collective reading at the end, I enjoyed fellowship with other writers, tested out some new techniques, heard some great work, and shared some of my own attempts from the day.

Art-a-Whirl – Wow! WOW! How did I not hear of this event before? Throughout Northeast Minneapolis, hundreds of art studios open their doors to the public. I didn’t take to the streets but spent all of my time in the Northrup King Building where floor upon floor is devoted to the making and selling of art. Before the next Art-a-Whirl next spring, I hope to go back to Northrup King on a first Thursday for a mini Art-a-Whirl.

“Loving Vincent” movie – I’m not sure how I came upon this film, but it was available at my public library and ended up being worth the watch. The storyline takes place a year after Vincent Van Gogh’s death and delves into his fragile mental health and strained relationships. But most fascinating is the fact that the entire movie is an oil painting in motion!

Crochet Along for a Cause – Led by Breann of Hooked on Homemade Happiness, hundreds of crocheters, including myself, are making “chemo caps” for people in cancer treatment. Every week for 14 weeks, Breann releases a pattern that we all try our hand at making in the colors of our choice. It’s fun to see all the different renditions posted on the group Facebook page.

Scarf selling at Banfill-Locke & Etsy – I finally got the ball rolling! Over the past several months, I’ve also crocheted dozens of thick and cozy infinity scarves—and now they’re officially for sale. The gift shop at Banfill-Locke is now carrying a few of these pieces, and my new Etsy shop, “By Hand by Barb,” is open for business. Watch for more products to be added over the coming months as I continue to claim my place and share my voice in the world of art!