An Open Letter to the Decemberists – Quilts and their makers have value

01/23/15 – A Few Updates!

First up – yes, some fans and local artists made a quilt for the band – you can see it here (it’s lovely – how lucky they are to be cared for so much!) And it’s not the one pictured below.

Second – the link to the raffle of the quilts, which stated the value of $388 is no longer alive because the entry date has passed. Once upon a time it could be found at https://pages.umusic-mail.com/decemberists/rules/ but no longer. I doubt my writing anything about this got it taken down :-)

Third - Meg Cox, a respected professional in the quilt industry, has snagged an interview with Carson Ellis that she will publish shortly. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Fourth – this was never about the band. The quilt industry peeps get the conversation. It has always been about educating the public that handmade art and craft has VALUE, and that the people that make these things deserve to be paid in accordance with their skill and talent – accountants love their jobs and don’t do it for free, so why should we? It’s also about teaching people who do make these things to up their game and charge their worth. If just one person sees more value in handcraft because of what I write, then it utterly negates the harsh words of the trolls. I’ve left their comments standing for the sake of balance :-) but will be deleting anything that is just plain hateful that doesn’t add value to the discourse.

Fifth – for those of you who comment that the valuation of $388 might be based on materials alone and needs to be listed that way for tax purposes, I would ask you to look at the valuation of any car given away in a contest. The car is always valued at full retail – not the price of the parts before they got assembled!

Carry on!

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(Originally published on 01.22.15 @ 6:02am)

Hey Decemberists! I see you have a shiny new album, with a really cool cover (that I read was designed by Carson Ellis, your frontman’s talented wife):

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Image credit to The Decemberist’s website at http://www.decemberists.com

And clever you, you’ve decided to raffle off a couple of quilts made to look like the cover:

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Image from The Decemberist’s Blog at http://www.decemberists.com/news/itunes-first-play-a-beginning-song-released/

Who wouldn’t want such a pretty quilt? I wonder who made it? I can’t find that information anywhere. All I could find (before the entries closed) is the estimated value, a ridiculously low $388.

I’m guessing that, perhaps, (hopefully?) none of you have ever made a quilt, because if you had, you’d know better. So, as a member of the quilting community, and one willing to publicly bear the torch for us being treated well, I have a few things to say to you:

The art of a quilt isn’t just in the materials, any more than your music is in the plastic of a CD and its case. The art is in the intellectual property, and the skill to render it into form. The hard work it took to learn how to do it right is a huge factor. Just as you didn’t get good at your art overnight, neither do most quilt artists. It takes practiced skill to know how to build a set of triangles into something pretty, just like the skill it takes to arrange a set of chords to make beautiful music. How would you feel if we raffled off your music for the value of the plastic, without saying who played on the album?

As artists who’ve “made it,” you have a certain amount of power. You’ve done well. You’ve made it through an incredibly tough gauntlet of toiling in dodgy dives for a few bucks and cheap beer. You’ve got fans, enough visibility to get a day named after you in Portland, and a record company to help distribute your music. You’ve got a pulpit. Now use the power of that pulpit to help other artists.

Tell us who made the quilts. Link them up so they can maybe get some business out of it. Pay them properly (because I know you know the lie in being asked to do your art for “exposure”). And get those quilts properly appraised so that you don’t perpetuate the idea that we like sewing for cheap. Because we don’t – we are worth SO much more.

I know that most people think quilt makers are a bunch of older ladies with nothing else to do, but I’m here to set that story straight. Many of us make our livings in the $3.7B industry that is quilting. Yes, the B stands for BILLION. It’s a huge deal, even if it isn’t visible to you, so let me run down some sewing economics for you:

First up – there’s the talent. We quilt makers often spend years honing our craft. Sort of like musicians do. It takes a lot of practice to get good at sewing. And lest you think “anyone can sew”, how would you feel if I said anyone can strum a few chords and yell into a microphone?

The equipment is expensive too, not unlike the cost of guitars or drums. Yes, you can get a cheap machine, but they work like a cheap knock-off guitar sounds – like crap. And there are all sorts of things you need to have to keep them running. Like spare parts and good techs to do the tweaking.

Then there’s the cost of materials. I can’t find any details about the size of the quilts you’ve offered, but let’s go with an educated guess of 40” x 60”. I see at least 20 fabrics in there, and assume the minimum purchase for the top alone was about 6 yards. Premium fabric is running around $13 a yard, and you’d need about 3 yards to finish the backing and binding. So 9 yards at $13 is $117. Plus batting (let’s call it $20). And threads ($10 for the good stuff). So we’re at a conservative $147 before we talk about labor.

At $388 less materials, we have $241 with which to pay the artist. I’d bid 6 hours to work out the design, and around 15 for putting the top together, assuming nothing goes horrendously wrong. And for the record, I sew FAST (a skill that has taken 25 years to develop), and on an expensive, fast machine. It would take a couple of hours to put together a back and turn it into a quilt sandwich. It takes 2 hours for a quick and dirty quilting job, 10 for something custom and amazing. Another hour to make a binding, and three more to get it on with a hand finish (which is how many of us do it). At the low end, we’re talking 27 hours. $241 divided by 27 puts the labor at less than $9 an hour.

Do I have to point out that $9 and hour is an insult to ANY skilled artist? That my mechanic charges $99 an hour? That my friend just gave a plumber $13,000 for about 4 days of work? That $9 an hour, if you’re lucky, gets you “do you want fries with that?” and an order that isn’t screwed up?

Those quilts are worth far more than $388. And our industry cares about crediting who makes things (after being invisible behind centuries of anonymously made quilts, we’re kind of rabid about knowing who the makers are). So from one group of artists to another… give us a hand, OK?

Cheers ~ Sam Hunter

 

Blog Tour – Rose Hughes and Fast-Piece Applique – FIRE!

My friend Rose Hughes is debuting her latest book, Fast-Piece Applique and I’m tickled to be included on the tour.

Rose is a seasoned author – this is her 4th book! I met Rose while she was writing her third book, and lucky me, she was a great mentor when I began the work on mine. She is definitely a person that I look forward to hugging at industry meets like Quilt Market!

One of the cool things about Rose’s new book is the triptych format of the projects – they are created with the elements in either groups of three or panels of three:

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Photo Credit: Brent Kane/ Martingale

Art history geek alert!

The triptych has a long history in art, and rose to prominence in western, Christian-based, religious iconography during the Middle Ages. The center panel would show a major scene from the Bible (usually from the life of Jesus), and the two side panels would be supporting elements of the story.

Often, the side panels were hinged, creating doors to cover the main panel. This was used extensively on altarpieces – once the services were done the doors were closed, and the smaller altarpieces were then carried back to safe storage.

The picture below is a great example of a triptych: the center panel is Mary and the baby  Jesus (the format is known as “Madonna and Child Enthroned”), flanked by angels and saints, announcing the child’s birth. The side panels show John the Baptist, who came before Jesus, and John the Evangelist, who came after.

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The Donne Altarpiece by Hans Memling

The kneeling characters in the main panel are the poet and cleric, John Donne, and his wife and daughter. Donne likely commissioned this to show his piety and dedication to the Church (paintings that include their patrons are called “donor portraits”) – while making sure that he was acknowledged for his donation. It was like getting one’s name listed on a publicly displayed donor roster. Why a portrait and not a list? Back then, reading was something only the wealthy were able to do, so pictoral religious art functioned as cartoons for the unwashed – if you could “read” the pictures, you could grasp the stories.

One of the most magnificent altarpieces is a polyptych (poly = many) tour-de-force by brothers Hubert and Jan van Eyck, known as the Ghent Altarpiece:

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Go here for a really detailed hi-res peek :-) and here to see what it looks like closed.

And now, back to regular programming!

Rose has planted free patterns at each hop, and I chose the FIRE Heart pattern to share with you! FIRE conjures up ORANGE for me, so it was a great fit!

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ALSO – yes, a giveaway! Please leave a comment below to win a digital copy of the book. Rather than tell me which word you would make using Rose’s techniques (because we just talked about words last week!), tell me what your favorite piece of fine art is, and why it moves you! I’ll choose a winner on Jan 16th. - UPDATE: winner chosen and notified!

Don’t forget to pick up the rest of the WORDS – here’s the list of stops – their posting day and #loveletterhearts WORD

Jan 5th-  KISS– Victoria Findlay Wolfe http://bumblebeansinc.blogspot.com

Jan 6th – SOUL– Natalie Barnes http://beyondthereefpatterns.blogspot.com

Jan 7th – SEXY –Maddie Kertay http://www.badassquilterssociety.com

Jan 8th – SWAK– Teri Lucas-Generation Q http://generationqmagazine.com

Jan 9th – LEAP– Mandy Leins http://mandalei.com

Jan 12th- LUST– Megan Dougherty http://thebitchystitcher.blogspot.com

Jan 13th – HUGS– Jenny Wilding Cardon http://blog.shopmartingale.com/

Jan 14th – FIRE– Sam Hunter http://huntersdesignstudio.com

Jan 15th – SING — Rachel Biel-TAFA http://www.tafalist.com/blog/

Jan 16th – ROCK, WILD, XOXO — Rose Hughes http://rosehughes.blogspot.com

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Words, words, words

I asked for words and did you ever respond! I couldn’t choose…. I just couldn’t. Too many lovely words and even better stories (seriously… go read ‘em). You are all so inspiring – and thank you for the new year wishes too!

So I RANDOM.ORG’d it. Kathleen K – with the lovely word CORUSCATE – look for an email from me!

Here’s what Kathleen wrote:

I came across a good word a while ago but can’t remember how or where.  I like it for the example Merriam-Webster gives because my husband has a 57 Ford Fairlane convertible with an awesome chrome grille.  The word is “coruscate” and the example is: “a classic car from the 1950s, replete with yards of coruscating chrome”.  The actual definition is “to give off or reflect in bright beams or flashes; to be brilliant or showy in technique or style”.  Awesome word!

Yes! An awesome word!

 

What’s your word?

Happy new 2015!

Being a word girl, I like the idea of having a word or phrase to play with. Confession though… I don’t do the yearly word thing because my life seems to operate in seasons that don’t necessarily begin and end with a tidy bow at the new year!

I love being inspired by other people’s words too. In fact, I’d like to be inspired by yours! So pop your word or phrase into the comments, and tell me a little bit about them. I’ll choose a winner on Monday (based on what inspires me the most) and send you a copy of Quilt Talk so you have the tools to make your word in fabric!

And if you’ve already made your word in any type of fiber, please post it on Instagram and tag me @huntersds, and use the hashtag #2015word to add it to lots of others.

As for resolutions, I make few. But if there was one that I would encourage all of us to make, it’s this: Please maintain your sewing machine regularly. Respect the Power Tool! De-fuzz it, oil it, and change that needle! I even have a cute and quick free pattern for holding your dead needles! It could be your first finish of 2015!

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Wishing you all the best a new year can bring!

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VAT is coming – and it isn’t pretty

UGH. You may or may not have heard about this: the way VAT (Value Added Tax) in Europe is being charged and handled is changing as of January 1st, 2015, and at the moment, it’s being implemented in a way that is a HUGE burden for small businesses.

Until the dust settles and good solutions arise, it means I have to switch off the ability to take digital patterns orders from countries outside of the USA as of December 31st at midnight – so if there’s anything you want for yourself as a late holiday prezzie, hop to it! Note that orders for physical products are not affected in this go around (although there are rumblings that they will be next year). The law is intended to get some good money out of the likes of Amazon, but there is no small business threshold of forgiveness, so yeah, We the Little People are taking the hit, as usual.

This affects EVERYTHING digital… from ebooks to music to patterns, etc. Basically, for all sales to the European Union, I have to collect VAT (at each country’s rate) and file quarterly tax returns and payments to EACH country. I also have to collect a bunch of data about the transaction (like the IP address it came from) that isn’t yet being made available to me by my payment providers like PayPal (they’re working on it, but it’s not in place). And then I have to store that data for 10 freaking years. And if I put my head in the sand and hope not to get caught, I could be forbidden from traveling to the countries in which I would then be considered a tax evader. Go here If you want to read deeper details.

I have already put my Etsy shop on hold, and I will be limiting the payment locales in PayPal, which affect the digital orders from Craftsy (who don’t have a solution in place yet, but I hope are working on it).

So this is how it looks for my customers right now (and I’ll let you know as soon as it changes):

EU folks – until I find a digital provider that will handle the VAT stuff for me (at a rate that makes business sense) I can’t do digital business with you. I can do a credit card and snail mail of a physical product only. UPDATE 1.06.15 – I’m looking into PAYHIP – will probably implement at the end of January. In the meantime, you can order my PDF patterns through PatternSpot.com (as they are taking care of VAT filing for us)

Canada, Australia, and New Zealand folks – as PayPal currently allows a US customer to block only “non-US” customers (not on a country by country basis) I can’t sell digital files to you either or I risk being open to the EU penalties. I can work around it with a credit card and emailing a file though, so just email me and I’ll do everything I can to get you what you need. UPDATE 01.06.15 – I was able to manipulate PayPal to allow everything but EU – you should be fine now, and if you’re not, let me know.

US folks – you’re in luck. Business as usual for you… carry on. Although you’re probably going to see prices go up all over to cover the costs of dealing with this.

I’m seriously bummed. ALL of my customers matter to me, and I’m thrilled that the internet has shrunk the borders and allowed me to make friends all over the world. I HATE that I have to shut some of you down.

Oh, and other countries like Japan are looking at implementing similar things next year. The global digital economy is about to change. I just hope in the race for more tax dollars it doesn’t kill off all the small businesses that make it so vibrant.

Sigh.

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Happy and Merry!

Tis the season! So of course, for my guild’s holiday celebration, I pulled my favorite Christmas accessory out of the waaaay back of the closet.

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I showed it to a couple of friends before I wore it out of the house. The reactions were mixed… it seems that this gorgeous thing that was THE BOMB when I made it in 1995 is now, quite possibly, the quilter’s version of the ugly sweater.

No matter! I sweated over it, so I’m wearing it! Seriously, it has more hours in it than many of the quilts I’ve made (the smaller the pieces, the longer it takes). Where on earth did I get the idea? From Judy Murrah, author of Jacket Jazz (and now the head of education for Quilts Inc.) I took a class from her in 1995 – fabulous teacher – and well… went a little overboard with concept.

Many of the techniques are in her book. The twisted texture…

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… the 9 degree wedge elements (one half of the strips is the sleeve, the opposing half is the front).

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I designed the presents for the second front. Notice how I integrated the pocket. Damn proud of that, considering what I didn’t (and still don’t) know about garment construction.

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I shrunk the poinsettia from a wall hanging pattern (my apologies to the designer… I no longer have the pattern to credit you!) and APPLIQUED it. Yep, I actually did the A-Word for this (albeit by machine, but still). I only wish I had known about glue basting back then!

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I finished it off with a run of paper-pieced trees. They needed a bit of a switch up, so I swapped a tree from the back with a Santa from the cuff. Santa does get around, you know.

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So there it is. Shoulder pads and all. I like to think that, due to the wonders of time, it has perhaps transcended from tacky kitsch to retro cool, just the way that ugly sweaters have, no? And when you think about some of the holiday excesses (swants, anyone?) then perhaps not quite so over the top!

I wish you Happy and Merry from my studio to yours – I hope you get to spend time with good people and good food, and that every stitch you made on a gift is well appreciated by the lucky person that received it!

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WASWI – Please don’t steal my pattern (or any one else’s)

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A friend of mine is working on one of my patterns as a gift for her son. Sweet friend, sweet and lucky lad to have a mama that quilts for him.

And a friend of hers stopped by. For the sake of keeping these people straight, let’s call my friend Mary, and her friend Jane. Names changed to protect privacy, innocence and all that – and with huge apologies to the Janes and Marys I know and love.

Jane geeks out over the pattern (yay!) and decides to make one. She swipes Mary’s copy of the pattern, saying “You can just print another.” (Mary had the PDF version of it). Mary let it go because, hey, we’re women, and we’re NICE, right?

But it weighed on Mary. She respects what I do for a living – heck, she’s pitched in at my kitchen table on more than one occasion. Yes, this is my LIVING – I have no inheritance, no trust fund, and no partner with a salary behind me. It’s just me and my customers.

So she tackles Jane about it. Explains to her that she’s not happy with having facilitated giving my pattern away. Tells her where she can buy her own copy. But Jane pushes back. And here’s the interesting part… this isn’t a pattern that is languishing in Jane’s sewing room in the “I’ll get to it someday” pile – nope, she’s actually making it. She bought the fabric. And she tells my friend that the fabric was pricy and she “can’t afford another $10 for the pattern.”

Jane, Jane, Jane.

It’s not the paper the pattern is printed on, it’s the intellectual property.

I designed a thing you thought was cool, and you want to make it. And that’s great – I’m always flattered when someone likes the things I create. But that has WORTH. Without the pattern, you’d be just holding a pile of fabric (beautiful fabric that someone designed). Unless you feel like designing your own, you NEED the pattern as much as you needed the fabric you paid for. So yes, I should get paid for it.

Jane – when you did your Thanksgiving dinner shopping, did you buy all the trimmings but steal the turkey because you thought it was expensive? My guess is NO.

So pay me for the pattern, OK?

( And yes… I used to copy patterns when I first started out. But I don’t do that anymore, and I’m working on putting my karma back in balance by fighting for us all.)

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Sew Sassy Buttons – GEEK edition!

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New sassy buttons! An edition just for our geeky and nerdy sewing pals!

From Firefly: 
Sew Shiny!
The Quickest Stitch in the ‘Verse

From Star Trek: 
Make It Sew!

From Star Wars: 
Sew Geeky
Sew or Sew Not, There is no TRY

From Game of Thrones: 
Winter is Coming… Make Quilts

From Battlestar Galactica: 
Sew Frakking Nerdy
Sew Say We All

And from Doctor WHO: 
Bigger on the Inside
Sonic Seam Ripper

Get ‘em here! 

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On Turning 53

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Yesterday, I had the good fortune to celebrate my 53rd birthday. I am grateful for and humbled by the wishes, hugs, emails, FB posts, gifts, chocolates, handmade goodies, gifts, and gift cards that made their way to me from many timezones near and far. I got weepy several times because of it. I am cared for and loved, and it is a wonderful thing.

I was once married to a good chap that just hated his birthday. He approached it with trepidation, running a commentary of the “shoulds” in his head. “By (insert age here) I should have done this by now, should have seen this by now, should have bought this by now.” I’ve never felt this way, but then I prefer looking at the filled part of the glass. I have no idea what I though 53 might look like from my 20’s (other than perhaps hoping I wouldn’t be as unhip as I perceived my parents to be) but I can say without doubt that I’m the best, truest version of me I’ve ever been. And for my next birthday, should I get one, I plan to have refined myself further down this path!

On my 50th birthday, I wrote the following essay, and as I revisited it today, I see that it’s all still true for me. So I’ll share it here, and I’ve added three more to grow on at the end.

50 Thoughts on Turning 50

A time for reflection and introspection. Time for a party filled with embarrassing gifts of prune juice and adult diapers. The big five-oh. Mid-century. Half way done, should I be so lucky. A few thoughts on that…

1.  In the inimitable words of the Monty Python gang – I’m not dead yet!
2.  Turning 30 was a relief. Turning 40 made me feel powerful. Turning 50 makes me feel grateful.
3.  Questioning authority is still fashionable.
4.  Knowing that your girlfriends get you (and like you anyway) is incredibly comforting.
5.  Eating chocolate every day is sacrosanct. Wasting calories by eating bad chocolate is just wrong.
6.  Having a season pass to Disneyland allows you to see all the small things in the design and artistry – and to marvel at the absolute commitment to the concept such details illustrate.
7.  Board games are even more fun as a grown-up.
8.  Fake butter is just that. Fake.
9.  The shift of a smooth gearbox on an open road is still a thrill.
10.  However, next time I’m buying an automatic car. I’m done with clutching my way through traffic.
11.  I got too good at not wanting to be a bother in the doctor’s office, and it almost killed me. Being firm about what I instinctually know about my body is the right kind of bothersome to be.
12.  Spending time outside of your home country is important.
13.  Facebook birthdays rock.
14.  Uncomfortable shoes are just not worth the agony.
15.  Uncomfortable undies aren’t either.
16.  Although I would have chewed my tongue off before admitting this to her as a teenager, I’m grateful that my step-mother spent the time to teach me which fork is the right one.
17.  While I think I could have been just fine without children in my life, I’m so glad I have my son, Steve. He somehow makes me more complete.
18.  Art really is everywhere. And that is a very good thing.
19.  That multitasking thing that we’ve all tried so hard to be good at is a load of bull. Being fully present to one thing at a time is so much more satisfying.
20.  Having good manners never goes out of style.
21.  It is wonderful to find a lost friend from your youth, and to find out that that you still like who they are.
22.  It doesn’t matter that my shoes never match my handbag.
23.  Having an opinion is a good thing. Respecting that other opinions may differ is a better thing.
24.  In my head I’m still in my thirties. But 50 is the new 30, right?
25.  Smart phones are incredible tools of efficiency and convenience. And distraction.
26.  I’m no longer willing to play dumb, or hide my light, or stay silent when I should speak up, just for the comfort of others.
27.  Climbing to the top of a dome or church is a spiritual journey. Coming out into the light and 360 view after the fight of the climb, through the dark and narrow passages, is a re-birth of sorts and worth every ache, gasp, and bead of sweat.
28.  I prefer clocks with hands.
29.  Wearing the right earrings can make your day.
30.  I’m ok with not being liked by everyone anymore. I’m ok with not liking everyone anymore. We are not ALL made for each other.
31.  Keeping the back of your neck warm from draughts wards off colds.
32.  When all else fails, bake shortbread.
33.  Having my face cut and filled to look like a version of 30 will never happen. I’ve earned and lived all my lines.
34.  Saying “thank you” is SO important.
35.  Saying “sorry” is perhaps even more important.
36.  I’m grateful to have been born in times that allow me to exercise choices. And I’m aware that with such privilege comes the responsibility to make sure that these choices are available to future generations.
37.  Those SMTWTFS pill boxes really do make your life easier.
38.  Sleeping under a handmade quilt is a special joy.
39.  Not being obsessively clean is good for your immune system.
40.  I hope evolution takes care of chin hairs and the hairs on the top of big toes in future generations because I can vouch for them having no use whatsoever.
41.  I’m thrilled to see my young friends making babies, and even more thrilled that I’m no longer in the business of teething, tantrums, and teenagers.
42.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
43.  I love the summer movie formula: the good guys win, the bad guys lose, the guy gets the girl, and stuff blows up during a really good car chase.
44.  Slumming with the occasional book of trash pulp will not rot my intellect.
45.  Learning to say “no” is a good thing. Wish I’d got better at it sooner.
46.  Beautifully written words are as satisfying as perfect crème brulée.
47.  This teach-to-the-test crap is ruining our children.
48.  Seeing it in person is so much better than reading about it on the internet. Just say no to the mediated experience.
49.  The color orange makes me happy.
50.  You dishonor the people who love you when you don’t allow them to actually do loving things for you. Accepting love is both humbling and powerful.

51. Making stuff makes my world right. Make, make, make.

52. Minding your values matters. Both personal values, and the color values in art.

53. In the words of Madeleine Albright, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

The Little Spark

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It happens. The well dries up. Your creative mojo chases the sunset out of town and you feel like you’ve lost a dear friend. How to get it back becomes your next big priority. And lucky us, my friend Carrie Bloomston has just written a delightful book chock full of prompts and exercises to get your creativity back into gear!

This is what Carrie has to say about her book:

You were born with a creative spark inside. Do you look at yourself now and wonder if the spark has gone out? Ignite that inner fire with the 30 engaging exercises, fun activities, inspirational images, and motivating ideas in this book. Learn what your Little Spark of creative passion looks like, how to capture it, and how to make room for it in your life. Read the book cover-to-cover and use it as a month-long creative roadmap, or just dip into the exercises as your time and inclination allow. Either way, you will change your life.

She also made a sweet video trailer!

The book is full of space for you to write in and make yours. It’s full of ideas and questions, and peppered with quotes from some really inspiring people. And of, course, lusciously stuffed with beautiful imagery. This image tells me I need to buy more ORANGE pens!

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My favorite chapters in the book so far are Chapter 2, about making your creative space calm; Chapter 23, about the rhythm and mastery in repetition; and Chapter 26, about taking a day off (this post is coming to you while I’m on vacation, through the wonders of auto scheduling!)

Carrie is consolidating all the giveaways from her blog, so head over there to comment for a chance to win a copy of the book.

If you can’t wait, or want to gift it for the holidays, it’s available on Amazon or from your favorite indie bookseller (mine is Powell’s!)

Now go to your studio and play!

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