Inspired by Nature… Created by Hand

Hi Friends!

Happy Autumn! (Happy Spring!) I hope you are feeling well and are safe from all of the wild weather as the seasons change. Our weather suddenly changed from hot and humid to delightfully cool just in time for the equinox!

My Midwest cottage garden is flourishing again after several rainy days. The perennials are showing off their white, yellow, pink, and purple blossoms. The herbs seem to have doubled in size overnight!

For the past week, however, I have only been able to hobble through the garden a few, short times. I fractured a bone in my left foot and will be spending the coming weeks wearing an orthopedic shoe while the broken bone heals. My foot definitely lets me know whenever I have taken a few too many steps! Ouch!😢

Time in the garden has always filled me with creative inspiration while healing my heart and soul. No wonder that the garden is my favorite place to be! Nature’s colors, patterns, and shapes inspire my use of inks, papers, stamps, dies, watercolors, and more…

Bunnies are always welcome to nibble the clover, Creeping Charlie, and wild violets from our ‘meadow’ lawn. Recently, a few bunnies have been visiting my little Paper Garden studio downstairs, too.


Gratitude + Tag dies (Papertrey Ink)
Bunny stamp + die (Colorado Craft Company)
Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ attracts so many pollinators! I refill the nearby bee bath daily to encourage the busy pollinators to linger in the garden.

The pollinators have been so busy in the garden all Summer long. They have been making an appearance on my handmade cards recently, too.

Honey Bees dies + Honeycomb Corners die (The Greetery)
Sentiment stamp (Papertrey Ink)

What could be sweeter than using a dried ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea blossom, in place of a bow, on a gift for a dear gardening friend?💕

Oh, how the bees love the blossoms of Obedient Plant and Sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’

Our ‘Hidcote’ Lavender in bloom inspired me to add Lavender stems to handmade cards. I even tucked a few paper stems inside each card!

BotanCuts Lavender + Garden Gear: Gloves dies (The Greetery)
Seed Catalog background stamp (The Greetery)

Do you wear garden gloves? I always wear them while I play in the garden and somehow, I still get muddy hands.😉

These lovely Hollyhocks are blooming along my neighbor’s fence. We look forward to sharing our Hollyhock seeds with one another soon!
BotaniCuts Hollyhocks dies (The Greetery)

I’m really looking forward to harvesting herbs in the coming weeks. I’m going to experiment with an easy, very clever way to dry a few of the herbs. (I’ll report back soon.😊) Herbal inspiration is already on its way to my Paper Garden studio!

Just the other day, as I hobbled past our ‘Autumn Blaze’ Red Maple tree, I spotted the first red leaf nestled in the grass. Very soon, there will be watercolored leaves in my sketchbook and miniature twig wreaths created with ink and paper in the studio. I’m also dreaming of tiny, paper, patchwork quilts! So cozy!

Nurturing my ‘inner second grader‘ helps my creative spirit to blossom!🌸

Last week, I began my fourth consecutive Creative Cluster book study for The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Over the next twelve weeks, our large group of artists from all disciplines will continue to grow as we travel along our creative paths. It feels like such a blessing to nurture our creativity in community with so many talented artists seeking joy!

You might enjoy the Artists for Joy podcast, with Merideth Hite Estevez, our very talented facilitator/coach/musician/writer/friend! (You can find it wherever you listen to podcasts. Always inspiring!)

🌻Thank you so much for visiting today!

What excites you most with the change of season?

🌻Hope you will share with all of us in the Comments!

Perennially yours,

💗 Dawn

Words of Wisdom

Hi Friends!

Oh, how I love words! It has been a lifelong love affair. I can still remember hours spent pondering just the right word while writing poems in a tiny spiral notebook as a child. On my favorite bookshelf in our living room, right next to our green and white World Book Encyclopedias, my very wise mother had thoughtfully placed a book of Bartlett’s Quotations. I really enjoyed looking through this special book of important words over the years. You can only imagine the boundless JOY that I felt when I unwrapped my very own hardbound copy of Roget’s Thesaurus as an eighth grade graduation gift from my very perceptive Aunt Gilda! I felt so grown up as I studied its pages searching for the perfect synonyms and antonyms.

As the years passed, a passion for ink, markers, and paints also captured my heart. After college, I began studying calligraphy, carefully practicing the strokes that would form each letter. Using my dip pens and bottles of ink for hours made for relaxing evenings. However, there had to be a more interesting way to practice than writing “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” (A silly English sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet). 😉

My calligraphy practice in the 1980s

My love of words saved the day! I began collecting quotations to hand letter and carefully copied my favorite quotations into journals of all sizes. As the years went on, I organized these words of wisdom into interesting categories ~ love, family, friendship, travel, home, garden, children, art, writing, seasons, meditation, … (I’m enjoying looking through the pages of my quotation journals today as I write this blog post.💕) They are still my special treasures! Although I have a Pinterest board filled with quotations and more quotations saved on Instagram, when I need favorite quotation I tend to look back in my journals to find the perfect words of wisdom.

Very often, as I write a letter, I begin with a meaningful quotation at the top of my writing paper. I also love to hand letter a quotation on the back of the envelope. My handmade cards often have a special quotation inside that makes the perfect sentiment!

As we planned our wedding ceremony, we chose favorite Bible verses and quotations from the Persian poet, Rumi. The walls of my elementary classroom always had large, hand lettered quotations from children’s literature, famous leaders, and sweet quotations from my own students.😊

For the past eight years, a favorite Wordsworth quotation has been the tagline of my blog. Often, my blog posts feature a favorite quotation carefully placed on a photograph. I compose many of my photo shots to allow space for words of wisdom.

Oh, how I love words!

Years ago, my life was made even sweeter when I discovered a very special kindred spirit! My favorite author and artist Susan Branch loves words and has been collecting quotations for years and years. Susan hand letters and watercolors her favorite quotations so beautifully. (Susan Branch has always been my inspiration for my little blog!💗)

Susan Branch, via Zoom, in April 2022

In April, Susan invited her devoted ‘Girlfriends’ into her home, on Martha’s Vineyard, (via Zoom) to share her latest book project. She truly believes, “Quotations give us the power to change our world.”💗 Susan shared her huge binders containing her artwork and collected quotations with us! Excitement was building as she announced the title of her latest book…

Hot off the press!

Just one week ago, my pre-ordered copy of Distilled Genius (The Illustrated Secrets of Life) arrived in our mailbox. What a treasure! Susan’s beautiful hand lettering and charming, watercolored illustrations make her collection of life-changing quotations a feast for both the eyes and the heart!💕 It was printed right here in the Midwest, on lovely, cream-colored paper, with Susan’s signature, ribbon bookmark.

Distilled Genius begins with a heartwarming Preface followed by twenty carefully curated chapters of wonderful quotations. An avid reader and lover of words, Susan has included quotations from literature, films, music, and famous people throughout history. I’m delighted to discover many of Susan’s own inspiring words of wisdom sprinkled throughout the 272 delightful pages.

One might expect that a devoted Susan Branch fan would quickly read her newest book from cover to cover. Although I have thoroughly enjoyed looking at many of the chapters, I am intentionally taking my time as I enjoy Distilled Genius! I am savoring each page, quotation-by-quotation. Sometimes with a cup of tea, often on our front porch accompanied by birdsong in the morning or the song of the cicadas on a summer evening. Reading this beautiful volume filled with words of wisdom deserves the gift of time. I know that when I come to the end, it will be such fun to start all over again!💕

My heart keeps whispering that Distilled Genius would be the perfect book of quotations for every home during these confusing, unsettled times. I can just imagine a child growing up now, who also loves words, reaching for this inspiring book! (Hint ~ holiday shopping!)

In a bit of magical synchronicity, just a few weeks ago, I saw Susan’s social media post from her travels in England. She announced that she was planning a U.S. book tour with booksignings at a few small, independent bookstores.

A favorite quotation from the German poet, Goethe, came to mind immediately. I dreamed of the chance to visit with Susan Branch for a fourth time! I should try to make that happen…

My fingers were shaking as I quickly messaged Susan Branch on Instagram and sent her an email. I took a deep breath and emailed Sandy, the owner of Prairie Path Books, in Wheaton, Illinois, to let her know that Susan was looking for a few bookstores to visit. I had always thought that they would be a perfect match!

Then I held my breath…

Susan was very happy for the suggestion. It turns out Sandy is also a huge Susan Branch fan. She emailed Susan immediately with an invitation. The very next day Sandy told me that the booksigning was officially confirmed!

Sandy’s newest display at Prairie Path Books!

The news spread rapidly among the Susan’s devoted ‘Girlfriends.’ 😊The tickets for the August 10th booksigning sold very quickly! I offered to help Sandy prepare for the big day. This is a very tricky time to be planning an event, with Covid numbers in the RED zone in our area. Susan will wear a mask and I hope that all of the guests will also wear masks, too. 🙏🏼 🙏🏼 It is such a little thing that we can all do that makes a BIG difference for everyone’s health and safety!

I’m going to enjoy this rainy afternoon with a cup of orange spice tea, words of wisdom from Distilled Genius, and a happy heart. 💖

Thank you so much for stopping to visit! 💕 Stay well, friends!

Warmest hugs,

💗 Dawn

Creative Growth

Hi Friends!

The month of May has always been my happiest month in the garden. I just love watching the daily growth in my perennial and herb gardens. Last week, I took great delight in planting containers of annuals for our front porch and added a few tender herbs to my Herb & Tea garden. Our abundance of rainy days blessed the garden… and the gardener!

On the days when Mother Nature was watering my garden, I retreated to my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. It has been necessary to intentionally plan small, daily steps to nurture my creative growth for quite a while now. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron stresses the importance of ”filling the well” to help artists who feel creatively blocked. It was most definitely time to fill my creative well. Little-by-little, step-by-step Springtime arrived in the Paper Garden, too!

On the first day of my special project, I spent hours happily die cutting, layered stamping, and adding highlights with Prismacolor pencils. After several hours, colorful tulips filled my art table. Over the following days, baby’s breath, pussy willows, and cherry blossoms emerged. Ahhh, Springtime! With no pressure to design, the pure joy of creating began filling my creative well… and my heart!

All of these stamps and dies are from The Greetery.

With tiny pots full of Springtime blossoms, it felt almost like being in a flower shop choosing stems to create a bouquet for someone very special. Oh, what fun to clip together tiny paper bouquets! No stress, just pure joy!

Then it was time to fill my tender heart in a very special way…

Mother’s Day was coming… and this would be my very first Mother’s Day without my dear, sweet mom, Darlene. I just knew that Mom would love my plan! I could feel her smile.💕 This May, I decided to celebrate three very special young moms who have become such an important part of my life.

Especially for Ada’s mom 💗

I have known Ada’s mom for a very long time!! She was a student in my first grade class and my second grade class so long ago! For several years, she would come back to help me during her recess time. For many Summers, I looked forward to a very special picnic with her family. During her college years, Ada’s mom would drive over to visit us. She enjoyed picking her favorite ‘tea’ leaves from our Herb & Tea garden and sipping tea together on our front porch swing. My husband and I felt so honored to be guests at her wedding! Ada’s mom now works as a speech pathologist and spends her days helping seniors with Alzheimer’s and other speech therapy needs. She is also working on her PhD in clinical speech pathology. This month, Ada’s mom celebrated her first Mother’s Day! I look forward to meeting little Ada very soon.💗


Especially for Elijah’s mom 💗

Elijah’s mom has been a very special part of our family for three years already. In fact, she is in many of our treasured family photos! She works so hard with everyone at the senior living community where my dad lives. She loved my mom and my mom loved her! Elijah’s mom helps everyone living there feel right ‘at home’ each day. She is always so cheery, whether she is busy at her desk, helping serve meals in the dining room, or running to someone’s apartment to help out. I love to hear stories about Elijah’s day in kindergarten, his current favorite activities, and their family celebrations. Elijah’s mom and I have become ‘sisters.’ (I always dreamed of having a sister.) My ‘sister’ always brightens my day… and gives the biggest hugs! 💗

Especially for Emerson’s mom 💗

I have only known Emerson’s mom for a few short months, yet she has become a true blessing in my life! We are most definitely creative, kindred spirits. Emerson’s mom is the Bereavement Coordinator for the hospice that helped my mom so much last September. When I reached out for grief counseling for my tender heart following the sudden loss both of my brothers to Covid and my sweet mom to an unexpected medical issue, Emerson’s mom entered my life. Her extensive education, experience as a chaplain, and work in the fields of bereavement and spirituality enable her to help children through seniors who are grieving the loss of loved ones. We both enjoy sharing our thoughts and creativity with one another. When I asked her for homework assignments, she began suggesting truly meaningful activities that tap into my creativity in so many ways. I love hearing about her family life and seeing photos of Emerson! She just celebrated her second Mother’s Day! Emerson’s mom and I have been meeting together via Zoom, but we are both looking forward to meeting in person in June. I truly look forward to our growing friendship in the years to come! 💗

How do you fill your creative well when you have difficulty getting started on a project or hobby that you love?

Hope you will share with us!

Wishing you healthy, happy Springtime (or Autumn) days!

Take time to nurture your tender heart, too.💗

Perennially yours,

💗Dawn

An Invitation…

Hi Friends!

It has been quiet here for much too long. I have really missed you! 💕How are you? I hope you are warm, safe, and healthy in your little corner of the world. We are well here and taking extra-good care of one another. Everything seems to require so much more careful planning these days, doesn’t it? I really miss the good old days of spontaneity, traveling, and gathering with groups of friends in person.

Last year, I felt so very fortunate to connect with a truly wonderful community of artists through ArtistsForJoy.org and the Lumina Arts Incubator. Oh my, it felt amazing!! Artists of all kinds gathered, via Zoom, on Tuesday evenings to share a powerful, encouraging journey together. This international group included musicians, writers, photographers, potters, performance artists, painters, glass artists, songwriters, poets, quilters, mixed media artists, card makers (like me!), and so many more. Our 13-week Creative Cluster welcomed aspiring artists as well as professional artists. Everyone was so supportive and understanding as we all traveled along our interesting creative paths.

In recent years, I had slowly felt my creative well running dry. Creativity has always been an important part of my life and I knew that it was time to ‘fill the well’ so that my creativity could flow joyously again!

The key to my creative recovery was already sitting right on my bookshelf… just waiting to be read! Published thirty years ago, Julia Cameron’s groundbreaking book on creativity, The Artist’s Way, held the inspiration, necessary tools, and tasks I would need to find creative joy again. Although I had attempted to read it on my own, The Artist’s Way is meant to be worked through in community with other artists.

Last February through May, I could ever-so-slowly feel my creative spirit returning as our Creative Cluster met each Tuesday evening to explore our relationships with our own creativity. Reading one chapter of The Artist’s Way each week, writing daily Morning Pages, planning a weekly Artist Date, and trying a few of Julia Cameron’s introspective weekly tasks lightened my heart and taught me so much about my own creativity. 💕

Throughout the Summer months, I continued to write Morning Pages and plan occasional Artist Dates. In the Fall, I joined the next Artists for Joy Creative Cluster for another 13-week exploration of my creativity. Several artists also participated again, along with many, many artists new to our group. Oh my, I made so many more new discoveries about my own creativity as I worked through The Artist’s Way a second time!💕

Julia Cameron writes that Morning Pages are “the trail we explore and the trail home to ourselves.” Julia reminds us that “an Artist Date need not be expensive. The point is that it feels fresh and exciting to you.” Many of my Artist Dates happened right here at home! It felt so healing to play with watercolors in a sketchbook on a sunny, Winter afternoon. These uncertain times have a way of even changing the ways we nourish our creativity.

Now I’m eagerly awaiting the start of the next Artists For Joy

Creative Cluster and…

YOU are invited to join us! 😊

Our new Creative Cluster begins in February. The sessions will be held on Tuesday evenings from 7:00-8:30 EST, via a secure Zoom meeting. This 13-week adventure will run from February 15th through May 10th. There is no cost to participate. Participants are required to purchase their own copy of The Artist’s Way. (I’m using my older edition and it works just fine, too.)

We begin each Zoom session with a 30-minute group activity. Then we are randomly assigned to Breakout Rooms of 3 or 4 participants for 30 minutes to discuss the weekly topics, tasks, our discoveries, successes, and challenges. Finally, we gather again as a whole group for 30 minutes for a thoughtful creative activity. Each week, I leave with renewed spirit and gratitude for the chance to grow in new ways!💕

Our wonderfully, talented facilitator is Dr. Merideth Hite Estevez (Director of the Lumina Arts Incubator). Merideth is a Juilliard trained professional oboist, a podcaster, a creative coach, and is currently writing her first book on creativity. Most importantly, she would want you to know that she is a busy wife and mother of two delightful young children! Merideth brings joy to our weekly gatherings.

You can ‘meet’ Merideth on her inspiring podcast, Artists for Joy, available wherever you listen to podcasts. Each episode is definitely worth a listen. I enjoy listening in my little Paper Garden studio while I work.

You can register for The Artist’s Way Creative Cluster at:

ArtistsForJoy.org

No matter what creative passions fill your heart and soul, you will grow through Julia Cameron’s wisdom and guidance as you explore your creativity in a most welcoming community!

⭐️ Update: Follow the link above if you would like to reserve your space in the Fall Creative Cluster. It will begin in September 2022. Hope you can join us!

I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about the Creative Cluster. I look forward to hearing all about your current creative projects. Do you ever feel ‘stuck’ creatively? What do you do to ‘fill your well’ creatively? Hope you’ll share with us!

Thank you so much for stopping to visit today. I’m really happy to begin blogging and visiting my blog friends again. You always inspire me!💕

Take extra-good care,

💗 Dawn

P.S. In the blog archives you will find many posts about my creative journey!☀️

Small Moments

Hi Friends!

Happy International Women’s Day! I’m so glad that YOU stopped to visit with us today. The nicest people, from across the globe, always seem to find their way here. Yesterday, we had visitors from the U.S., UK, Ireland, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, France, South Africa, Canada, and Brazil. It fills my heart with joy to know that you spend a few moments of your busy day in this little corner of the internet! Whether you are a longtime friend or this is your very first visit, I hope you feel ‘at home’ here.

I have been contemplating some small moments that I want to remember as the weeks pass. Today, in my Midwest garden, there are only a few small snowpiles remaining. In January, we had 22 inches (56cm) of snow. February brought us 22 more inches (56cm) of snow! Shoveling snow became my regular ‘workout’ for a few weeks. With a desire to play in all that snow, I couldn’t wait to build a snowman (actually, a snowlady!).  😉

Meet Rosemary, the snow gardener! 🙂 She was named for my favorite herb and enjoyed wearing my straw, garden hat over her dried Hydrangea tresses. Each time I peeked out the window, Rosie was smiling back at me! To her good fortune, an Arctic plunge kept temperatures below 0 degrees for days on end.

With several more inches of glittery snow, Mother Nature dressed Rosemary in a flowing wedding gown. We will always remember her nice, long visit and all of the joy she brought us!

Last week, I gratefully put away my warmest, woolen mittens. As the snow melted, I happily noticed a most welcome sign of Spring during my daily walk through the neighborhood. It definitely put a smile in my heart and a spring in my step!

It just amazes me how these delicate Snowdrops can withstand the weight of so much snow cover! In our garden, the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is showing its foliage. The Daffodils are already three inches tall. The buds on the Lilac, and Rhododendron are swelling. True signs that Spring is just around the corner!

The Magnolia buds have me dreaming my garden dreams as I wait. In fact, I have been thinking about mulch this week as I ponder a few changes to the garden. 😉

This is already my tenth year of choosing ‘One Little Word’ to guide me throughout the year. This year’s word  reminds me of the many ways to add S P A C E to my life. On the first page of my 2021 Self-Care bullet journal, my new word is surrounded by all of my previous ‘words.’ I continue to call upon all of these ‘words’ day after day!

As I continue to work through The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, I have been reflecting on Creative Space and the ways that I incorporate creative rituals, inspiration, nature, and sensory experiences into my little Paper Garden studio downstairs.

 

For my Artist Date last week, I added touches of Springtime to my Self-Care bullet journal. The dot grid pages are filling up with creative affirmations, studio rules, and my creativity contract. Little-by-little, step-by-step, I can feel tiny, meaningful changes happening in my creative soul. I always look forward to our Tuesday Creative Cluster gatherings, via Zoom. Creativity is such an important part of my healthy lifestyle!

This year’s valentine for my sweet husband used non-traditional colors for a more natural look.

I never remember to photograph the inside of my handmade cards before I write in them! (So, I used a few seashells to hide the personal words here. 🙂 ) My cards are always embellished on the inside as a special treat for the recipient.

Distress inks and more stamps and dies from The Greetery helped me to create a collection of winter sprigs.

It was such fun to fill a tiny, stoneware pitcher with winter berries and greens for my parents. It won’t be long until things start to ‘bloom’ in my Paper Garden studio. Springtime usually arrives a bit early there! 🙂

Last week, I was blessed with the BEST small moment of all! It truly felt like a Red-Letter Day!!

After weeks and weeks of searching unsuccessfully for a vaccine appointment, a wonderful, unexpected opportunity arose! Our suburb worked to provide vaccines for 970 Seniors (65+ years old). With support from the police and fire departments, city officials, several pharmacists, and many volunteers, they set up a one-day vaccine clinic to administer our first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Everything went so smoothly. We will all return in three weeks for our second dose of the vaccine!

As I headed home, my heart was overflowing with gratitude. My vaccine felt like a very big deal!! Each precious vial of ‘hope’ will help to lead us out of this pandemic if we all continue to do our part, by wearing masks, social distancing, and washing our hands! We cannot let our guard down yet… This week marks one whole year since we went on lockdown and began staying at home. Like so many of us, I long for the day that my whole family can gather together again!

I continue to be so very grateful for the diligent work of the scientists across the globe and those who volunteered in clinical trials, the dedicated doctors, nurses, and lab technicians (true unsung heroes), the first responders and the essential front-line workers whose personal sacrifices every day make a difference for us all.  I see you. I appreciate you. I honor you all!

Very often, the small moments take up the most room in our hearts!

♥ ♥ ♥

I’m thinking of you all

on this

International Women’s Day!

Stay safe and healthy!

With much hope,

♡ Dawn

P.S. Please let us know what small moments are bringing YOU hope right now. If this is your first visit, please say “Hi.”  We would love to meet you! 🙂

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Artist Date ~ A Walk Down Memory Lane

Hi Friends!

Warmhearted greetings! I hope that you are healthy, safe, and cozy today in your little corner of the world. I am still feeling wrapped in the warmth of last week’s Artist Date. It truly was a walk down memory lane, in the sweetest of ways!

One of the joys of my Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for retirement) is creating one-of-a-kind, handmade cards. It’s always such fun to surprise family and friends with these tiny pieces of my heart. My joy was doubled each time I mailed off a handmade card to my parents in Arizona. They felt like tiny, ‘paper hugs’ and kept us close in spite of the miles between us.

Every time I visited my parents in their lovely, desert home, I noticed my cards on display in places of honor ~ on the fireplace mantel, on top of my mom’s oak, rolltop desk, and in my dad’s Lionel train room. I often stopped to peek at my little works of ‘heart.’

Two years ago, when the time came to help my parents move back to our area, they surprised me with a very special gift. My mom filled a package with all of my handmade cards. What a treasure! I carried this very special package in my backpack on our flight back home to Illinois. Then I gently placed the package in a sunny, yellow, archival box on a shelf in my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. I looked forward to opening it when the right moment came along…

My first Artist Date of The Artist’s Way Creative Cluster felt like the perfect time! I gently carried the yellow box upstairs and enjoyed a sentimental walk down memory lane, as I carefully spread all of the cards on our dining room table. Although the sun was streaming in through the lace curtains, I’m certain that it was these ‘paper hugs’ that warmed my soul. There were so many handmade cards of all kinds created over six years. The insides of the cards were also decorated and filled with sweet sentiments and notes with news of the week.

My earliest cards were created right here at our dining room table using a Big Shot and a few embossing folders and dies. I can still remember the joy I felt as a brand new card maker!

My passion for patterned paper, dry embossing, buttons, and twine grew with each tiny creation. I only had black ink and blended chalk for a bit of soft color. With a lifelong love of lettering, I was so excited to collect sentiment stamps!

Early on, I adored dry embossing on patterned paper creating the feel of vintage, patchwork quilts. As my collection of stamps and dies grew, I was so grateful to set up a dedicated, creative space downstairs in our unfinished basement. Oh, how I loved carrying a big cup of tea (to warm my hands) down to my new Paper Garden studio!

I hung dried Hydrangeas and herbs from the ceiling rafters, added task lighting, tables, a rag rug, and music. Antique wooden boxes held many of my supplies. I felt so blessed to have a space to be messy and play for hours and hours. Newly retired, it was so nice to have ‘a place to go’ each day! Eight years later, my little Paper Garden studio is still a very special blessing in my life.

Wreaths, wreaths, and more wreaths! You will find a wreath on our front door, in the dining room, in the guest room, in the kitchen, on the deck, and on our garden gate. Simple, grapevine wreaths are my favorite. Soon they began appearing on my cards, embellished with die cuts and stamping. Die cut sentiments on my cards became a new passion. As my ink collection slowly grew, I loved to match ink and paper colors.

I was so inspired by Art Impressions Watercolor stamps. Oh my! Separate stamps for each tiny bit of foliage, flower, branch, container, tuft of grass, and creature provided endless possibilities. Watercolor markers, watercolor paper, and a No. 4 round brush let me create tiny vignettes to my heart’s desire. I grew more interested in light and shadow and composition. I will always remember sitting in my parents’ desert garden watercoloring tiny, desert scenes. I was inspired by Nature’s color palette, as we hiked in the Sonoran desert, and the colors of my Midwest perennial gardens for so many cards. I could feel my creative heart expanding as I stretched my skills. That year, I began packing a few art supplies whenever I traveled. There was always space for this precious cargo in my backpack… and I needed it with me! 🙂

Pure Innocence stamps and dies melted my heart and are still such fun to create with! They bring back memories of playing with paper dolls as a child. Creativity should feel like play! I began to pack die cut images, watercolors, Distress inks, and patterned paper for paper piecing whenever I gathered with creative friends for our monthly   paper crafting ‘Crops.’

Creating tiny cards and tags using die cuts, watercolors, dye inks, and Prismacolor pencils always makes my heart smile! They add the perfect touch tied onto a bouquet of garden flowers or fresh, baked treats for friends and neighbors.

My mom shared her passion for gardening with me so long ago. So, naturally, I love to add florals to her cards! Watercolors, layered stamping, and ink blending brought these colorful blossoms to life.

It is always fun to include my dad’s favorite things on his cards! Tools, antique telephones, classic cars, toy trains, and vintage motor scooters make him smile. I love the way he studies each card to figure out the techniques I used. 🙂

Over the past two years, I have taken great delight in hand-delivering so many handmade cards to my parents. It’s such a blessing to actually watch them open each card and smile! Their apartment has a growing display of my latest little works of ‘heart.’

This Artist Date brought back so many wonderful memories of the early years of my creative journey! It was a chance to reflect on the ways I have grown as a maker and a creative over the past several years. As I carefully tucked all of the cards back into the yellow box, I knew that a tiny bit of my heart remained in each card. It excites me to think of all of the new skills that lie ahead… just waiting to be explored!  🙂

I am so very grateful to be a part of The Artist’s Way Creative Cluster. It feels like one of the very best gifts that I have ever given myself! I wonder where this incredible journey will lead me next?

What are you busy creating at the moment?

Are you curious to explore any new creative skills?

♥ ♥ ♥

Hope you’ll share with us!

Thank you for stopping by today!

Our hearts are with all those affected by the terrible winter storms.🙏🏼❤️

 

Sending inky hugs!

Dawn

 

 

 

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A New Creative Journey

Hi friends! 

Welcome to all of our new friends, too! I am delighted that you joined us here in our cozy, little gathering place. I hope that today finds you enjoying small moments of self-care, nurturing yourself with hot tea in your favorite cup, and setting an intention for the days ahead.

Creativity has always been an important part of who I am… and who I am becoming. Just last week, I began a long-awaited, creative journey that truly feels like a river moving through me! It’s introspective, joyful, a bit scary😉, and filled with challenging opportunities to learn and grow. You’re invited to come along, from time to time, as I tiptoe down this new, creative path!

I feel so grateful to be a part of a (virtual) Creative Cluster exploring The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. For over twenty-five years, this best-selling book has been helping artists discover and nurture their creativity. We are a large group of creative souls ~ including writers, painters, musicians, poets, dancers, and many more. We work with paints, paper, fibers, wood, music, words, fabric, etc. For the next twelve weeks, our diverse group of creative souls from across the U.S. and other countries will gather each Tuesday, via Zoom, to explore Creativity as we work through The Artist’s Way course together.

Our wonderful leaders, Merideth and Vanessa, warmly welcomed us all as they skillfully guided us through an introduction to The Artist’s Way. We learned more about the key parts of this guided course in Creativity: weekly reading assignments, daily Morning Pages (three pages of handwritten journaling each morning), planning a weekly Artist Date (an intentional, sacred time to explore our inner artist), and completing some of Julia Cameron’s weekly tasks. We all committed to adding these important activities to our busy lives through mid-May!

Before long, we were all randomly assigned to ‘breakout rooms’ of three or four “soon-to-become-friends” for the next hour to explore several discussion topics. Within moments, two other artists and I met and discovered that we were kindred spirits! We shared our thoughts, plans, hopes, and dreams so easily. We had such interesting discussions about excellence vs perfection, making time for creativity in our very busy lives, sharing our creativity through blogging and podcasting… and so much more. What a joy to connect with other creative souls as we travel along this path! Our time together flew by so quickly as we shared inspiring books, poets, and podcasts.

As we gathered together as a whole group again to share our thoughts, it warmed my heart to see the faces of so many talented creatives in our new, artistic community! Soon it was time for each one of us to make our very own Creativity Contract, inspired by Julia Cameron. We made it official with a contract signing ceremony and a group photo! 🙂 The next day, I used a bit of Washi tape to attach my Creativity Contract to my Morning Pages journal.

 

Four years ago, I participated in a lovely, international book club to work through another very inspiring book by Julia Cameron, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again (an Artist’s Way Program for Retirees and Other Creative Souls). The tools we used to explore our creativity included Morning Pages, Artist Dates, Solo Walks in nature, and prompts for Memoir Writing. I was so blessed to meet my cherished friend, Vicky, in that book club. We continue to encourage one another as we travel along our creative paths. The distance between Illinois and New Zealand seems so tiny for kindred spirits! Blog posts about that Artist’s Way experience are: here, here, here, and here

It feels so nurturing to begin each day at my journaling desk writing Morning Pages again. I can already feel my creative inspiration ever-so-slowly returning. I’m really looking forward to planning Artist Dates each week! 🙂 They will just feel very different to me during the pandemic when so many public places are closed and we are staying at home. However, it will be a unique opportunity to s-t-r-e-t-c-h our creativity in many, new directions!

Julia Cameron cautions that this twelve-week path to creative recovery or discovery will raise strong emotional peaks and valleys, including joy, skepticism, giddiness, grief, resistance, and hope. Over the next three months, I’m hopeful that I will grow more resilient and confident as I develop the skills to make and execute my creative plans and dreams. From time to time, I look forward to sharing my progress with The Artist’s Way here on the blog. Our positive, encouraging, gathering place for kindred spirits seems like a cozy, nurturing space to share my new, creative journey!

If you are visiting from our Creative Cluster, I’m so happy that you stopped to visit! 🙂 Be sure to introduce yourself in the comments. We’d love to ‘meet’ you! You will find my introduction on the About page of the blog!

What creative projects are you planning or enjoying this week?

Be well! Stay healthy!

Heartfelt hugs,

Dawn

 

 

 

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Winter Gardening

Hi Friends!

Rabbit! Rabbit! Wishing you the very best as we begin this new month together! I hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy… and warm! Know that I am keeping you close at heart as February begins.

I’ve been singing this song for the past few days…

Today is the perfect day to take a little walk through my garden! In Illinois, we have been experiencing a snow drought due to warmer than usual weather throughout November, December, and most of January. Over the past few days, though, my garden has turned into a ‘marshmallow world.’  Last Tuesday, we had six inches of snow. A big snowstorm on Saturday and Sunday added at least ten more inches. (Just over 40 centimeters in all.)  Bundle up! Let’s take a walk!

Gazing at all of the snow covered buds on our Magnolia tree, near the front porch, gives me such a feeling of hopefulness.

With the snow almost to the top of my boots, I made my way to the backyard. The towering Pine trees look lovely with their heavy boughs frosted in white.

The huge Rhododendron (nearly my age) grew in my mom’s garden when I was young. Today it looks exquisite adorned with sparkling snow and tiny icicles. The large buds fill me with even more hope as I dream of the billowing, pink blossoms that await us!

The Yucca plants, cloaked in white, also were gifts from my mom’s garden many years ago. I’m dreaming of their tall spikes filled with cream-colored blossoms. In the words of garden writer Sydney Eddison, “Gardens are a form of autobiography.” So true!  I treasure all of the stories that my garden holds. They truly warm my heart… even on the coldest of days!

The Mason Bee house hanging from our deck has been decorated by Mother Nature, as well. Last year, we noticed that several new bees emerged as the warm weather arrived. I hope they enjoyed our colorful, old-fashioned perennials and the blossoms on our herbs and mint plants!

The snow reached over the top of my boots as I peeked into the ‘heart of my garden.’ My Herb & Tea Garden will always be my very favorite place to while away the hours, savoring the heady scents of the culinary herbs and mints for tea.

It looks like Benjamin Bunny was hopping through the garden very early on this first day of February! I have noticed so many different tracks in the snow the past week. In addition to the rabbits and squirrels, I spotted some unusual animal tracks in the snow. The neighbors on both sides of us have seen coyotes and red foxes in our yard recently!

♥ ♥ ♥

My garden is such a special blessing in my life all year long! While the garden sleeps, protected under a thick, white blanket of snow, I especially enjoy the blessings of my little Paper Garden studio downstairs. Ink, paper, watercolors, paintbrushes, stamps, dies, and stencils are my ‘garden tools’ as I enjoy winter gardening in the studio. It’s chilly downstairs, so I always bundle up and bring hot tea to keep me warm as I make cards.

The most wonderful stamps and dies, from The Greetery, keep me inspired to do a bit of winter gardening!

Sprigs of winter berries and mistletoe, created using layered stamps and Distress Oxide inks, are ready to fill tiny paper Mason jars, vintage bottles, stoneware pitchers, and watering cans for future cards. I just love the chance to gather garden ‘bouquets’ all year long! 🙂

I have also been creating tiny Shiplap boards to build backgrounds on cards. First, I blended Distress Oxide inks onto white cardstock. The Shiplap die (also from The Greetery) embossed the wood grain as it cut these little, wooden planks. It was so relaxing to create tiny wooden walls for upcoming cards!

Feeling creative during the pandemic has been a real challenge for me. Our lives have been turned upside down for almost a year now. So, I’m trying extra hard to spend some of my time at home creating more handmade cards. I’m certain that receiving a ‘paper hug’ in the mailbox will warm hearts… when we need it most! 

Are you finding it hard to be creative in this moment?

Have you been spending a little time in nature?                                                       

Are you already making plans to get your vaccine?                                                     

Hope you will share with us…  

♥ ♥ ♥

Take extra good care!

Warm, squishy hugs,

♡ Dawn

Togetherness…

Hi Friends!

Togetherness, during this year of change, feels so very different! Thankfully, we are all finding ways we can gather while we stay safe and healthy at home. Today’s letter is a very long one! You will need a cup of tea or perhaps some eggnog. 🙂 Get cozy, sweet friends! Hope you’ll enjoy…

Longtime friends of our blog know how much I cherish the hand-lettered words and beautiful watercolors of my very favorite author and artist, Susan Branch. Susan’s creativity has touched my heart ever since since 1986 when her very first book was published. Six years ago, Susan’s blog inspired me to enter the wonderful world of blogging. I always look forward, with immense joy, to the times I can gather with Susan and her Girlfriends. We always celebrate togetherness as the entire room overflows with creativity, kindred spirits, and kindness!

A few memories from a book signing with Susan Branch in 2013

I was overjoyed to meet (and hug!) Susan for the very first time at a small, independent bookstore during her cross country road trip to celebrate her book, A Fine Romance. New friendships made that evening continue to grow today. Long after most everyone went home, Susan and Joe lingered to chat with us about their travels in England as we gathered outside around their van.

A lovely tea party with Susan in 2013

Later that same week, Susan gathered with even more Girlfriends at a tea party in her honor in Wilmette, Illinois. It was such a treat to hear more stories about Susan and Joe’s travels in England. As we all waited in a very long book signing line, dear new friendships formed among kindred spirits. Of course, there were more hugs as Susan signed my books!

Another delightful tea party with Susan in 2016

Meanwhile, Susan wrote and illustrated the next two books in her wonderful memoir trilogy, The Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams. So, she and Joe celebrated with another cross country tour in 2016. There was an even bigger tea party, in Wilmette, Illinois in Susan’s honor! Kindred spirits reunited that day to celebrate deepening friendships as we met more new friends. Susan has a such a wonderful way of bringing us together. Of course, there were more hugs from Susan! She truly touched my heart with her ever-so-kind words that day. Oh my! I was so surprised when she told me that she enjoys stopping by to quietly read our little blog.   Kindred spirits!

Togetherness suddenly changed for us all this year. Throughout the Spring and Summer months, while she stayed at home, Susan worked extra hard on a new book in her home studio, on Martha’s Vineyard. She realized that we would all need a little ‘extra’ Christmas spirit THIS year!

My copy of Home for Christmas arrived, hot off the press, several weeks ago. I carefully tucked it away until the first week of December when I knew I would need a little ‘extra’ Christmas. What a delight!  Susan’s charming story of her very special family Christmas in 1956 will warm your heart, bring back fond memories of your own, make you smile, and might even bring a few tears.

As I read about Susan’s family Christmas, so many memories of our family Christmas celebrations in the late 1950s and early 1960s danced through my heart! I’m sure my parents will enjoy this little gem of a book, too. The past few days, I’ve been sharing some of my favorite family Christmas memories with my mom and dad…

Susan shared her memories of looking at Christmas decorations in their California neighborhood in 1956.

Our family loved to visit my Aunt Judy and Uncle Jimmy during the holidays. Their Chicago neighborhood was a Candy Cane Lane, too! I have such warm memories of bundling up for an after-dinner walk down their block on Christmas Eve. One house had a large glass case with a life-sized Santa Claus playing an organ! Christmas music drifted down the block as we walked and admired the twinkling lights and decorations at each house. It was a Winter wonderland! After our walk, we would sit in my aunt’s fancy living room (Do you remember plastic slipcovered furniture?), sipping Christmas punch (while trying not to spill it), and singing Christmas carols while Aunt Judy played the organ.

Susan shared her joy as her grandma arrived for the holidays!

Our special tradition was always to celebrate Christmas Eve with my dad’s side of the family. Each year, we would gather at a different home for a magical Christmas Eve celebration! Several years, we chose to celebrate a different country each Christmas Eve. One year, we had an old English Christmas, another year, we celebrated a French Christmas, and so on. I will always remember my Aunt Gilda (a wonderful artist, teacher, and world traveler) illustrating the invitations as I carefully helped her color them. We would tuck a special recipe into each invitation, so that each family could bring a special dish from the country we were celebrating.

We always celebrated Christmas Day with my mom’s side of the family. After we opened our stockings and our presents from Santa early on Christmas morning, we couldn’t wait for my grandma, aunts and uncle to arrive from the countryside. Their car was filled with big surprises for the entire family. My collection of dolls seemed to grow every December! Each year, there was someone new to love and care for ~ Tiny Tears, Chatty Cathy, Poor Pitiful Pearl, Barbie, Ken, Skipper, and of course, a Dawn doll, too. (Did you play with any of the same dolls?) My mom always made a delicious, traditional Christmas dinner. We couldn’t wait for her amazing Christmas cookies to appear on Christmas Day! She had been baking cookies for weeks and hiding them so that they would last until Christmas Day. (Shhh! I might have discovered Mom’s secret hiding place for cookies!) 😉

Susan’s sweet illustration of her grandma’s car brought back a flood of happy memories, too! We had the very same 1955 green Buick! We loved driving out to the countryside every other weekend in that car to vacation at my grandparents’ home along the Fox River. In the days before expressways, it was a very long ride for my younger brothers and me! Sometimes, we had to draw that ‘invisible line’ dividing the backseat to keep us all happy. Most of the time, however, we were content playing Auto Bingo, as we searched for cows and horses along the way.  Our biggest adventure with our old green Buick was our drive from Illinois all the way to California to visit relatives in 1960. Since our car didn’t have air conditioning, my dad bought a special air cooler to hang on the window for that five day drive out west. Along the way, we made frequent stops to fill the air cooler with bottles of water. (Do you remember air coolers on cars?)

Christmas ‘magic’ always fills me with childlike wonder!

Home for Christmas truly is the little ‘extra’ Christmas we dream of in 2020. As you take delight in Susan’s Christmas memories, you will savor so many memories of your own Christmas celebrations! What a gift to us all, dear Susan! Heartfelt thanks for stirring so many precious memories of togetherness to help us through this holiday season! ♥♥

Of course, Susan wasn’t able to come visit us all this year in celebration of her newest book. So, she planned several virtual gatherings of Girlfriends over the past few months. Her gatherings benefited a local senior center and several small, independent bookstores.

Visiting Beatrix Potter’s home was a dream-come-true for Susan!

In August, Susan invited her readers into her cozy kitchen, via Zoom, to share a slide show and some of her favorite memories from their trip through the English countryside that inspired A Fine Romance. What a delightful afternoon of togetherness!

In September, just as our copies of Home for Christmas arrived in our mailboxes, Susan gathered with us, via Zoom, to share some of her favorite family memories of Christmas 1956. Susan was in her kitchen and I sipped tea in our dining room, with a special feeling of togetherness.

Yesterday afternoon, 1,034 Girlfriends gathered with Susan Branch for a final gathering of kindred spirits this year.  It felt like a reunion as we chatted, via Crowdcast, while we waited for Susan. There were so many friends greeting one another from near and far! From her charming kitchen, the ‘heart of her home,’ Susan answered our questions, shared her dreams, and told us about the books she is currently writing and illustrating.  We are looking forward to her book of beautifully, illustrated quotations! (Just my cup of tea!) Susan is releasing the first chapter of her upcoming book, Enchanted. This very special book is an illustrated diary of Susan and Joe’s four-month adventure in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. (Can’t wait to read about their travels in Ireland!)

Huge thanks, Susan and Joe, for inviting us all into your home so many times this year! It’s always a very special treat to spend time with you. You inspire us and warm our hearts every time, Susan. Sending big air hugs! ♥♥

Heartfelt thanks for visiting with us today, sweet friends!

I look forward to gathering here again very soon.

We all need a little extra togetherness right now…

Be safe! Stay healthy!

Warmest hugs,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Please let us know if you have ever attended one of Susan’s gatherings!

P.P.S.  If you type ‘Susan Branch’ into the search bar in the blog Archives, you will find many posts about Susan. 🙂

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Winter’s Song

Hi Friends!

Winter’s song has been the soundtrack of our days here in the Midwest. While my perennial and herb gardens sleep under a blanket of white, I have been savoring the sounds of silence.

Whenever Mother Nature layers on another snowy blanket overnight, the scraping of a shovel and roar of a snowblower add to our early morning symphony.

Inside a peaceful lull warms my heart, as I peek through the white, lace curtains in the dining room window while warming my hands with a big mug of tea.

The comforting, familiar notes of Winter’s song continue as the tea kettle sings, the furnace hums, and our old, hardwood floors softly squeak underfoot.

Sunny Winter days cast silent shadows on the walls, as the temperatures outside plummet.

While Winter’s song serenades my garden beds as they sleep, my thoughts always turn to the ‘gift’ of my other garden ~ my little Paper Garden studio downstairs…

During the coldest months, it gets quite chilly downstairs in my studio. Before long my fingers and toes grow numb. So, on those days, I do all of my cutting downstairs, then gather up a basketful of inks, paper, stamps, and tools, and finish making cards upstairs on our sunny dining room table. 🙂

Inspiring supplies from The Greetery have warmed my creative heart all Winter long! Designer Betsy Veldman creates stamps and dies from her own paintings. This new, independent stamp company has quickly become my favorite!

It was fun to create tiny Winter vignettes using the BotaniCuts Pine Boughs dies from The Greetery. First, I die cut the pine needles from green cardstock. Then I sponged on Distress Oxide inks to add depth and texture. After die cutting the pine cones from kraft cardstock, I assembled the scales using Tombow Mono liquid glue to form each dimensional pine cone.

Finally, I added darker texture using Prismacolor pencils.

Tiny, woodsy vignettes made their way onto several one-of-a-kind cards.

Some cards brought warm wishes to faraway friends,

while others were hand delivered, with a big hug!

On another sunny, Winter afternoon, I found my inspiration in Betsy’s ‘Budding Beauties Winter’ stamps and dies. Usng a MISTI stamp positioner, I stamped Distress Oxide inks in layers to create sprigs of pine needles, winter berries, and mistletoe.

Next, I die cut the ‘Inside & Out Berry Branch’ from white cardstock to add a snowy feel. I die cut ribbons using the ‘Fit to Be Tied’ dies and sponged them with Distress Oxide ink.

Each one-of-a-kind card featured a different ‘Shape Shifters’ diecut shape from Papertrey Ink. The subtle background hearts were embossed using the ‘Drawn Hearts’ stencil from Simon Says Stamp, with an embossing mat and my Big Shot.

What a delight to create tiny botanical gatherings without stepping outside into our snowy garden! Winter’s song played on to the tune of footsteps running up and down the basement stairs to the Paper Garden to die cut and gather more supplies. (A nice, little workout, too! 🙂 )

Making cards is so heartwarming because I think of the recipient the entire time I am creating a card. Mailing off my cards, with personal notes enclosed to warm hearts, fills me with such joy!

 

My February bullet journal pages are also a celebration of my love for cardmaking, letter writing, and warming hearts near and far! 

The heartbeat of Winter’s song will play on for a few more weeks here in the Midwest…

but these Magnolia buds near our front porch remind me every day that my very favorite season is on the way! The birds have already been waking us with their early morning chorus. It won’t be long until I am humming a Springtime melody! 🙂

♥ ♥ ♥

Hope that you are carrying a song

in YOUR heart today! 

As always, I cherish your visit!

Thank you for being here!

 

Paper hugs!

Dawn

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