Friday, December 30, 2016

Embarking on Month-Long Creative Retreat

I'm embarking on a month-long creative retreat to start a year of making art off on the right foot.

creativity, creative retreat, blog break, logo, watercolor logo, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

For a while now I've been feeling the need to step back from the internet. The internet can be a wonderful source of inspiration and information, but it can also be the means for unhealthy comparison and an easy waste of time. Although I love my blog, it takes a lot of time to post 2-3 times a week. Between my Sketchbook Conversations series, my monthly artist interviews and the release of the winter issue of Artful Blogging magazine, I didn't feel I could step away from my blog in order to take a break.

Until now.

For the month of January I'm off on a creative retreat. I'm unplugging and will be away from my blog and social media for the entire month. My shops will remain open and I'll also be checking my email daily, so if you need to get in touch with me, have no fear, I'll still be around.

Each day I plan to spend as much time as possible making art. Working in my sketchbooks. Painting. Playing. Maybe even sewing. I'm entering this without an exact plan with the thought that my creativity will lead me in the direction I need to go.

My words for the year are

word of the year, creativity, art, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry


word of the year, creativity, art, nourish, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

This Creative Retreat will help me to do both.

Would you like to join me? You don't have to commit to a full month, but even a weekend of unplugging and focusing on creativity will help to nourish your spirit.

Here are some ideas to help you craft your own retreat:
  • Set intentions for your retreat. Are you going to make art? Write every day? Learn something new? Sew? Read? Be clear on what you want to gain from your time away in order to make the most of it. If you've chosen a word or words for the year, measure your plans against them so you stay on track.
  • Turn off all notifications on your computer and your phone to avoid distraction.
  • Limit the number of times you check your email throughout the day and stick with that limit.
  • Get plenty of rest; drink plenty of water and eat healthy, home-made meals (cooking is one of my favorite creative activities -- you get to eat the results!).
  • Slow down. You really don't need to constantly rush through your day. Take your time. Breathe. Pay attention to what's going on around you.
  • Stop multitasking. Focus on one thing at a time.
  • If you're not already keeping a journal, start one. If your journal is lying forgotten, re-commit to it. I find that starting my day even just writing one page makes a big difference to my mood and my creativity. And be sure to jot down a Joy List each day as well, whether in your journal or in a special, dedicated book.
  • Make sure you have all the supplies and tools that you need. You may want to take a trip to the art, fabric, stationery or craft store to stock up. Make your shopping trip an occasion and take time to enjoy the outing! Don't have local options? Brew some coffee or tea (or whip up some hot cocoa) and spend some time on a leisurely virtual shopping trip. 
  • Looking to try a new technique or learn a new skill? Commit to a class (or classes), either in person or online (Skillshare, Creativebug and Craftsy are good places to start).
  • Need some more inspiration to help nourish your creativity? Stop by your local library and hunt for art and craft books to bring home. (And take a look through the cookbooks while you're at it... ). If your local library doesn't have a large collection and/or you've already perused all its titles, search for books somewhere like Amazon and then request them from your library as a hold or on interlibrary loan. (Looking for recommendations? You can read all my book-related blog posts here).
  • Check in with yourself throughout the retreat and make changes to your plan if necessary, whether it be how you schedule your days, what activities you'll be pursuing or how many days you'll be devoting to your retreat... once you've begun you might find that you want to adjust things to better suit your needs.
calendars, art print calendar, watercolor calendar, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Have fun and be sure to tell me about how it goes!

Thank you, again, for being here reading these words. I so appreciate your encouragement and support. May 2017 be a wonderfully creative, peaceful, love and joy-filled year for each of us! See you in February!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

create (and nourish) -- my word(s) of the year for 2017

When I listen deeply to the whispers of my spirit, discovering my word for the year is usually pretty easy. Deep inside, I know what it is that I need. I know which habits I need to cultivate and which habits I need to release.

This time one word especially stood out:

At some point this past year I wrote it on the chalkboard in my studio (you can get a glimpse of it in the tour from the other day... look for the photo of my desk with the doors open) with the words "every day" beneath. A desire to create has been simmering for quite a while.

Maybe this sounds crazy to you, reading this. I'm an artist, of course I create; why would I need a reminder to do so? But I feel that the balance between making art and doing all sorts of other non-art stuff has tipped to a point that I don't like. This year I want to tip it back the other direction.

I know that in order to be successful as an artist, I can't spend 100% of my time making art. Every piece of business advice that I've read or watched or seen or heard suggests the necessity of spending less than 50% (sometimes a lot less) on art-making. Marketing, networking, creating other streams of income, bookkeeping and on and on make up the other percentage of our time. Those things are important, but I can't lose sight of the importance of actually making the art, too.

I have a feeling that finding a balance with which I'm happy may be a life-long struggle.

Nestled in with my intention to focus on creating is a need for nourishment and so my secondary word of the year is:

I want to nourish my creativity and my art -- try new things, explore, play -- but I also want to nourish myself, my home, my garden, my family, our world. It's so easy to rush through our days, letting little nourishing acts slide. Often they don't take that much more time to incorporate into our routines, and yet the benefits are huge.

I think this coming year we could all use some extra nourishing.

I'm happy with my choices for this coming year. They feel right and I am filled with hope.

To help me get the year started off on the right foot I have an exciting plan. I'll share it with you on Friday.

Wishing you clarity in all your planning and dreaming for the coming year. Whether you're choosing a word to guide you or making resolutions or crafting goals, I hope that the process will be energizing for you and filled with hope and joy.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Looking Back at 2016, a Year of INTENTION

I hope that you had a lovely holiday, whatever your traditions. Mine was wonderful and my Joy List this morning is filled with gratitude.

Instead of sharing the joys of the past few days here, I wanted to look back at the year as a whole.

Each year as December slips toward January I like to reflect on and celebrate all I've accomplished over the previous 12 months. Sometimes I can get so caught up in the day to day that I forget to see the big picture. It's also easy to focus on my failings and all of the areas in which I didn't accomplish as much as I had hoped. Taking a look at the year as a whole helps battle that tendency.

For the past four years I've chosen a word of the year to help guide me.

                              2015: FLOURISH
                              2014: REALIZE
                              2013: BLOOM

2016's word of the year was INTENTION.
intention, word of the year, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
intention*, n.
: the thing that you plan to do or achieve: an aim or purpose

1. a determination to act in a certain way: resolve
2. import, significance
3 a. what one intends to do or bring about
b. the object for which a prayer, mass, or pious act is offered
4. a process or manner of healing incised wounds
5. concept -- especially: a concept considered as the product of attention directed to an object of knowledge
I wanted it to be a thoughtful year. A year where I slowed down and paid attention. A year where I took my time and made the best choices for myself, my art and my business.

Well, life doesn't always (ever) go as we plan and not long into 2016 it made a big detour with Matthias' diagnosis of cancer. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it all, even at this distance, after he's healed from the chemo and the major surgery and is cancer free.

It was a hard, hard year. I am so grateful to be on this side of things and yet I don't want to lose that experience. If nothing else, I want to remember not to take a single second of this life for granted.

Even though the year was difficult, I accomplished a lot and as I mentioned last week it's important to celebrate. Celebrate life's beauty and joys and also celebrate our accomplishments. I hope you'll do it, too. You might be surprised by all that you've done over the year.

Here are some of my highlights:
watercolor, goldfish, watercolor goldfish, fabric design, surface pattern design, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
fabric design, surface pattern design, Summer Bliss, Spoonflower, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
art print calendar, desk calendar, 2017 Calendar, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
Artful Blogging, Artful Blogging Magazine, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
gratitude, joy, gratitude journal, Anne Butera, Dana Barbieri

Although I didn't do as much painting as I would have liked, I did create some paintings that I really love:

watercolor, paintings, botanical watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I have such hopes for 2017. I have a good word for the year, two words, actually (more on that on Wednesday) and yet I'm not going to plan too much. I want the year to unfold in its own way (it always does to some degree or another, anyway).

And just as BLOOM and REALIZE and FLOURISH continue to travel with me, I think it's important that INTENTION come along, too. Being thoughtful and mindful and slow is important. I need to remind myself of that.

With all that's been going on in current events I know that this year it will be so important to continue to focus on joy and to release love, peace and beauty into this world. I hope you'll join me in that.

I'll be back on Wednesday to share 2017's words of the year. Thinking about choosing one yourself? Last year I shared some ideas and suggestions to help you get started.

definition from Merriam Webster online

Friday, December 23, 2016

Joy to the World

poinsettias, red and white poinsettias, holiday wishes, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Whether you celebrate Christmas and/or Hanukkah and/or the Solstice and/or have different traditions altogether (I do hope you celebrate something!), I'm wishing that your celebrations, large or small, shiny or cozy, bring you peace and love and joy.

Sometimes it's hard to find things to celebrate or time in which to fully, truly celebrate them. Life is fast paced and stressful. News is heartbreaking. But I think it's so important that we take time to honor the good things. Each day there's something to celebrate in our beautiful, magical world. Each day there's something for which to give thanks (try this daily ritual if you're feeling skeptical).

Tomorrow is Matthias' birthday and we are truly going to celebrate! I am so grateful that he is healthy and that we are beginning to move forward with our life together. Each day is a gift, friends. Each day is something to celebrate. (Here's a good reminder of that).

I'm grateful for you, dear readers. Thank you for being here. Thank you for encouraging me, supporting me, cheering me on.

Wishing you joy and love and peace, today, this weekend and every day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Let Your Light Shine

Today is the darkest (shortest) day of the year, at least here in the Northern Hemisphere. I have the twinkle lights turned on in my studio and I've lit a couple candles. My Christmas orders have all been wrapped up and sent out.

holiday packages, web shop, My Giant Strawberry, Anne Butera

I'm in a holiday mood and am ready just to snuggle in and take a bit of time off.

I wasn't going to write a blog post today, but I've been doing a lot of thinking and I'd like to share some of my thoughts with you in the hope that they will inspire and encourage you in your own creativity.

It's partly the winding down of the year that's brought about all this thinking. Reviewing the past year. Planning for the coming year. It's a mixed bag of feelings. Exciting (I love planning for the new year!), but at times a bit uncomfortable. Each of us can be our own worst critic. Sometimes critical thoughts or comparison can make us strive to be and do more. At other times they can cripple us into inaction.

We can't let that happen.

On Monday I shared a photo of a watercolor quilt block I recently painted. I had painted some before, for the 30 Paintings 30 Days challenge. And it's interesting to note that painting quilt blocks has been in the back of my mind for a long time.

I remembered disliking the blocks I'd painted for the challenge, but when I got them out and set them up on my table, I couldn't really see why.

studio, work space, artist studio, watercolor, quilt blocks, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Although I'd been wanting to paint quilt blocks, it hasn't been something I've pursued and as I worked on creating some this time, I listened to my thoughts. They were telling me that this was a waste of time. Of paint. Of paper.

watercolor, quilt blocks, color play, sketchbooks, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I worked on them anyway, determined to banish the hesitancy I've been feeling around my art lately. I realized how important it is to let ourselves play, to investigate ideas about which we're curious, to make for the sake of making.

In the midst of all these thoughts I read a post on Dana Barbieri's blog that reinforced my thinking. Creative people need to be creative. (And I truly think that all of us are creative). Not everything we make or do will be a "Success". But that isn't the point. Creating is the point. Each bit of creativity leads us to something new. It shapes us and allows us to develop our skills. It brings us joy and lets us be who we truly are.

And so I'm asking you to let your light shine, today on the darkest day of the year, and every day.

candles, solstice, winter, studio, joy, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Don't listen to your inner critic. Don't listen to exterior critics, either. Doing something creative is never a waste of time (or paint or paper). Trying new things and playing with ideas (no matter what they are) is good for you. In fact, it's essential.

Wishing you a lovely solstice.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Joy List Monday: Snow and Savoring

It's been COLD here. And snowy. And I don't mind one bit.

The upstairs windows are decorated with frost

houseplants, string of hearts, succulents, winter, frosted windows, ice, frost, hearts

(only after I took this photo did I notice the heart and go back for another look)

houseplants, string of hearts, succulents, winter, frosted windows, ice, frost, hearts

and I've been decorating the downstairs windows with snowflakes.

paper snowflakes, snowflakes, winter, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Outside the snow is thick.

Winter, chickadee, bird feeder, snow, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The birds at the feeders bring me joy each day

winter, sunflowers, blue sky, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

and remnants of my garden asleep beneath the snow remind me that winter is only temporary.

lemon mint, winter, snow, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

There is beauty in every season. It's up to us to notice it.

Joy List Monday: 

a weekly ritual
a reminder to stop and pay attention to the little beauties and graces that make life magical and to set aside time for gratitude each day

My list today:
  • Blue skies and sunshine
  • Monday morning pancakes with peaches (canned by my parents' Amish friends) and whipped cream
  • Finishing up a crochet project
  • Taking time to just sit and read over the weekend
  • All your sweet comments on my studio tour last week
  • Painting
  • Discovering more orchid flower stems
  • Lots of cooking and eating over the snowy, cold weekend
  • Watching more Christmas movies (While You Were Sleeping and Shop Around the Corner -- I'd love to know your favorites)
  • Candles and incense
  • Baking cookies (a variation on this recipe)
  • (Finally) repotting my amaryllis bulbs and dreaming of coming flowers
watercolor, quilt block, eight point star, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

What's on your list today?

    Friday, December 16, 2016

    Savoring Now, Gratitude and a Studio Tour

    The other day I mentioned that I spent some time re-arranging my studio and shared a couple photos in that post. My intention was to give a little studio tour (like I have in the past here, here and here), but somehow time kept slipping away from me.

    I also kept second-guessing my photos and looking at them with an overly critical eye. Although I adore this space, I also have all sorts of ideas for improving it and I ask myself, why share a photo now, when it has so much potential to be more?

    The truth is, we only ever have now and it's important that we remember to savor each day in all its imperfection. I'm grateful to be living this creative life, to have a room of my own filled with art and supplies and inspiration. I have everything I need and so much that brings me joy.

    And so, welcome to my studio.

    studio, workspace, art space, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    One of the biggest changes in this space is that I shifted the position of my computer desk and now the beautiful patchwork back of it no longer forms the entryway to my studio. I'm happy to have the extra floor space.

    studio, workspace, desk cabinet, armoire, secretaire, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    Even with the doors to my desk open there seems to be more room.

    I'm so happy I took the time to rehab my computer chair. I showed it before, but here it is, again.

    I wish I'd taken a "before" photo, but you can catch a glimpse here. It was a roadside find and a fun project. The seat and back are both attached to the frame with screws which made the tasks of upholstering and painting much easier.

    To upholster the chair I simply raided my stash and sewed pieces of fabric together (linens, vintage bark cloth and a remnant of upholstery fabric) to create finished fabric large enough to wrap around each part. I layered them over pieces of quilting batting to add some cushioning before stapling the fabric to the seat and back, trimming excess as needed. I didn't remove the original fabrics (pleather and a heavy woven) because I wanted to keep their sturdiness. On the bottom of the seat I just left the staples as is because you can't see them. On the back I took another piece of fabric and fused it to the base to cover the staples, finishing it with tacks. It's not perfect (the spacing of my tacks is really pretty wonky), but it's bright and happy.

    Rearranging my studio also allowed me to move a comfy seating area into the corner to the right of my desk.

    studio, work space, vintage typewriter, vintage embroidery, handmade quilt, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    I have yet to sit there, but the possibility makes me happy.

    The printer I use to create my prints and calendars used to live in that space and now is the first thing you see when you enter my studio.

    studio, work space, printer table, upcycling, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    The desk it's on is my childhood desk. I repainted it in one of my favorite colors and added some fun knobs.

    furniture refinishing, knobs, drawer pulls, roses, flowers, turquoise, studio, work space, art studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    They're a bit big, but I had them on hand and wasn't using them for anything else. Better to have them bringing me a bit of joy each day than hidden in a box in the basement.

    I feel the same way about my printer cover, which is simply a vintage tablecloth. It was folded away with other linens, never seen except for when I was putting away laundry. Now it not only brings me joy, but also keeps dust off my printer.

    The desk butts up against the long work table against the wall.

    studio, work space, art studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    The table used to be a door and it used to be propped up on the storage drawers beneath. It wasn't the most sturdy arrangement. I also kept wishing it were higher. This fall Matthias built some simple legs for the table (using wood we already had in the garage), raising it up and making it much sturdier. I use the cutting mat for trimming my calendars, prints and paintings as well as fabric when I'm sewing. Not having to hunch over a low table makes a huge difference. The height also gives me more room for storage underneath.

    I still want to replace those plastic storage drawers on the left, but finding just the right piece takes time. I want something vintage and sturdy.

    The flat file drawers from Ikea, as pretty as they look, are sadly pretty flimsy. Filling them with heavy piles of paintings and blocks of paper has caused the bottoms to bow out of the back drawer frames. I tried gluing them back in, but it didn't hold. I may have to take the whole thing apart and add some bracing. Have any ideas?

    studio, work space, painting table, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    My painting table is still in the middle of the room. It has two leaves that fold down, but I usually need the table space and rarely fold them down. I moved my small printer/scanner to the back corner and placed my hand-me down filing cabinet beside it. It's another piece of furniture I painted and I'm glad to have it in a spot where I can see it instead of jammed in the other corner where it was. I like creating little arrangements there.

    studio, work space, inspiration, art studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    Perhaps not the most practical use of the space, but it brings me joy.

    There's a lot of that sort of thing going on in my studio.

    My flying pigs.

    flying pigs, Studio, art studio, inspiration, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    Nods to my nerdy nature.

    Han Solo, action figure, inspiration, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    And now I'm laughing at that phrase.

    Jean-Luc Picard, Small Dogs, Star Trek, Small Dog Electronics, Studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    But it's true. I have a nerdy nature. At this point in my life I am proud to admit it. I don't want to be anyone but me. Life is too short to conform to anyone else's ideals.

    I'm proud, too, of my journey, of my stubbornness. It certainly hasn't been easy and there's still so much farther I want to go, but I can't forget to cherish the now.

    Studio, Work Space, Inspiration, Art Studio, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    Thanks so much for stopping by my studio. And, again, I also want to thank each of you who are reading these words, accompanying me on this journey, cheering me on.

    Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry, Studio, Art Studio, Artist in Her Studio

    Your encouragement, support and friendship mean so much to me!

    Have a lovely weekend!

    Wednesday, December 14, 2016

    More Gifts for You -- Holiday Gift Tags

    I've been dropping hints on Instagram and here of what I've been up to lately.

    watercolors, crafts, circles, projects, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    These gorgeous watercolor circles are part of it.

    and so is the wrapped package from Monday's post.

    I created them as part of my new mini-class on Skillshare:

    And I think they're so much fun.

    watercolor, gift tags, crafts, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    So easy to create, too.

    I have stacks of them in my studio and plan on tucking small collections of them into all my orders during the coming week (last day to purchase from my shops* in time for Christmas is next Wednesday, December 20th).

    Want to make your own? Enroll in my class for a bit of inspiration.

    If you're not subscribed to Skillshare**, I'm offering free enrollments in my new class for my blog readers. Just follow this link to enroll for free.

    watercolor, watercolor palettes, watercolor swatches, gift tags, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    I hope you're having a joyful, creative, peaceful holiday season so far. Thank you so much for spending your time with me, reading my words and encouraging me on my creative journey. It means so much to me to have you here!

    *Spoonflower ordering deadlines can be found here and btw, they're having a 2-for-1 fat quarter sale right now going on through December 16th!

    **Subscribe to Skillshare with this link and receive a three-month premium membership for only $0.99. You'll have access to all of my classes and thousands of others on many topics, from art to crafts to cooking to computers and more.

    Monday, December 12, 2016

    Joy List Monday on a Wintry Morning

    The weekend flew past in a whirl of snow and now it's Monday again. I don't know where the time is going.

    watercolor art print calendar, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    The other day Dana Barbieri wrote a beautiful blog post about stopping time so she can savor these precious days before her children get too old to enjoy the holidays. I wish I could stop time, too. Snuggle into these cozy days, snow whispering on the other side of the windows, candles flickering in their jars, hot tea steaming in my mug.

    christmas decorations, snow globe, crafts, mason jars, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry
    But time keeps slipping by. I can't change that.

    I can, however savor. Savor each moment. Keep my Joy Lists. Stop what I'm doing throughout the day and lift up thoughts of gratitude.

    houseplants, jasmine, flower buds, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    Be glad for things like the jasmine flowers forming on the plant in my studio window.

    Snapping this photo I noticed I could already smell the sweet scent of jasmine. It wasn't my imagination; when I looked, I discovered a few buds had already opened.

    houseplants, jasmine, flowers, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    If I hadn't been paying attention I might have missed it.

    I might also have missed the silly scene out the upstairs window from the other day:

    winter, joy, squirrels, corncob, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    Oh, those squirrels make me laugh. I'm glad for their presence in our yard (even though they did keep digging up my onions this summer). I'm glad for the presence of the birds at our feeders, too. Sweet chickadees and finches, nuthatches and bluejays, cardinals and sparrows, juncos and woodpeckers. I try to remember to stop and watch out the window throughout the day. They bring me so much joy.

    I hope you are managing to find time to listen to your joys, too. Maybe even write your joys down in the mini gratitude journal Dana and I created for you (it's not too late to subscribe and download your own).

    Joy List Monday: 

    a weekly ritual
    a reminder to stop and pay attention to the little beauties and graces that make life magical and to set aside time for gratitude each day

    My list today:

    watercolor, handmade, gifts, holiday packaging, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

    Wishing you a lengthy list.

    p.s. Etsy's running a special promotion for first time customers and it's ending tonight at midnight. Make a $50 purchase in one shop and receive a $10 credit toward a future purchase. You can read all about it here. Might be the time to finally take the plunge and purchase something you've been eying in my Etsy shop.

    p.p.s. Spoonflower is having a flash sale offering free shipping through noon, Tuesday December 13th!

    p.p.p.s.  My website now accepts Paypal as a payment option! I was so excited when Squarespace announced this the other day. Now you have the choice of paying with credit card, Apple Pay or Paypal. (Learn more about my policies here).

    *I made this jar years ago, inspired by this. I still love it and it's one of the few decorations I put out at Christmas time.