Surface Design In*ter*face/Sofa to Love

If you aren't a member of SDA, the conference coming up in San Antonio is reason enough to join. The speeches, exhibits and panels are fab, and the city will be filled with fiber art. AND, if you can, come early or stay late for one of the workshops -- from jewelry to magnetic fields to amazineg skyscraper sized weavings, ther eis something planned to feed every creative spirit around. I suspect the city will have a wonderful web of buzz and energy holding up the streets!

The workshops that are low in enrollment will be cancelled April 15, so if you have not yet signed up, take a look here on the SDA conference site. 

Here's a tantilizing look at one artist who is teaching: FerroFabric by Jenny Leary, and more here on her award-winning collaborative blog, Puff&Flock.

And, as the internet is such a gift-giver, here's a totally unrelated post from other members of Puff and Flock, a sofa to love:

And here's more from Jenny: (icecream is a bonus,love the music)

Artful Getaway on Airbnb!

The sleeping porch -- great for naps and birdwatching

Are you looking for a wonderful getaway in the Texas Hill Country? We've decided to try booking a private suite of rooms at our house on, both to fund some new projects, and because on our Airbnb stays in Madrid and Barcelona, we had such a wonderful time with our hosts. These kinds of "home stays" provide wonderful opportunities to make friends and find out about people's different lives around the globe. Of course, you may live almost next door in San Antonio, but we'd still love to have you as a guest. Check out the site on Airbnb -- it's a great way to find places to stay near to home and around the world. We are total believers in the site -- the interface is great, the security features wonderful, and for hosts and guests, the booking system is secure, easy and safe. 

In addition to the suite of rooms (bedroom and sitting room with fold-out futon for a second bed, bathroom with large shower) you'll have access to the kitchen, breakfast each morning, pool and hot tub, sleeping porch for naps and dining and the media room with its big flatscreen and netflix or DVDs. And if you'd like to include a private or small group art workshop or access to use the art studio and its big work tables, just ask and we'll see what works for all of us. 

Our calendar of available dates is on the Airbnb site, as well as rates, restrictions and house rules. Hope you'll check it out!


Art App of the Week: Drawing Pad

How to choose? How to choose?

(And how to remember -- if you checked in earlier, I had the name of the software wrong, and the wrong list! Drawing Pad -- not free, but it is only $1.99 with some optional in-app pruchases, like coloring books, available.)

As I work towards getting my iPad on-line courses up and running, you'll find a weekly APP reccommendation here on the blog on Fridays, each with a few examples of drawings, photos, journal pages and more. 

I admit to an ongoing addiction for new apps -- OK,  consider it a line item in my art supply budget! Consequentlyly, after sampling free and paid versions of several hundred, I've found some really great ones and some real dogs. Some are simple "one-trick ponies," others are perhaps too expansive and overwhelming that unless you devote a LOT of time, you'll find them a bit overwhelming.

The iPad is such a powerful, intuitive creative tool, and the mobile software designers out there are certainly running though the paces. When my online course launches (next month, I hope), the format will include step-by-step tutorials, specific projects with step-outs, adaptations for use as fiber art tools -- both as part of your process and your works of art. If this sounds interesting, I hope you'll sign up for my newsletter HERE, in order not to miss the launch of the online series of workshops -- they'll start with an "iPad for Art Basics" and proceed through Photo Editing and Manipulation, Drawing and Sketching Tools, Keeping Track, Art Journaling, Photo Filters, Collage Tools and -- who knows!

This week's app is Drawing Pad. The interface is bold, easy to understand (the tools are in drawers, so explore them carefully! Some of the drawers give you the option to scroll right and reveal a whole other set of tools, colors and options. You can import a photo from your own camera roll and use it as a guide to trace or alter or paint, or you can start with a blank "sheet" of paper. If you wish, you can import a photo, sketch over it, then go back and change the paper to white or another color and have only your sketch! It's a very SIMPLE layering process, with only two layers. Of course I have other tricks for this -- to make it a multilayer tool. but you'll have to wait for the workshop for that!

Save the images to your email or camera roll or FB, Twitter, or an album inside the app -- think of this as a kid-friendly (for the kid in each of us) sketching and painting tool. I

These tools in the main drawer are options for saving, erasing, coloring book, colors of paper, stickers and, scrolling right, different tools.

 Sketching on top of a photo of San Fernando Cathedral, then replacing the photo with plain paper.

Sketching on the road. 

Looking and Seeing

When one takes on a new endeavor -- I'm looking for a small (read, inexpensive) studio/workshop space/informal gallery, AirBnB offering and overnight in-city haven -- the eyes take on new importance. What we see is so shaped by what we are looking for... and it's remarkable how emotions that we don't really have words for take over. 

As we've looked at dozens of little houses, condos, thises and thatses in person -- and hundreds online (the real estate market must be as affected -- or more-- by the internet as any other of our modern commercial efforts and activities), my eyes have learned how to read the sites and sights beyond what shows up on the screen. Oh yeah, that looks great, until you see the actual streetview map! And interior photos -- especially those where the residents' belongings are  still in place (or out-of, more likely)-- show a depressing degree of what rampant consumerism has made of the American household. No wonder they want to move, not a square inch to stand in, much less a space to rest the eye upon. The empty houses start looking pretty darn good. I see why house staging has become a career in the realm of house sales on the upper end of the market!

Amid all this looking, there have been only a couple of places that pass the see-test. I guess it's no surprise, but those couple or three have been houses that speak with their own distinct visual styles. The heartstrings otherwise are disengaged. And, believe me, I want to be practical, to be investment-wise, to pick something that meets all the criteria that I've described in lists and conversations with our realtor who's on the job. But I have a feeling that the heart is going to insist on style, honesty, imagination on the part of the builder (whether in 1910, 1949 or 1977) and at least some sense of potential beyond the present state of affairs. Do I need another project? Hell, no. Will I get one? Probably!

 P.S. NO, we are not leaving the our heavenly space in the country. I will continue to live here and to offer artist retreats out here in the future, alongside the pool, hot tub and 20 mile view into the valley. In fact, a spot just opened up in my Fearless Sketching workshop April  12-14, the last of the workshops for several months. One of the group  who was signed up has family issues to attend to. For info, see the previous post here.

Teacher Bragging Rights

Gloria's big flower -- her first ever art quilt!

Here are a few detail shots of work in progress by the students in the Southwest School of Art class that I just completed. Although most everyone is still working on their "big" art quilt projects, we count the class a success at getting us all (including teacher) moving in the right direction. I'm not listing last names, but I have permission to post these photos!

Ms. Bidet's exquisite stitching

Detail of Suzanne's deep dive.


Detail of Robin's kundalini spine. 

Mission Accomplished

Pay attention, open new eyes. Spring is really here.Huisache and Mesquite have put on their golden fluffy finery; Mountain laurels are finishing their Koolaid burst of color and scent. Even in the midst of drought, green grasses are making an effort and a few bluebonnets show up in patches here and there along highways.

The San Antonio missions (San Antonio Missions National Historical Park) are some of my favorite places to visit and take photos. I love that the missions, while protected and under restoration and programming as federal parks, are also active parishes, with masses said each Sunday in Spanish and English. Mission Espada has an attached convent where brown-robed Franciscan brothers and priests live, surrounded by bird feeders and a jungle of geraniums and other blooming plants.

With family here this Spring Break, we took a wander down to south San Antonio. Here are a few of the images that inspired me -- wondrful space scapes of stone and sky, faint drawings that have been found during the last round of restorations, some artist's rendition of grand Spanish flare, no doubt an Indian hand at work, copying from a manuscript brought by one of the Franciscan priests. 

Did you see something wonderful this week? Close at hand or far from home... it's important to keep our artist eyes tuned in and turned on. 

Soy Batik Improvisation

Detail of Stop Fear. You can see the entire quilt at the International Quilt Festivals this year!

I've just been notified that my art quilt, Stop Fear (Homage to Sister Corita Kent) has made it into the juried SAQA exhibit, Text Messages. Yippee! This piece was principally designed using a large one-color soy wax batik that I made a few years ago -- and i've had such a good time working with it, that I'm itching to get back into the studio next week for a few day-long soy wax sessions. I am also sending out soy batik lessons this week on Joggles, part of my MORE TEXT ON TEXTILES online workshop. 

Sister Corita Kent has long been an inspiration to my work, and I can’t think of using text in art without thinking of her. This batik and, even more importantly, its message, speak of her influence on my life and in my work. I was first introduced to a version of traditional batik using beeswax and parafin mixture and inkodyes when I was in my 20s -- it must have been the first surface design technique I learned and the teachers were visiting Sister Corita students who worked with us in our creative arts for kids programs one summer -- maybe 1967 or '68?

Inkodyes are still around -- and they are VERY light and water fast -- but I had heard that their toxicity is higher than MX dyes, so I've left them alone in the past several decades -- the colors, too are hard to mix, since  -- kind of like ceramic glazes -- the color that goes onto the fabric is very different than the color that develops in sunlight as the dyes develop. However, this site with its app for making registered three color photo prints just might change my mind! This is what the site says about toxicity:

Our dyes and resist have been certified as having no chronic toxicity by an independent toxicologist. Our products conform to the Labeling of Hazardous Art Materials Act (Conforms with ASTM D-4236). We are committed to the health and safety of everyone who enjoys Inkodye, which is why we recommend using normal precaution to prevent unnecessary spilling, skin contact and ingestion. Children love to watch the magical color development, but should not use Inkodye unsupervised. Our dyes are water-based and only require household soap and water cleanup - we recommend that you wash your hands thoroughly after use and / or use gloves to prevent prolonged skin contact and staining! We recommend using the sun to develop your prints, but if you choose to iron wet Inkodye articles indoors please work in an environment with adequate ventilation! 

At any rate, if you do use inkodyes with soy batik, you can wash out the wax after the dyes develop without using an iron -- bound to be better for the lungs and environment. 

Basically, soy wax can be used as with traditional batik, but you can't immerse fabric without running the risk of it dissolving too much of your wax resist -- so the technique requires that you paint on your intense low-water type dye mix (including soda ash and urea to retard drying) and then batch under plastic, removing plastic to dry the fabric, then adding another layer of wax -- or you can wash out the soy wax between colors. -- hot water and detergent turns it into soy oil that washes down the drain. Alternatively use Inkodyes, according to directions.

(PS Thanks Nina-Marie for the invitation to add this link to your off-the-wall Friday posting!

Here are a few photos of the process:

You can also use an electric skillet. Be very careful with temperatures and keep a lid handy in case things get out of hand. Do not heat the wax so hot that it smokes. Fortunately soy wax fumes are not toxic or allergenic (as is the case with paraffin and bees wax fumes).

Another way to use soy wax is to use it with a thin paint, as I am doing here. Be sure the wax is hot enough that it makes the fabric a bit transparent looking-- the wax need to go all the way through the fabric.

You can take some of the wax out by ironing first -- if you use paint, you must iron it before you put it in the washer in order to set the paint, then put your fabric in hot soapy washer in the machine. Sometimes, with heavy wax applications, it may take two trips through the washer. 

Lights Above the City: Luminaria

San Antonio celebrated Luminaria this past Saturday night -- it's the annual free art free-for-all in the center of the city, taking up most of HemisFair Park with music, dance, visual arts installations and lots of illumination. The evening has its challenges and, inherent in the project, a sort of slap-dash feel to some of the offerings, but the 350,000 people who attended seemed pretty happy with the whole thing!

My favorite part of the evening is the lights, big theatrical gobos on many of the buildings, lit-up installations and illuminated window shows.  Here are a few photos from my iPad excursion:



Doerte Weber's Wonderful Weavings (recycled plastic bags).


Keeping Track of Art

OK, true confessions. I have never kept an inventory of my art work, submissions, sales or what is where. Never. This is pretty sad for an artist who has been making work, selling, showing and submitting (professionally) for the past 15 years.

Sure I have "sort of" records scattered about the internet and in my computer and photo files. But it certainly is not in one place. I even tried a few times to use some art inventory software and never found satisfaction. First of all, if you are an artist you don't want to use an ugly inventory. That's what I think anyway. If I can't stand the way it looks, I really have a hard time logging in to use it. That was the problem with several software packages I looked at, and even tried. Even my iPad app store couldn't come up with something I liked (if you must try one, the best seems to be Artwork Track -- it's ok but doesn't give you forms for all the data I wanted to include -- and you can only use it on the iPad, not on the desktop, and that much typing is not much fun for me on the tablet.)

Second, they never did everything I needed an inventory to do. Maybe you could add work and details and galleries and sales, but I never found one (until today) that would also track and integrate submissions to exhibits. Since much of the textile (art quilt, per se) world is visible and active through juried exhibits, submissions seemed to be a key need for me.

Third, some programs I tried crashed and burned, were painfully slow or over complicated in their entry formats, or seemed awfully expensive for what you got -- an ugly data base with either too little or too much customization necessary or available.

Thanks to artist friend Lisa Kerpoe, who posted a query on our Google Fiber Arts Community about needing such an inventory, and to my renewed sense of wanting to "get things done."  I reopened my search. First, the reviews I read,  (thanks, Lisa McShane) jived with my experiences. THEN, a link to a cloud based newish inventory system. (also on Lisa M's blog).

(Screen shot of an art piece page -- partial)

See the introductory video here

John Feustal was my guardian angel as I set up my site, and had prompt replies to my questions in an online chat. That was nice, too. 

We've had the site up and running for almost 2 years but have really seen a
lot growth in the past 6 months. The best thing our artists can do is to
tell others about Artwork Archive, so I really appreciate you writing a
blog post!

We try to keep things as simple and elegant as possible while still being
powerful enough to do everything our artists need. I think starting with
your most current work is a great approach, and just adding older pieces as
you get time.

There is a limited free trial, and two tiers of annual subscriptions. You can access on the web. Maybe next he'll make an iPad app!


Hoping for the Chance to Say THIS


Last month I submitted a piece for Lesley Riley's upcoming book of illustrated quotes. I was actually assigned a quotation from Lesley. That made it difficult to slack off and forget the assignment, let me tell you...

I ended up making two versions of my quote and sent them in. Sometime soon, we submittees will know the results, and sometime a little later, you'll have the opportunity to purchase the book, filled with ideas on how to use words of wisdom to inspire pictures worth those few words.

I've often said that my creative genius (P.S. that's NOT ME, see the TED TALK  below for what I mean) walks the tightrope between words and pictures. Both inform each other, and I'm not completely happy unless I am somehow honoring both in my creative life (waiting for said genius to blow through).

Lesley's newsletter is a great inspiration to my work, so if  you're not a subscriber, read this issue and see what you think!

And for more from TED on ideas, see this PLAY LIST at

Sun Prints Even in Winter?

My Joggles class this week features Sun Printing letters and text.  (Hint: use refrigerator magnets and foam letters) I love this process and often use the results in my work. This little altar piece above is part of a small series (so far) called Found Text. It's kind of a random improvisational way of working, where I find images and then words or words and then images in my stash, put them together almost like little visual poems. They aren't deep or profound, sometimes they are even whimsical, but they are works that make me happy -- not the least because I am making use of some fragments and bits and pieces that I  really like but that don't seem to fit into anything else I am doing!

But, I realized that for this online course, here I was suggesting sunprinting at a time when most of us can't use the sun for the results. Now, South Texas yesterday worked; it was about 85 in downtown San Antonio. But today, a Norther is upon us and the temps low, and more importantly, the wind is roaring, no way to keep shadows on a piece of fabric!

Here's what Pebeo, makers of Setacolor --one of the best  paints to use for this process -- recommends:

"If the sun is not reliable there are other options. Heat lamps such as those used by restautants", grow lights (I'm sure you have one) and I say, just use those metal work lamps mounted close to your fabric. Don't go off and leave these, any could cause a fire if the bulb fell on the fabric or it got too hot. But you will get the results if the humidity is low. High humidity, too? Better wait until August!

Some other tips gathered here and there for sunprints:

Sprinkle the surface with salt

Use complementary color washes of your thinned out paints

Rubber band fabric, spray with paints and leave in the sun for an interesting variation of tie dye


The Next Generation of Fiber Artists

I spent a few hours last night at Carnahan Elementary School's annual Art Fair. This was my third year to participate -- I think they keep asking me because I don't complain about being situated next to the very loud, and youthful, rock-n-roll band that takes up the last hour or so of the event!

Seriously, I like to participate because this gathering is such a hopeful and creative one -- lots of people there with kids, taking time to be with them with no screen in sight. And, this school is such a United Nations of diversity -- its good to see that our country is still one of great hope, of people here from around the world, of parents who care for their kids and who take time to visit the school, hold their hands, scoot up the jacket sleeves to keep the paint off, and who oohh and awww over even very simple things!

Artist Susan Oaks and helper get ready for the hoards.

Thom Ricks signs his new book and wonderful posters!

The Hearts Have It.

Wishing you a heartfelt season of love, warmth and friendship! I love hearts of all fashions and materials. Here are just a few I found in my image collections!

Desert Heart, small art quilt with a cactus heart photographed in Big Bend

Gini Garcia's glass hearts -- you can buy these at her studio and gallery in San Antonio.


A series of "accidental hearts" I made with some deconstructed printed fabric.

iPad art heart -- El Corazon





It's in the Bag: in*ter*face

Mandala made by Austin artist Virginia Fleck from recycled plastic bags; this design (as well as several others) is also a free ecard you can send!


SDA (Surface Design Conference) is holding its conference here in San Antonio. Find out more here. 

I hope you are planning to come to the conference this June. The lineup of speakers and workshops is fabulous. My pre-workshop study tour to see embellished Fiesta gowns -- and a stop by SDA president Jane Dunewold's new studio -- is already filled! But lots of fun is still to be had.

Meanwhile, start making an upcycled bag to share, trade and make famous. The whole upcycling by artist world is a rich one, and you can join in with this little collective -- and social -- project.

IT'S IN THE BAG! from SDA President Jane Dunnewold 
Interface logo
WHAT IS SNAG-A-BAG? We're all very aware of waste in the studio. So I got the idea to take those bags we all have hanging around & up-cycle them to create
re-purposed conference totes. 

Cynics may say it's just a way to save SDA money. But my vision includes inviting you to exercise your talent while stimulating new contact between SDA members AND making every SDA dollar count - all at once.

HOW? Bring an upcycled carry-all to in*ter*face conference & exchange it for a new one. The conference won't even have started and you'll feel good. Feel even better when you see your bag across a crowded room (Some Enchanted Evening?) & slide on over there to talk it up & introduce yourself as The Artist Who Made the Bag. I can hardly wait to see this happening in San Antonio!

LOCAL BAG ACTION! We're already allover this in Texas. So why not PLAN A UPCYCLING EVENT for your local SDA friends & colleagues? SendSnag-A-Bag Conference Totes an invite. Pool your supplies. Rev up the sewing machines. This could be even bigger than the conference! Spend a morning transforming some bags then bring/send them to San Antonio. Your creativity will boost our collective economy. Bags not snapped up by conference attendees will be sold on SDA website - with proceeds going to support member programs. 


For some truely inspired plastic bag art (way past bags) take a look at the work of Virgina Fleck (photo above from her website). I'm hopeing it will inspire my attempts -- using bags collaged on bags!

From her website:

Since 2002, Virginia Fleck has been working exclusively with recycled plastic bags creating site specific, ecologically conscious art works that have been commissioned for several high profile, green building projects including the US Embassy in Rwanda, Whole Foods World Head Quarters in Austin TX, LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis TN and Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin TX -the first hospital in the world to attain LEED platinum certification. Fleck is a featured artist in the book, recently published by Random House:  Craft Activism: People, Ideas, and Projects from the New Community of Handmade and How You Can Join In.

 Fleck was born in New York City. She began making artwork in childhood and eventually studied at two art schools: Portland School of Art in Portland, Maine and at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.  In 1990 Fleck moved to Austin, Texas where she continues her work as a visual artist.


And for more amazing art made from recycled materials, close to home at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio see Anita Valencia's installation inspired by West Texas, completely from recycled stuff. The show closes on Sunday, so hurry, hurry. (By the way, for any of you complaining about your age out there, Anita is 80.)

This week is the final week you can see Anita Valencia's Sun She Rise, Sun She Set & You Ain't Seen Texas Yet; Justin Boyd's Days & Days; and Juan de Dios Mora's Laters! at the Southwest School of Art.

The final day to see Mora's exhibition at the Ursuline Campus is Friday, Feb. 8. The gallery closes at 5pm. The final day to see Valencia and Boyd's exhibitions at the Navarro Campus is Sunday, Feb. 10. The galleries close at 4pm


PS If you are not going to the conference, you can also recycle unwanted conference bags here:!individual

PPS: VIrginia Fleck has an opening in South Austin tonight:

Snapguide How-To


From a message on Quilting Arts list from Jane Davila:

"Has anyone heard of Snapguide? I'm a recent devotee and have just posted my second guide there. It's a website and app that hosts tutorials, or guides as they call them, on a wide variety of topics. The audience is growing exponentially (over a million in less than a year), and unlike Pinterest, the guides can only be posted by the creators not brought from other sources (eliminating pesky copyright quandaries). But like many social networks you can favorite, share, follow, and comment. The interface to create a guide is elegant and very simple. You can add videos and photos along with text for your guides.

So my thinking is the stronger and more interesting the guides are there, the bigger the audience will become, attracting more high quality guides, attracting more readers, and so on. It was started by some big names in tech and has financial backing from some very savvy tech investors. It is viewable on the web and as an app on the iPhone or the iPad....I wrote a blog post about it and included the links to the 2 guides I wrote. One guide is to make matchbook art notepads and the other is how to transfer images using Citrasolv natural solvent.

I too have made a little snapguide on using some iPad apps to make snowflake designs (great for thermofax designs, too).

I really like the site and understand their financial need to make it work as a social platform (Hey, I don't listen to Seth Godin for nothing -- his STARTUP SCHOOL podcast is amazing if you think about your art business as a start-up). I admit, I would find it great to be able to use Snapguide for private guides as an option, so I coul duse it as an online course!

The interface is really fun, fast, painless and idiot-proof (I am said idiot), and the format makes it easy to use just the right amount of text with your images. Take a look! Add your own ideas, too. I do think they will make it to scale with this idea because the interface is so easy, so nice to look at and, by now, there are a crazy wild assortment of guides being posted!

Here's the link to my Snapguide --


How to Get Unstuck. Part 2

A video suggested by Rachel!


I polled other artists about their unsticking strategies and what a flurry of responses! I love all these ideas and comments. Thanks to you all and anyone else whom I missed on this roundup -- I'll keep adding. This is starting to look like a great article.

Michele Lasker says: 

I have been watching the multitude of DVDs I bought from Interweave and Double Trouble for inspiration and it seems to be working. It's hard to get going after the holidays.

I find that when I get stuck it's typically because there's been an interruption in my normal flow of work. usually it's because I just finished a major project (a typical project for me takes eight months to a year, so finishing one is a Very Big Deal) and need some time to get my head unwrapped from the project - there's a bit of a grieving process as I come to terms with the end of my (working) relationship with the piece, and I usually feel pretty emotionally drained by the time I finish.

Tien Chiu says:
Personal blog:

I typically do two things:

(1) Embrace boredom. That sounds really bizarre, but I've found that when my Muse has fled, it's because she needs a vacation. So I accept that I'm going to be bored and relatively unmotivated for a couple ofdays - it's part of the natural creative cycle for me. So instead of kicking myself about it, I let myself wander aimlessly about for a few days. Read books, clean up the kitchen, etc. I loathe being bored, but sometimes I need "time off" to recharge. In my experience trying to jumpstart faster doesn't work and just gets me more frustrated.

(2) Once I start feeling intensely bored (as opposed to bored and depressed), I start flipping through my idea notebook (mine is online, but they can be physical too), books on technique, books of swatches from sample exchanges, etc. I think of it as "teasing the Muse" - if you roll enough balls of tinfoil past a young cat, sooner or later its tail is going to start twitching and it will pounce. I figure the idea notebook and other idea sources make great balls of tinfoil for my Muse, so I simply parade ideas past her until something catches her/my fancy.

And after that, it's off again!

Barb Hilts says:

Me, I clean, which I do after every big project, Christmas included. Cleaning, puts things in order for another project. Out of the cleaning, ideas resurface.

Creative blocks are a period of growth. A dear friend of mine would suggest to work through the blocks in any creative medium, and your new path will emerge. 

From Barbara Schneider: (

I watch DVDs of other artists and try to use that time to go to Art Institute or somewhere like that. The Art 21 series on PBS is wonderful. I think there are 7 seasons worth of those with interviews and videos of artists in all kinds of mediums. It's a great way to see a variety of things and get out of your head for awhile. 

And then I clean the studio which always leads to something.

And Lisa Kerpoe chimes in from nearby:

Ha! We're thinking along the same lines. I just did a blog on creativity blocks and was planning to follow up next week with ways to overcome them! My favorite? I keep a drawer of unfinished items. Things that are fairly far along, but for some reason I just never finished them. I pull those out and start playing. That usually generates ideas that then work their way into other projects.
Lisa Kerpoe

And from Rachel in Arizona

This helped me when I was in the grip of the "Oh but I can't do art because..." monster and it gets me out of places where I'm not making any art, and I don't know why. It has also helped with the times I've gotten stuck because everything I make looks godawful and fit only to line the cat box. 

I read a book called Art and Fear, and it made me all indignant because in it somewhere it seemed to hint that I make a lot of excuses to avoid doing art. But but but my excuses are -- er my reasons, yeah that's it -- are all good exc-- reasons. I'm not feeling well! I'm feeling happy, so I should celebrate! I'm tired. I'm bored. I need to go to the store or I ought to clean the refrigerator. And on and on. And I began to have the sneaking suspicion that maybe I could somehow put all these important excuses aside for a little while and just make something. 

That alone didn't quite get me going, but I think it opened me up so that when someone sent me a link to a Youtube of writer Neil Gaiman's commencement speech to the graduating class at an art college, and I heard the following, a light came on and I started looking at art as something I maybe could do anyway: 

"Remember, whatever discipline you're in, whether you're a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a singer, a designer, whatever you do, you have one thing that's unique: you have the ability to make art. And for me, and for so many of the people I've known, that's been a lifesaver, the ultimate lifesaver; it gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones.

"Sometimes life is hard; things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: make good art. I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you're doing is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow; eventually time will take the sting away and it doesn't even matter. Do what only you can do best: make good art. 

"Make it on the bad days. Make it on the good days too. And . . . while you're at it, make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do." 

Or maybe it's just going back to that speech and listening to Neil reading that aloud. :) But sometimes a reminder of why I want to dye cloth is exactly what I need to sweep all the rubbish aside. 

JC at Wellstrong Gallery suggests:

The best advice I've received for coping with writer's block is to write anything. Write a shopping list, a thank-you note, etc. Writing a journal is different, because that's a continuation. Journals do it for some people, but not me. It needs to be something new, and original (the shopping list has to be considered (in its nature) to work, e.g., if for food, for a new recipe, rather than milk, eggs, bread).

I do the same thing to get unstuck in the studio. I have what I call "mindless sewing projects". It could be an old project that has all of the conceptualizing done but needs finishing work (new and original isn't as important, because just handling the art gets me in an art frame of mind), or it could be a "crafts" project like a baby quilt. Or maybe it's prep work like dyeing etc. fabrics. Basically, working is working, and if I just keep working, things start to flow and the ideas and inspiration just come.

My biggest block is a cleaned up workspace. I try to leave something that's ready to just pick and get going on, either on my table, or in a milk crate ready to dump out. That way there isn't any of that breaking into a tidy space reluctance.

And from June Steegstra

I find reading through my books (I have an extensive library) and magazines gives me lots of ideas to addapt for my own.  I usually have two or three projects that are waiting for me to begin.

Su Butler chimed in:

 I remedied it by going to a meeting with people who do entirely different work that I do...I am primarily a weaver and dyer, but the people at the meeting were quilters, paper makers, felters, thread painters etc.  It was terribly inspiring and really invigorated my creative senses.  I am working on a piece entirely out of my usual medium and adjusting to the learning curve, but facing it with tremendous freedom because I honestly don't know what I am doing wrong....and that reminds me of how I need to feel when creating without my own "world"........ and I am feeling more and more creative as a result.   I call this "shock therapy"....introduce something so new and unknown that only creativity can make it happen....even in my ideas are old hat to someone else, they are new to me and it is very helpful and satisfying.

Hope everyone can find a renewal of their creative freedom this year!

Where Do You Start with Art? Part 1

 A collection of ethnic textiles might be where you start.

One of the creative skills I will be taking my Southwest School of Art class through is that of making a study as a way to develop ideas and images for a series of art quilts. As we work though these ideas (the course meets weekly on Mondays from February 4- March 25) we'll be building a stash of ideas and information focused on one theme or topic. This is often the way I work on a piece of art for a submission when the theme is one that I am considering for the first time.

These notes were written by my Missing Alphabet colleague Dr. Cynthia Herbert, and were originally developed for our teacher training program in Dallas for our afterschool program (part of Big Thought). I've adapted them for artists, with her permission, and will share them here in a series of posts his week.


A STUDY is a sustained investigation of a single concept, thing, theme or idea. In a study, a child explores many, many different viewpoint, contexts and materials. The Sensory Alphabet is used as nine “lenses” through which to view the object of the study. After many explorations, the child expresses a personal definition or viewpoint through one or more original forms.


Current brain research and cognitive psychology tells us that human beings can only learn very low-level tasks and ideas through drill and rote memorization. For learning to be faster, longer lasting and of a higher order, each of us must “construct” our own personally meaningful definitions. Although we will all have common notions, the depth and variety of our experiences will determine the depth and dimensionality of our understanding.

For any one of us to be able to use a concept to solve problems, make decisions, express ourselves, and enrich our quality of life, we need a well-elaborated mental representation—a concept that looks very like a complex spider web of interconnected experiences and ideas. The STUDY makes the development and elaboration of mental representations an overt process that leads to “deep understanding” and “transference,” what has been called the “so what?” of learning. This is a valuable way to start an art project or any project that needs more than superficial responses.  

FORMAT: A study is divided into three parts: Priming, Invention and Reflection. Today, I'll list the kinds of activities that are part of priming. Some of these are more appropriate than others for the kind of thinking that art-making is about, but since we do all of these with kids in our classes, I'm listing them all!

PRIMING: Priming activities are intended to prepare each mind to be ready to construct (create)  his or her own definition of the subject being studied. Here are the first two ways to PRIME the mind (more coming next post).


Connect the subject with your former experiences, current feelings or opinions and curiosity. Write, journal or search through your collections, stash and memories to make a connection to the theme. IF you can't find a connection, this may not be a good topic for your art -- but most of us, give our lovely capacity for experience, have many connections to much of the world!

Observe and Collect.

Make direct observations and collections in regard to the subject. Focus observations using the Sensory Alphabet and physical "lookers"  to make notes or drawings. Sometimes new ideas for note taking are employed. Take photos, videos or recordings to project/replay and share and use all your senses.