Featured Maker: Jill Maldonado

Featured Maker interview with Jill Maldonado Today we are excited to talk to Jill Maldonado of Material Rebellion! Jill specializes in using reclaimed textiles to make bags, pouches, journals, blanket fort kits and more all with the goal of encouraging kids to discover the power of their own creativity. She is also passionate about fighting the problem of textile waste in the fashion industry and has built a sustainable product line and business using all reclaimed textiles. We are so excited to learn more about her creative path and how she has grown her own creative business.

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?

I grew up on an island in the lakes region of Maine. After going to, then dropping out of college, I moved all over the country studying dance and choreography. Inspired by the moments contained within the dance, I picked up photography. That led to an interest in film, so I went back to school and got my BFA from NYU (and also met my husband). After graduating, I jumped into web development because there were practical matters to attend to and it was the beginning of the dot.com boom, so it was easy to enter the tech world and build a career there.

Most of my creative impulses were set aside until many years later when my children attended a Waldorf school. With an emphasis on educating children through their “head, heart and hands” the school had a wonderful handwork program. In each grade, the children mastered a new way of creating with their hands – from finger knitting in kindergarten to stained glass in their senior year. It was my great joy to help teach first graders how to knit (I learned right along side the kids since it was new to me.) Teaching and learning with the kids reawakened my creativity. That’s putting it mildly…it’s more like my creativity woke up like a hungry bear that had been in hibernation. It needed to be fed! Around the same time, someone gifted me with a used sewing machine. After spending three days (and many hours on YouTube) learning how to thread the machine, I taught myself how to sew. It didn’t take long before my creative drive outstripped my budget for fabric and I turned to my children’s outgrown clothes as a source of material for my projects. From there, I spent several years refining my techniques for repurposing materials from clothing.

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What do you make and sell?

I make thoughtful playthings that encourage kids to discover the power of their own creativity. My favorites are rainbow pencil rolls, blanket forts and covered journals.

What made you decide to take the leap and start your own creative business?

I was unhappy with my job and giving a great deal of thought to making a change when I met an amazing artist (she later became a good friend) who inspired me to get serious about my creative work. I really wanted to be a living example to my children of how we can forge our own destinies if we have the courage to step away from the path of least resistance.

How did you get started and when did you launch your business?

When the stars aligned in such a way that I was able to leave my job in January of 2013, I got serious about creating a product line. As I got deeper into that process and began developing production techniques, it became obvious that my old hand-me-down sewing machine wasn’t going to be able to keep up. I was hesitant to spend money on a new machine since I wasn’t entirely sure this was going to be a viable business. My dear, sweet, supportive husband secretly organized dozens of friends and family members to chip in and purchase me a new sewing machine for my birthday. It was an incredibly poignant moment for me…the show of support, the care and effort involved…it encouraged me even more so to make a go of it.

My first workspace was my dining room table. It wasn’t long before I moved downstairs and took over our basement. Three years later, with a name change and rebranding along the way, I have just moved into my own studio space. It’s a big step, but the business needs room to grow. Once again, my family is right there with me in making this important move. The support of my family has been a consistent theme in the growth of my business. They are always cheering me on from the sidelines and step in to provide important feedback every time I come to a cross roads about what I should do next.

Do you have any philosophies or ideals you try to represent with your work?

Yes! There are two philosophies that form the WHY of what I do. One relates to the materials I use and the other to the products I design.

I initially started using reclaimed textiles to serve my own need for inexpensive materials, but the more I learned about the textile waste crisis, the more committed I became to being part of the solution. The environmental impact of the fashion industry is immense. For example, it requires 2,900 gallons of water to produce one pair of jeans. That same pair of jeans, at the other end of its lifecycle, will produce as many as 3 pounds of CO2 as it breaks down in a landfill.

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I am very fortunate to work in partnership with Goodwill Industries. They sort, bag and deliver t-shirts and jeans for me to use as my raw materials. The price that I pay per pound supports the Goodwill job training program and I use almost a thousand pounds of materials a year that aren’t fit for Goodwill retail outlets.

The philosophy that drives my designs is the value of open-ended play for children. I love creating things that inspire the imagination and encourage creativity. When I create new designs, I’m thinking about making something beautiful, durable and flexible in its use. I want everything I make to open a world of possibility for the child (or adult!) receiving it.

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Where do you look for inspiration?

My inspiration is drawn from the two philosophical elements that drive my business. First, I find inspiration in the materials I use. Denim is a wonderful fabric to work with. I’m always awed by the variety of washes, the different textures and the way each pair of jeans wears differently. I also love playing with all the bright colors and soft knits of the t-shirts.

I am also inspired by my experience with Waldorf education. Sometimes we forget that the most powerful element in a child’s play is their own creative force. I want everything I make to be an instrument of the child’s creativity rather than supplant their creativity.

Waterfront view from Jill's studio.

Waterfront view from Jill’s studio.

What does your workspace/studio look like?

After three years of working in my 120 year old, unfinished, windowless basement, I’m so excited to finally be in my own space! My new studio occupies a very unique place on Main Street in Great Barrington, MA and opens out onto a nature trail alongside the Housatonic River. It was important to be close to home, since I make it a priority to be available for my kids, and my view of the river refreshes my senses every day. I can’t wait to grow into this new space and do things I never could have done before, like teach workshops!

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What are some of your favorite tools or techniques?

I absolutely LOVE my Accuquilt Studio Fabric Cutter. It’s essentially a die cut machine. I have some of their “off the rack” dies and have had some custom made for my designs. The cutter allows me to cut pattern pieces quickly, accurately and efficiently, plus it saves my wrist from the repetitive strain of cutting everything by hand. My OTHER favorite tool is a power rotary cutter that my husband gave me. It’s not something I would have thought I needed, or spent the money on myself, but it truth, it makes quick business of breaking down a pair of jeans into usable pieces.

Is your business your full time job? Or do you have a day job?

Yes and yes. My business is my full time job AND I have a day job. In order to grow my business, most of my profits get rolled right back into things like equipment, show fees and marketing, so I have a part time job at the Berkshire Market Co-Op. I chose to work there because in many ways, it’s a center of the community and aligns with my values of supporting local producers. I truly enjoy my co-workers and find that it balances the long hours of quiet that go into my creative work.

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What does a day in the life of Jill Maldonado look like?

I get up super early in the morning. It’s a great time to get a couple hours of “computer work” done – checking orders, emails, web traffic and social media stats or planning out what I’m working on in the studio that day. After my husband and kids head out, I take the dogs over to my studio (we have three rescued Pomeranians) and get busy making. At 2:30, it’s time to walk the dogs and meet the kids when they get home from school. If no one needs homework help, I have another couple of hours to get administrative tasks done (more computer work) and make a plan for the next day before I start dinner.

Visit Jill’s website, Material Rebellion, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Thank you so much Jill for sharing your story with us! Do you want to be our next Featured Maker? Visit our Contribute Page for more info!

DIY: MARCH Embroidered Bird Journal Kit

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Whenever we come up with a monthly theme, we always seem to have a couple of images floating around in our minds- a couple of things we’d like to tackle. Ever since last month, I wanted a chance to play around with stitching on paper, and I decided this little bird was just asking for it.

I had so much fun making this journal, I thought I would share the experience with you! This kit includes a bound journal of found papers, a black band, embroidery floss, a needle, and basic instructions. You can pick up a kit for yourself at our Adventures in Making Etsy Shop.

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March Journal Kit Includes:

  • One staple bound journal (~3.5 inches)
  • Embroidery floss
  • Embroidery Needle
  • Sewing template (if you’re reproducing this design exactly.)

Additional tools needed

  • Scissors
  •  Pencil

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Paper Stitching Tips

  • Pre-pierce with a needle or awl. Paper is less forgiving than fabric; every hole you poke will show through. To minimize the damage to your paper, poke all your holes before you start stitching.
  • Pull your thread in the direction of the paper. When you tighten up your stitches, pull your needle parallel to the paper surface. If you pull away from the paper you’ll strain you paper and make the hole larger.
  • Use half a strand of floss for a flatter piece of art. A full strand of floss was a little too thick for any of the stitches in this journal.
  • Make lots of knots, even though knots are tedious sometimes.

 

Step One: Draw Template Lines

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With the band in place, trace a pencil line gently along each edge. You will not put any stitches directly under the band.

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This kind of paper-stitching is kind of like 3-d doodling, so let your imagination take you away! Trace circular items, use a ruler or free-hand lines you want to use.

(If you want to reproduce my design instead of making your own, you can skip the drawing step and use the template to pierce holes. Instructions in the next step.)

Step Two: Pierce the Paper

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Use your needle to poke small holes along each of your curved lines, about 1/4 – 1/2″ apart. You can use fewer holes for straight lines, just make sure to have a hole at each end. (If you’re using the birdy template to recreate our circular pattern, line it up on the front cover of your journal and press your needle through at each red dot. Put the template to the side, and use the colored lines as a reference to connect the dots!)

Step Three: Adding Stitches

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You can try any embroidery stitch you want to connect your dots. Rachel’s embroidery sampler is a great reference for stitches. The back stitch is especially useful.

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Check out the sampler post for more stitches to try on your journal!

Step Four: Finishing Up

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When you’re all done stitching, and want to hide the back of your work, pull the adhesive strip backing from the front cover…

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Then partially close the book and wrap the cover flap over the cream-colored end page. Run your finger along the flap to adhere it.

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If you have any remaining pencil lines, gently erase them, and you’re all done!

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Each journal was made with vintage papers, so there’s lots to inspire art journaling or collage. You can even embroider inside!

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TODAY: Be Inspired, Not Intimidated.


I’ve been kind of at odds with my work lately, and I’ve been drowning myself in busy work to keep from having to address the elephant in the room- What do I do next? I’ve spent the weeks since the store closed doing anything but the things I need to further my art, and the longer I waited the harder it became to pick up a pencil again. Somehow in that time I became more and more discouraged by the truly awesome work I saw all around me, and I’ve decided it’s time to do something about it.

The internet is an amazing thing for an artist. Snap your fingers (or ask Google) and you have access to a million inspirations and a trillion resources. (Also a gazillion distractions, but that’s beside the point.) We don’t even have to go to a library or a museum to be exposed to new work or new concepts; it’s just there, in our Facebook feed.

With such luxury, it seems like our possibilities for inspiration are endless, and yet all these amazing things can be just as intimidating as they are stimulating. How can you ever draw that well? Why can’t you come up with the perfect idea? Why should you spend hours on something that they can do without even a sketch?

Thus begins the cycle of stagnation: 1: Get discouraged, 2: Can’t work, 3: Don’t get better at what you do (and don’t get to enjoy the process), 4: Spend more time on the internet looking at “inspiration”…. Rinse and repeat.

So, lets turn this whole thing on its head, and figure out how to see inspiration as just that.

1: Acknowledge talent, and move on.

Even is your first defensive instinct is (like mine) to pick apart the work of other artists, try to instead see what is causing you to react. It’s likely envy, and that’s just silly. There isn’t a finite amount of talent to go around.
If someone is awesome, let them be awesome. Admire what they do, and that they do it well. Move on.

2: Realize that what you like in your work does not have to be what you love in someone else’s.

I love looking at realistic art. I love looking at landscapes that seem to miraculously appear from patches of paint. I like mosaics built from found trash that take on a whole new life in their new format. I have no intention of doing any of those things. I am never happy trying to be realistic. I like lines, not plains; and when it comes down to it, I really just want to make functional art.
You’re no less an artist because you do something differently- obviously art is all about being different. You can be an artist in the kitchen, an organizing savant, an expert at standing on one foot while you knit– and all the while you can love the things you don’t do. Maybe you can love them more because you DON’T do them.

3: Spend a little time looking at things outside of your comfort zone.

I have a long list of blogs in my feed reader and I almost always read the web comics and interior design blogs first. Now, as a dedicated blog contributor I should probably be looking at things that are a little closer to home- but I get inspired by things that are outside of my experience.
You can find inspiration anywhere. In a history book that talks about the mysterious ins and outs of the past. In a mystery novel that lets you see out the eyes of someone else. In a garden reference that talks about permaculture and the growth of magnificent living things. Even in a cute kitten video. (That one’s a little bit of a stretch, but if it feels good it can’t be all bad!)

4: Get away from it all.

If you are seeing too much, close your eyes for a while. Unplug from the constant stream of visual information and take a deep breath. It’s okay. The internet is forever, and you can always go back and see things later. When you’re ready.

5: See your work for what it really is.

I don’t know everything, but I suspect that we mainly make because we are trying to express ourselves. We are trying to show everyone else how we see the world, trying to highlight and solve a problem, trying to learn. So, if someone else is doing that differently, it’s alright.
I am who I am, and you are who you are, and I like it that way.

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt

Please welcome our newest Featured Maker: Carrie Schmitt! Carrie is an artist and author living in the Pacific Northwest. She began painting in 2009 as a way to cope with health issues. Now she has her own creative business where she makes art, teaches e-courses, practices yoga and more. We are so excited to learn more about her life and work today and we hope you enjoy getting to know Carrie as much as we have!

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt #artist #interview

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?

I am an artist and author who began painting in 2009 after developing a life-threatening allergy to heat. No longer able to spend time in my beloved garden outdoors, I began painting flowers instead of planting them. In 2010, my family and I moved from the humid Midwest to the Pacific Northwest for its temperate climate. Today my art is licensed for home décor and stationery with several companies, including Hallmark, teNeues Publishing, Dianoche Designs and Woodmansterne. I paint daily from my mountain studio just outside Seattle.

What do you make and sell?

I sell original artwork, giclee prints, notecards, and hand-painted yoga mats. I share art techniques and ways to nurture your creative spirit in my book, Painted Blossoms: Creating Expressive Flower Art with Mixed Media, is now available for preorder on Amazon. I also teach an online yoga inspired art e-course called Journey to the Self that blends my passions for yoga and art-making. You can learn more about that here.

I also have 3 video art tutorials that will be released from FW Media this summer that shares three special art projects related to Finding Inspiration, Finding Your Style, and Surrendering to the Flow of Creativity. And, I will be presenting a FREE live online presentation about my art journey with Artists Network on July 21. You can sign up to listen and even ask live questions here.

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt #artist #interview

What made you decide to take the leap and start your own creative business?

I started painting as a therapeutic practice to deal with my limitations from my heat allergy—not being able to go outside and do any physical activity was a huge emotional challenge for me. This led to the awakening of my truest passion—creativity! I decided I wanted to make a living doing what makes me feel most alive so I began paying attention to how other fulltime artists were able to make this work in their lives.

How did you get started and when did you launch your business?

When I began painting, I was lucky enough to take Kelly Rae Robert’s online art business course, Flying Lessons: Tips and Tricks to Help Your Creative Biz Soar. This proved to be invaluable as I began to put my art out in the world. I learned how to use social media and connect with an amazing community of artists who have provided support and inspiration over the years. Understanding how to navigate the business side has allowed my art to flourish much more quickly than it would have without this knowledge. Most of my licensing deals have resulted from companies finding me on social media.

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt #artist #interview

Do you have any philosophies or ideals you try to represent with your work?

My work is a celebration of color, lightheartedness and joy. I’ve never understood the violence and negativity that is so easily accepted in our world—on tv shows, movies, news and more. I suppose this is my own subtle and peaceful response to this mixed up world. I hope people look at my art and somehow feel uplifted and smile.

Tell us about your process. How do you go about creating your art from start to finish?

My process is intuitive and aligned with the belief that every mark made on the canvas was meant to be, aka there are no mistakes! I start my randomly applying paint and making various marks on the canvas. I continue to build layers of paint on top of each other to create depth, interest, and texture. Eventually, imagery (usually in the form of flowers) begin to reveal themselves to me. It’s almost as if the painting just appears as long as I am open to it. Sometimes this takes a long time and sometimes it happens quickly. You can learn more about my different techniques in my book, Painted Blossoms. I’m also going to be teaching my process and various art projects at the Art Makers Retreat in Denver in September.

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt #artist #interview

Where do you look for inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere, which makes every moment of every day a treasure hunt. When something takes my breath away or tugs at me on a soulful level, I pay attention. These objects that appeal to our senses are like mirrors for our soul. So by paying attention, I am able to find out more about my own style and express my unique creativity with the world.

What does your workspace/studio look like?

I’m a firm believer that everyone needs a room of her own. My studio is in my home and looks like an indoor garden bursting with color and light. This space houses my joy and inspiration that is a reflection of my soul. Plants are a very important part of my space as well, as they are living companions that keep me company while I create.

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt #artist #interview

Tell us about a challenge you’ve overcome in your business? Or something you tried but didn’t work the way you planned?

One of the greatest challenges for me has been having the time and money to pursue my passion. Patience and persistence has paid off even though I have had some serious and frequent moments of self doubt. Your faith just has to be stronger than those moments. It does take time to build a business so I try not to be too hard on myself. It seems as though things just work out as long as I work hard and put my energy toward this dream.

What does a day in the life of Carrie Schmitt look like?

I start my day getting my kids to school and then doing yoga or swimming. Physical activity, especially yoga, has become key to enhancing my creativity in the most magical and fulfilling ways. Yoga is about clearing energy channels and this has allowed this previously stuck loose energy to manifest in my art. Practicing yoga has been a powerful journey! I wasn’t expecting it to affect my art in the ways that it has but am incredibly grateful that it has become an intrinsic part of my process.

After yoga and/or swimming, I like to do administrative work – answering emails, posting on social media, writing articles for magazines, or whatever else comes my way. Then, it is time to paint! I turn on some music, light a scented candle, and begin throwing paint on the canvas. Time seems to stand still and before I know it, it is time to pick up my kids from school. The rest of the day is devoted to taking care of them, and I never have enough time to get all my art biz stuff done. Sometimes I work late at night or wake up early and often work weekends. I love the flexibility of my schedule because I am able to be present for my kids. It can be a huge challenge to find time for myself, but I just try my best every day.

Visit Carrie’s website and follow her on Facebook!

Thank you so much Carrie for sharing your story with us! Do you want to be our next Featured Maker? Visit our Contribute Page for more info!

TODAY: The Magic is in the Making


Every month we send handmade badges to our favorite DIY Challenge entries. Rachel has made most of them, because she’s a whiz, and I was too scared to attempt embroidery. When I finally sat down to try* I found myself enjoying the process, and realized that the little imperfections were just fine. They were evidence of my process, and the process is everything.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the little monsters that keep us from creating. The doubt that we feel about our talent and ability, the fear we have that what we make will be judged by others, the comparisons we make to those who we feel are more talented.

Well, those are my little monsters. They make it difficult for me to call myself an artist, even when people specifically ask me if I am. Even when I’m working on rearranging my studio to work better for the way I make things.

But here’s the thing. When I take a step back from my own insecurities I see that for me the value of art isn’t in the product; and it definitely isn’t in the value that someone else places on the product. All the value and happiness is in the making.

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When I’m making something, I get to do all my favorite things. I solve problems, like what tools to use to get the result I want. I teach my hands to move in new ways. I explore the interaction of materials- the way certain paints soak into wood, the way paper is cut by different blades, the way it curls. I train my eyes to see the world differently, to take items out of context, to turn a stick into a story. I play with the sound of words in my head, the picture they can paint with a little touch of color.

So what if all that beauty in my head and in the world turns into something that no one understands but me? Who cares if the end product is less “art” and more evidence of exploration? The magic is the way I feel when I’m working.

What do you think? What part of making brings you the most joy?

 

*I used a lot of the techniques from Rachel’s Alphabet Hoop Art tutorial, craft felt, embroidery floss, and good ol’ creative drive.

Toolbox: Drawing with Gouache and a Nib

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A while back I took a calligraphy class from Tara Bliven, and it opened up a whole new world of drawing tools. Not only did I get to try out new tools and techniques, it was the first time a pen and nib really worked for me. (Sometime I’ll give my whole “It’s tough being a lefty” rant.) As a lefty I need to use a special Oblique Pen Point Holder to write left to right– but with a little practice I learned to use a plain pen and nib to draw with gouache.

All the dark blue lines on this piece were done with a pointed pen, the rest is watercolor.

What’s so great about drawing with gouache?

• You can draw any color you can mix, for cheap. Instead of buying half a million different markers, buy a primary set of gouache and mix the colors you love.
• Gouache colors are opaque, which means you can do light lines on a dark background.
• Skinny paintbrushes are a pain. Although some people *ahem, Rachel* seem to be able to make magic with a brush, I have no luck doing fine lines with a paintbrush. A pen works much better.
• Gouache mixes wonderfully with your watercolor projects (#diycraftchallenge)
• The quality of line you get with a pointed pen is awesome.
• You look like a total bada** when you’re using a pointed pen. Trust me.

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For this piece, I put down a dark blue background in watercolor, then used gouache to add the white words and flourishes.

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There is a little learning curve when you’re working with a pen and ink, and practice makes perfect. I like to do little doodles on scrap paper to practice my lines, play with color, and generally mess around.

Supplies

• Gouache– like this Winsor & Newton set.
• A pen holder– like this one from Speedball
• A pointed pen nib– I used a Nikko G pen for this project, but Tara also recommends the Brause EF 66 which is better if you’re not as heavy handed as I am.
• A dropper of distilled water.
• A couple of ratty paintbrushes for “ink” application, mixing, and cleaning.
• The rest of your usual painting tools– a paint tray or plate, a jar of water, paper towels, paper, pencil, etc.

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To start, I put a drop little bit of gouache into my paint tray…

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and add a couple of drops of distilled water. I add just a little bit of water to start, because it’s easier to add more water to make the consistency I want.

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I mix my water with my paint until it’s consistent (using a cheap kids paintbrush). I like to play with different degrees of “wateriness,” more water means that the “ink” will be thinner and less opaque. Typically I used a mixture that’s about 3 parts paint, 1 part water.

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To apply the paint/ink to the pen, I saturate a paintbrush, and slowly slide it against the backside (concave side) of the nib. The ink will cling to the nib and seem to fill it partially. When it seems full (this part takes some practice) I will gently point and shake the pen downward towards the tray to get any extra blobs of ink out before I start drawing. In some cases (like today), I will actually drop the extra bits of paint onto my paper, for fun.

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Then it’s time to draw. I place the nib gently again the paper, concave side down, at an angle. Then I slowly pull the nib along, rather than pushing like a lefty with a ballpoint. (If you’re having trouble, check out one of the amazing tutorial videos on youtube- like this one.)

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Unlike a normal pen or marker, a nib like this will need to be refilled rather frequently (using the brush method above.) I try to keep an eye on how much ink/paint I have in my nib so that I don’t run out in the middle of a line. When you’re using the nib, you’ll notice that the tip is made up of two pointed pieces. When there is enough ink, it looks like one point on the end, but when they start separating, I probably need more ink.

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Periodically, I stop to rinse and scrub my pen. I dip it in my jar of water, and use a clean brush to scrub any dried bits of ink/paint off of it. Then I dry it gently with a rag or paper towel, reink, and go back to work.

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For this doodle, I had both white gouache and blue gouache in my paint tray, and I went between the two when I was reinking.

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Can you see why I like drawing with gouache? The possibilities!

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I was inspired to pull out my gouache today by the April DIY Challenge: Watercolor. We’d love to see what the theme inspires in you, so pull out your favorite medium and tools and share with us!

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Finds Peace In Panama

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

I had the unique opportunity to spend the month of March in the countryside of Panama, my first trip out of the country since college. My mom and I stayed with her childhood best friend, Linda, who retired there a few years ago. Linda has battled ovarian cancer since she was in her twenties, and within the past year it has returned and escalated to stage four. My mom left for Panama in January to help care for her, and I joined them for a month, in desperate need of a nature retreat to lend some balance to two years of chronic pain.

I flew from Portland to Las Vegas to Panama City, then a 3.5 hour bus ride to Santiago where I met my mom. Linda’s house is in a remote part of the countryside, nearest to Santa Fe, and is only accessible with 4 wheel drive. 22 hours after leaving Portland I found myself at her leaf-decorated house perched on a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley.

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

I spent the first two weeks working in my art journal. I brought with me a ton of my favorite art supplies to play with. It felt so good to have nothing to do but sit and paint all day. And in between laying in a hammock, that’s exactly what I did.

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

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SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

My mom and I spent about a week sight-seeing, but mostly we stayed in Santa Fe where I soaked up the sun, gazed at the beautiful Panamanian jungle and countryside, swam in the nearby river, made art, and napped in a hammock. I was able to do the things I usually can’t make time for like practicing yoga, meditation, doing daily tarot readings and journaling.

It was the first time in a very long while that I felt truly at ease. I left the clutter and stress of my life behind and was able to think clearly and find much needed peace. Every day I woke up to sunshine and lush, green nature. Each morning I climbed to the top of the hill and looked out at the valley. You can’t help but feel immense gratitude for nature with a view like this.

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

Spending a month here helped me to reconnect with my true self and let go of the fears and anxieties that had once paralyzed me. It helped me to clear and calm my mind that felt so cloudy and overwhelmed before. And I rediscovered my own spirituality and trust in the universe.

SHOW + TELL: Rachel Goes To Panama

Returning home I am slowly easing my way back into normal life. I want to hold onto the good vibes of Panama for as long as possible. Memories of Santa Fe remind me to slow down, take time to get dirty in my garden, relax and let things be. Thank you Panama!

FEATURED MAKER: Tamara Hess

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists
Please welcome our first Featured Maker of 2015- Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists! Tamara is an artist and card maker from Portland, Oregon. A true ‘maker’ at heart, Tamara enjoys creativity of any kind. The cute characters she draws for her digital stamps and greeting cards are bursting with joy and humor. I hope you all enjoy learning more about Tamara’s work, life, and creative philosophies. Also be sure to check out her website and Etsy shop!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?

All my life I’ve felt the need to draw. In my early years I was able to use my creativity as a way to work through some tough situations. Drawing was an escape, helping me deal with my troubles and learn how to persevere. Drawing became my “happy place” which is still true today!

My journey is typical of a creative person; always searching for purpose and meaning in my creativity. The difference I try to achieve is fearlessness in my work. I’ve never met an art project I haven’t tackled. I’m always ready to try new things. I’ve been involved in teaching art lessons, Art Literacy programs, art culture events, theater set design, mural painting, arts and crafts bazaars, web site design, graphic design, photography, illustration, graffiti events, pottery, calligraphy, watercolor, soap making and more. On my journey I have been a featured artist in various galleries including an art reception at the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe. My fine art work is currently featured at the Coffee Station in Aloha Oregon.

I married my high school sweetheart Paul and we’ve been together for almost 30 years. We have two wonderful teenage boys. We are lucky to have a lot of love and support from each other and family. When I’m not doing something artistically I try to get my boys out of the house. We go hiking, fishing and camping. Living in Portland Oregon we are surrounded by diverse landscapes and culture. I especially love the beach, searching for sea shells and walking with my Corgi, Heidi.

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

Greeting cards handmade by Tamara.

What do you make and sell?

Currently I’m working on digital stamps for card making, clip art for digital scrapbooking and web design. I sell some of my designs on Etsy. I also give away digital stamps on Card Making Artists and I’m looking forward to growing my website. I’m also excited to be working for various graphic companies.

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

One of Tamara’s adorable digital stamps! Available for purchase in her Etsy shop.

What made you decide to take the leap and start your own creative business?

My brother Tim and I have always had the entrepreneur gene. We inherited it from our grandpa. After many years of dreaming Tim and I decided to start our online businesses. We have different objectives but similar goals and we use each other to encourage and inspire. We push each other toward the next step.

How did you get started and when did you launch your business?

I started my website, Card Making Artists in 2013 with the help of my brother Tim. Tim is a web designer and helped create the Card Making Artists website. I love card making; handmade cards are such a fun and diverse medium to showcase all different kinds of art techniques. I was interested in tutorials, tips, tricks, tools and featured card making artists. Plus handmade cards make people happy! Through the launch of Card Making Artists I discovered digitals stamps and graphic design.

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

Do you have any philosophies or ideals you try to represent with your work?

I try to make the card making process fun. I want to help card making beginners feel less overwhelmed and seasoned card makers inspired. I want Card Making Artists to be a resource for all different skill levels and I try to always make it fun and humorous.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I find most of my inspiration comes from the Oregon Zoo. A lot of my designs are little animals. I love going to the zoo and finding specific characteristics that stand out in each animal. Then I will often take an ordinary object rooted in reality and “twist” it to my imagination. Most of my little characters are a result of my “skewed” point of view.

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

Tamara’s home studio space.

What does your workspace/studio look like?

My studio is located in the dining room next to the kitchen. We have a big nook area off the kitchen which is a central location in the house. I read an article once that explained how you need to have your art space located in a central part of your house. Otherwise, you will have an “out of site out of mind” feeling about creating art. Well, I didn’t want to ever feel like my art was out of my mind so I slowly took over the dining area. I have two kitchen hutches that are now totally dedicated to art supplies. Lucky for me, none of the boys seem to miss the dining area. I always feel like I’m in the middle of the action when I’m in my art space. I even have a comfy chair in front of my table that all the boys and Paul will plop down and chat with me while I’m working.

What are some of your favorite tools or techniques?

I love Gimp and Inkscape, free editing software for my digital stamps. My favorite tool for card making is nail polish. I know it’s stinky and not an art supply. BUT for “glitterizing” my hand made cards there’s nothing better for me. Nail polish dries fast and there are so many gorgeous glitter colors!

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

Tamara loves using nail polish to add glitter to her cards!

Tell us about a challenge you’ve overcome in your business? Or something you tried but didn’t work the way you planned?

Where to begin? When you read all those quotes about not giving up when things look bleak or those who fail the most are the ones who succeed. ALL TRUE! I’ve failed many more time than I’ve succeeded. I’m still pushing, with the help of Paul and Tim, to be a successful professional artist! It’s a real rollercoaster ride. One day I get a “yes” and I’m happy. The next day a “no” and I’m bumming. The point is to keep moving forward.

Is your business your full time job? Or do you have a day job?

Yes! I am lucky to be able to start this business as a full time job with the complete support from my husband Paul. One of the top reasons people aren’t able to follow through on a business venture is because of an unsupportive spouse. There is a lot of fear and uncertainty when starting a business venture. It’s hard to make guarantees or know exactly where the journey will take you. Nothing will take the wind out of your sails like a spouse that can’t wrap their head around the process and isn’t on board with the risk.

Featured Maker: Tamara Hess of Card Making Artists

What does a day in the life of Tamara look like?

For one thing, I do a lot better if I have my calendar up to date. Calendars of events and goals are amazing. If I sit down and check my calendar, I get all my goals met and my week feels fulfilled. The problem is I don’t get that dang calendar up to date so half the time I’m meandering from the computer to the work table.

On the computer I will edit my drawings in Gimp and Inkscape, then I will work on a post for Card Making Artists and last I will chat with people and work on social media and marketing. At my work desk I will make some cards using my digital stamps, then I will sketch some little illustrations and last I will paint images to use as clip art.

Learning to prioritize your business is tricky. When you are working on a business you need to make sure you have your eye on the big picture but you need to make sure you are always focused on the details too. It’s like wearing a bunch of different hats. One day I will put on my marketing hat, then my writing hat, then my artists hat (that hat is rainbow colored), then my accounting hat and so on. Where is that calendar of mine?

Be sure to visit Tamara’s website and Etsy Shop!

Thank you so much Tamara for sharing your story with us! Want to be our next Featured Maker?
Visit our Contribute Page for more info!

FEATURED MAKER: Emma Reid of Emuse

FEATURED MAKER: Emma Reid of Emusing #crafter #interview
Please welcome Emma Reid, our newest Featured Maker! I came across Emma’s blog recently and fell in love with her sense of style, the variety of projects she makes, and her passion for creativity. After reading through pages of posts, I sent Emma an email inviting her to be featured on Adventures In Making. Before I knew it she emailed back and said YES! I hope you all enjoy getting to know more about Emusing Emma and the amazing things she creates!

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?

I live in Scotland, not far north of Edinburgh. I studied Chemistry and Computing at university, and my job is very science and technology based, so I spend my free time doing something very different, working on my crafts and blog. My mum is very crafty too, as was my grandad, so I think that’s where I’ve inherited it from!

FEATURED MAKER: Emma Reid of Emusing #crafter #interview

Dala horse greeting cards and gift tags made by Emma.

What do you make?

I pretty much turn my hand to anything! Some of my favourites are making greetings cards and collages from paper, and making jewellery and miniatures from polymer clay. I’ve recently been making some felt brooches, and some Scandinavian-inspired crafts.

FEATURED MAKER: Emma Reid of Emusing #crafter #interview

Scandinavian style Christmas ornaments. Check out Emma’s tutorial on her blog.

How long have you been crafting? Where did you first learn about it?

I’ve been crafting for as long as I can remember, starting out by making handmade Christmas cards when I was in primary school, then when I was in high school I made earrings and brooches from Fimo and sold them to my classmates from a little tin.

Tell us about your process. How do you go about creating a greeting card from start to finish?

For making cards, I’ll usually start with a quick sketch, then from that I come up with a finished drawing that I cut into pieces to use as a template for cutting out various colours of card. Finally I stick these onto the card and add a few finishing touches with pens or embellishments.

FEATURED MAKER: Emma Reid of Emusing #crafter #interview

Winter greeting cards made by Emma using a cut-paper/collage technique.

What does your workspace look like?

I redecorated my craft room not long ago, so it’s a lovely neutral space with lots of natural light. I’ve got lots of storage for all sorts of different craft supplies, and big desks that give me plenty of space to spread things out when I’m working on them. I’ve also set aside an area to photograph my crafts, and there are some shelves where I can display my finished crafts.

FEATURED MAKER: Emma Reid of Emusing #crafter #interview

Emma’s craft room – where the magic happens!

Where do you find inspiration?

I draw inspiration from all sorts of things – books, museums, art galleries, and the natural world. I particularly love to make items inspired by my travels, so I’ve made lots of things based around ideas from Japan, China, and Peru.

Do you have any tips or advice for other people interested in making crafting or making greeting cards?

I’m a great believer in just giving things a try! I learn most things by looking at books or online tutorials, or just by experimenting. There are so many inexpensive craft materials you can use, so it doesn’t really matter if it all goes wrong – as long as you have fun trying!

FEATURED MAKER: Emma Reid of Emusing #crafter #interview

Emma collects and creates projects inspired by her travels.

Do you have any favorite books or resources you’d be willing to share with someone interested in learning more about paper crafts?

I’ve got a great collection of craft books. Some of my favourites are Papercraft: Design and Art with Paper by Robert Klanten and The Encyclopedia of Origami and Papercraft Techniques by Paul Jackson. I also love picking up second-hand craft books in charity shops – I love the illustrations in them. And I browse Pinterest and CraftGawker for ideas.

Visit Emma’s blog and follow her on Facebook and Instagram!

Thank you so much Emma for sharing your story with us! Do you want to be our next Featured Maker? Visit our Contribute Page for more info!

TODAY: Inspired by Frida Kahlo

TODAY: Inspired by Frida Kahlo
(Sources left to right: 1. Frida Kahlo, 1939 2. Mexican Embroidery (Source Unknown) 3. Day of the Dead Butterfly Shrine (calaverasYcorazones) 4. Hands holding mug (Flora Bowley)

Frida Kahlo has been one of my favorite artists in history since high school. The story of her life, her passion, and her art is so incredibly inspiring. Her paintings are both haunting and beautiful; and most are self-portraits.

If you’re unfamiliar with Frida Kahlo, I recommend watching the movie, Frida. Salma Hayak does an incredible job of portraying the Frida, the Mexican artist, wife of Diego Rivera and political revolutionist. As a teenager, Frida was in a terrible traffic accident which triggered a lifetime of physical pain and health problems. Despite her pain and illness, she was still a passionate, energetic person who was able to transform her pain into colorful, emotional works of art that are now celebrated in Mexico and around the world.

TODAY: Inspired by Frida Kahlo

I don’t paint dreams or nightmares, I paint my own reality. ― Frida Kahlo

She’s been on my mind a lot recently, as I too suffer from chronic pain (almost 2 years now). When you’re in pain 24/7 every day, it’s incredibly easy to give up your passions, forget about the things that make you happy and just generally ‘give up’ on trying to have a fulfilling life.

Frida reminds me that excitement, passion, and creativity are still there, waiting for me to remember that the ups and downs of life are just part of the process of living and growing. Pain and heartbreak can be transformed into a meaningful, creative expression. Now whenever I’m suffering a painful flair up, I call upon Frida to bring me comfort and inspiration to keep growing, creating and loving.

Do you or anyone you know suffer from chronic pain or illness? We’d love to hear your story and how you’ve found ways to stay inspired, keep creating and growing. Email us at hello@adventures-in-making.com