June 17th, 2010

Internet access will be sporadic for the next few weeks. I’ll be checking in when I can.

Part of me really enjoys that feeling of being homeless for a time.

In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.
William Blake

Here’s to going through those doors.

What will be on the other side?

June 16th, 2010

(found image: from Fundamental Concepts of Biology, “Foraminifera”)

I have been so enjoying all your suggestions in the last few posts, so many great ideas/items. Thank you. My life will be more sustainable (and minimal) because of you.

Things are winding down here as we prepare to take a trip to Ontario to visit friends and family for a few days. One more day of clean up and we are off. It’s a bit overwhelming making so many life changes all at once. But I am trusting the universe to send me in the right direction.

I am on the last chapter of the book “Anticancer” by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber and I have not been able to put it down. This book has helped me put together an extensive healing plan, and while my lifestyle will not change that drastically (particularly in the nutrition department where I am doing quite well) I will be adding a few more things to my healing arsenal. Namely, a regular meditation regiment, which I used to do, but have let slide since my son was born. If you have anyone in your life with cancer, or just want to be preventative yourself I HIGHLY recommend this book. It is based on the mind-body model, but offers all of the science to back it up. The author was a fairly traditional conventional doctor, until he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Which got him to begin exploring a variety of healing methods to work in conjunction with and in aid to western medicine. He speaks largely of working on your “terrain”, which is basically your body’s ability to deal with and eliminate cancerous cells (everyone has the potential for cancer but not everyone develops it due to their terrain).

After losing my own mother to a brain tumor many years ago, this book has helped me to “make peace” with cancer as much as possible. This is something I have needed to do, and it has helped me to understand exactly how it is no longer something to be feared, but definitely “managed”, and in many instances cured (they use this language reservedly in the book, but I believe it to be true.) After reading it I have become actually excited about my ability to heal and grateful for all of the things my own experience is bringing up, (places that need to be healed).

I share this here because I know there are many of you dealing with challenging stuff health wise and maybe you will find the book as empowering as I have.

June 14th, 2010

In doing a bit of research on this topic I discovered a rather ironic twist. It seems that the birth of America’s Disposable culture began right smack dab in the town where I currently reside (for a week more), you guessed it, Troy NY. Here is a bit of history:

Hannah Montague of Troy wearied of having to wash her husband Orlando’s shirts when only the collar was dirty. So one day in 1827, she snipped off a collar, laundered it, and then sewed it back on, creating the world’s first detachable collar. Recognizing the business opportunity stemming from his wife’s ingenuity, Orlando opened a factory overlooking the Hudson that produced collars, dickeys, and cuffs. Soon, factories started making these shirt pieces out of paper. In 1872, 150 million paper shirt collars and cuffs were produced in the U.S., and by 1886 more than 8,000 workers were employed in the trade in Troy alone.

you can read the full article here. I have lived in “collar city” for six years now, never knowing it was the harbinger of a bad, long lasting trend.

So many of you have written with your thoughts and ideas on the matter, and I am excited to see there seems to be a movement of people who want to only own objects that a) have meaning, b) are long lasting and c) contribute to sustainability in some way.

We have figured out that there is much beauty to be had in living minimally. In paring down our clothes (all of mine now fit mostly into a regular sized suitcase), I have learned how greatly it simplifies your whole existence. There are not enough things to overwhelm you, laundry is a breeze, you don’t have too many choices to make when dressing in the morning, and mostly you feel “lighter”, (especially when moving). Think about what it would be like to live as if you were travelling, able to fit most of your belongings into a car. If I get something new, the rule is it has to replace something else.

Some other objects to consider (some have been mentioned in the comments already):

-pens. I have decided to begin using only refillable pens, if you have any suggestions that are good for drawing let me know. A few years ago I was using the rotring Art pen, but I found over time it clogged badly and I had to replace it. I am wondering about the “piston fill converter” for it. I’m willing to give it another go.

-reusable fabric maxi pads. I like these quite well, and there are so many to choose from now.

-many people wrote about Cydwoq shoes. My husband and I wear these as our main footwear (yes they are expensive, we only have a few pairs of shoes to our name). They last for at least ten years, you only need to replace the soles now and then. If you call the company, the phone is often answered by the owner Rafi. Someone also mentioned Trippen shoes from Germany.

-razors. A generous reader is sending my husband a Merkur razor (he had an extra one lying around), lucky for us.

-there are some excellent long lasting items to be had at Mr. Lees General Store and Haberdashery in Vancouver (perfect timing).

-Shepherd’s Dream wool mattresses. Portable, earth friendly, non-toxic, completely sustainable, and they can last a lifetime. These answer all of my needs.


-I love my le creuset dutch oven which I got on sale at Winners many years ago. These pots you can hand down to your grandchildren. I do 99 % of my cooking in it.

-While on the subject of cooking, there is an excellent minimal list of “all the kitchen stuff you need” in the beginning of “The Art of Simple Food” by Alice Waters. Basically I have adopted the same kitchen system. We have three knives that do everything, a bread knife, a large cutting knife and a paring knife. Given the amount of cooking I do (every day) I can tell you it functions beautifully.

a resource to peruse:

-Everett Brogue wrote an ebook called The Art of Being Minimalist. I have only read the 30 page preview, but I like what I saw.

-this is an excellent guide to living plastic free.

keep the ideas coming! I think I’m going to put together a resource guide (once I’m settled that is). All of these suggestions are too good.

June 13th, 2010

To be fully human, people ought to have as authentic a relationship as possible with others. They should know that in their deepest being they are intrinsically free to reconstruct and transform themselves, and they need to grant others the same powerful freedom.

David Spiegel, M.D.
(found in the book Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber)

June 11th, 2010

After I gave birth to my son I bought a brown printed dress to accommodate my size at the time. I loved the dress but now it just feels too big and frumpy on me. So I hauled out my old portable Sears/Kenmore circa 1960 sewing machine and fashioned the dress into a skirt. And I made a hair scarf with the extra fabric. My, I am pleased with myself for doing that. Don’t you love it when you make something new out of something you were going to give away? And the smell of the old sewing machine! How I have missed that smell, it brought me back to summers at the cottage with my mom sewing up new green jumpsuits for my sister and I.

We’ve been having a lot of conversations on the disposability of our current culture and how people don’t really (or aren’t able) to repair things anymore. This issue comes up as we pack our things and ask the question “what do we really need/use?” So in our house we are making an attempt to only purchase items that will last for years and years and are capable of being repaired (hopefully by us), and that we love.

This may sound easy, but it can be challenging given that many items are now designed to be disposable (razors, appliances, technology to name a few). It can take a bit of work to seek out items that will last a lifetime, but I feel it is an important and worthy endeavor. My husband is currently researching the old fashioned razors, which are $65 at the low end, but the replacement blades run around 15 cents (as opposed to paying over 10 dollars for a package of 6 replacement blades for the modern day versions). The handle itself will last for the rest of your life. The simplicity of this is a beautiful thing.

Other items that we have acquired that can last for many years and/or be repaired, leather shoes, wool mattresses, wool bedding, hemp clothing, bicycles, canvas quilts, cast iron pans/pots, canvas bags, the 1960′s sewing machine, guitars, amplifier, wooden furniture and more. Interestingly these are all things that we love and care for on a regular basis and in turn we enjoy using them so much more than things that are not designed to last. There is a solidity to them, they are often more tactile (feel good in the hand), and the necessary process of caring for them (oiling them, or cleaning them) causes us to be mindful and appreciate them on a regular basis. This leads to greater enjoyment in the long run.

If only the technology realm would get into this. What about making wooden “cases” that hold laptop components, so you could keep the same case for years and just replace the innards? Or some kind of permanent “shells” for cell phone parts.

If you have any experiences with objects that last, or some suggestions for alternatives to disposablity please feel free to share them in the comments above.

June 9th, 2010

so much to do before we go.

no time for the self. wishing for a few hours to do nothing.

I will be happy to look back on this time as something that we completed.

I will feel triumphant.

I really love my new space here.

I am glad you do too. So many great emails I have received.

(can’t keep up with the explorations though, there are too many. hundreds.)

p.s. in the responses to “what is right in front of you”, the most common submissions are computers, lamps, chickens, fish, and love. I never would have guessed some of those.

June 8th, 2010

(originally published in 2006)
Guerilla art is a fun and insidious way of sharing your vision with the world. It is a method of art making which entails leaving anonymous art pieces in public places. It can be done for a variety of reasons, to make a statement, to share your ideas, to send out good karma, or just for fun. My current fascination with it stems from a belief in the importance of making art without attachment to the outcome. To do something that has nothing to do with making money, or listening to the ego.

My first experience with being a guerilla artist was in my first year of art school in a class taught by conceptual artist Shirley Yanover. One of our assignments was to create some form of graffiti in a public place (we were allowed to choose the were and how). We went out in groups of four, (two lookouts, and two painters), and proceeded to make our mark on various blank walls across the city. The experience made me terrified and exhilarated at the same time. I wrote quotes from various authors along the bottoms of buildings, on phone booths, and on the sidewalks. I remember the feeling of daring as we sprinted away from unsuspecting police officers.

Now I am not necessarily advocating that you do anything illegal or potentially life threatening. But there is something wonderfully sneaky about leaving some form of art in public places. I like knowing that at some point in time someone might receive a little surprise in the form of a random message from a stranger, or a doodle in an unexpected place. I remember there used to be an artist in Toronto who would bolt text books and old phone books to various things. It became a personal quest of mine to find them all, and I always felt so excited when a new one showed up just under my nose. Experiment with your own ideas.

Possible Formats

1. Sidewalk chalk
2. Sticker art
3. Flyers/posters (see “make a flyer of your day” at learningtoloveyoumore. Here is mine, page 1, page 2, page 3.
4. Journals (pass it on)
5. Zines
6. Object leave behinds (money, gifts, junk)
7. Notes (slogans)
8. Graffiti
9. Book inserts (library)
10. Book leave behinds (bookcrossing)
11. Letters (possibly love letters to strangers)
12. The age old ‘message in a bottle’, or a balloon. Or if you are really adventurous you might be drawn to carrier pigeons.

Potential Ideas for subject matter

-any form of artwork (drawings, collage, doodles, paintings)
-good luck charms
-variations on a theme
-many guerilla artist are politically motivated and find that being anonymous allows them to be more controversial or extreme with their message. Popular with activists.

June 8th, 2010

(originally published in 2005)
So many people have written me asking for advice I decided to put this short list together. Some of these things may be stating the obvious but I wanted to start simply so that you don’t get too overwhelmed with an enormous load of things to do. Be gentle with yourself. The goal in the beginning it to just start, forward movement in any direction is good. It helps to just get that feeling of accomplishment, when you come back from the mail and feel really good about sending out some cards.

1. Go to a library or bookstore and look for publishers, magazines, etc. that use work like yours, (in a similar style.) Find names of art directors & addresses on the masthead, (usually by the contents page, the masthead lists everyone who puts the issue together.) For publishers you may have to do some digging, look in Writer’s Markets, web pages, etc. ALWAYS be on the lookout for places, restaurants, posters, greeting cards, advertising, murals, comic books, products…etc. that your work would be suitable for. It will become natural for you after a while. Research:
Graphic Artist’s Guild
The Business of Illustration by Steven Heller
List of Research Journals, Magazines,and, U.S. and World Newspapers
Canadian Magazine Publisher’s Association

2. Once you get a name and address (start with 10 names and go from there). Do not overwhelm yourself too much, just start with a few! Send them samples. It could be color copies (good quality) or a printed piece. The MOST important thing to remember is that the work and samples be appropriate to their publication. notes: If your work seems to focus mainly on animals try Children’s magazines, animal magazines, licensing for products, etc., look for companies that already publish stuff similar to yours. It would not be cost effective for you to market to Time Magazine. When mailing you will usually have at least a 2 percent response, (I’ve found it to be more like 10 percent).
Also try to stick to one style when targeting clients, they need to know what to hire your for, (you want them to think “Comic-like, oh I need to call…insert your name here”)

3. For further help I highly recommend: -read Seven Steps to getting Published for advice on how to go about the creative part. -research promotional mailers and marketing for designers. Some simple techniques in bookbinding can be very helpful in coming up with some unique promotional mailers. A good book for this is Making Memory Books and Journals by Hand by Kristina Feliciano, Jason Thompson, and Barbara Mauriello. -Read: my recommended reading business & money section and “How to Make a living doing what you love” -make a business plan, starting with short term goals that are do-able (it will all get done, take it slow!) -if you haven’t been already, the “Art Talk” section of TheIspot is an excellent place to pick up info from people who have been in the business for a long time.

-read designer Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto I particularly like, “Don’t enter competitions, Just don’t do it, it’s not good for you.” When I first read this I was stunned, all my teachers in art school always told us, “Enter every competition you can. It’s good promotion if you get in. It’s worth the cost.” In the beginning I did this. I wanted so badly to win these competitions that I tried to create “winning” artwork. It was usually contrived and not from the heart. I never got in. I think what Bruce Mau was talking about was when you put something into a competition you are putting your work up for judgement by a third party (in this case a large magazine or organization.), thus giving them the ability to deem your work ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When you do this is you are in effect putting other’s opinions ahead of your own. Now I know we must all face rejection at one time or another. (You have heard the saying, “if you are not being rejected you are not trying hard enough.”) But it seems strange to me to PAY someone to judge your work, these competitions are quite expensive. I’m sure I will get some flack for this opinion by some who truly believe in entering competitions. After several years I started to get into many of the major awards annuals (without trying), and in my experience I have not yet gotten a job from it, so I do question the promotion incentive. If you are producing work that moves you, over time you WILL be recognized by others, but a) competitions should not be a motive for creating and b) putting other’s opinions over your own puts us onto a subjective scale, (“I must not be living up to the rest”). Create your own rules.

June 8th, 2010

(originally published in 2005)

During my own research on publishing I would always become somewhat giddy with excitement when I would see a title like the one above. It was as if the author was about to reveal to me the one magic clue that I needed to crack the mystery, the one thing that would set my career in motion. I would usually envision it would be something really simple, something I could do in the span of a week. I think in the beginning I was more in love with the idea of getting published than I was with the process of getting there. This is not necessarily a bad thing, after all who wouldn’t be? It is an immensely exciting experience, I have rarely experienced the elation I felt after receiving an actual acceptance letter in the mail. But what I learned in the meantime was bigger than any publishing tip I had ever read, you really must LOVE THE WORK. While getting published is an exciting possible outcome of a creative endeavor, it should not used as a motive for creating. For a while now I have been approached by people asking me to offer some tips on getting published. After much procrastinating I have come to write some of my thoughts on the subject, elusive as it may be. But I thought it appropriate to also talk briefly about the process of creating, developing the ideas and bringing them out into the world.

As with any advice I can only tell you what worked for me, some people may have a different approach. I find now it really helps me to read about the process of creating, the process of submitting is extremely important to learn but fairly straightforward (you only need to do it a few times to get it)…

1. Let your idea have it’s own life. This sounds a little strange but what I mean by this is once you have the idea in your head don’t try to control it too much. Let it tell you what form it should take. It really helps at this point to go for a long walk and just LISTEN (it may be several long walks). Let the words and images evolve. With my most recent book it took over a year for me to know what form it would take. I had ideas for content and had begun writing but no overall format to tie it all together. I didn’t worry about it too much but just let it “be” for a while. One day while reading a book on “intuition in business”, a concept popped into my head. This concept was “play”, and it tied the whole book together and became my focus from that moment on.

2. Really enjoy yourself and the process of creating, the best work will flow* out of you. People will respond the most to things you did with passion, (as opposed to things you forced). Don’t worry about whether it would sell, or what’s hot in the moment your target market, or what a family member recommends. Be honest with yourself and the process.

3. Make it real. I made the book in it’s entirety, packaged it up really smartly in a box with fake hay so when they opened it, it was somewhat displayed. This shows the viewer exactly what you had in mind, without them having to visualize it. Invariably if you explain something, they won’t see exactly what you are thinking.

(This suggestion is appropriate for people who wish to write AND illustrate. I do not recommend having someone else illustrate a book before you submit to a publisher as I have been told by many editors that this will actually hinder your chances of getting published. Do it if you can execute it in a way that is flattering.)

4. Research and target the appropriate publishers. This is extremely important, really look at their newest catalogues. Would you work be an appropriate fit? Are they using people with a style that is compatible with yours? I’m not saying to cater your work to them necessarily, but find an appropriate fit for you. I read the Writers Market like a novel, and used a highlighter throughout. This gives you a good indication of what certain publishers are looking for and how to present your work. One of the most common mistakes that authors make when submitting work (according to editors) is submitting work that is not suitable to their list. This ensures that you get your stuff into the slush pile.
*recommended reading “Writer’s Market”, or “Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers and Literary Agents” both published yearly.

5. Really sell yourself to them. Put together a package with a bio, list of clients, testimonials from clients, target market for your piece, and a sales pitch (as in a press release) about why you created the book and how it might be presented to the public. Also I always mention that this is not a simultaneous submission in my cover letter, (this is common courtesy in the publishing field), and that I purposely chose _________ because I felt the work would fit well with their list, in concept and visually.

6. If you are rejected…keep moving forward. The right company is out there waiting for you to find them. It is o.k. to feel bummed periodically (have a good cry about it! Yes it feels like you don’t know what you’re doing sometimes). Just pick yourself up again, dust yourself off, and start moving again.

7. A few little personal tips that I like to do when I submit things…
-Write an acceptance letter to yourself saying how great you think the book is.
-Cut out an existing Bestseller List from the newspaper. Add your book to it.
-Put all these things on your wall where you can see them.

June 8th, 2010

1. Go for a walk. Draw or list things you find on the the sidewalk. 2. Write a letter to yourself in the future. 3. Buy something inexpensive as a symbol for your need to create, (new pen, a tea cup, journal). Use it everyday. 4. Draw your dinner. 5. Find a piece of poetry you respond to. Rewrite it and glue it into your journal. 6. Glue an envelope into your journal. For one week collect items you find on the street. 7. Expose yourself to a new artist, (go to a gallery, or in a book.) Write about what moves you about it. 8. Find a photo of a person you do not know. Write a brief bio about them. 9. Spend a day drawing only red things. 10. Draw your bike. 11. Make a list of everything you buy in the next week. 12. Make a map of everywhere you went in one day. 13. Draw a map of the creases on your hand, (knuckles, palm) 14. Trace your footsteps with chalk. 15. Record an overheard conversation. 16. Trace the path of the moon in relation to where you live. 17. Go to a paint store. Collect ‘chips’ of all your favorite colors. 18. Draw your favorite tree. 19. Take 15 minutes to eat an orange. 20. Write a haiku. 21. Hang upside down for five minutes. 22. Hang found objects from tree branches. 23. Make a puppet. 24. Create an outdoor room from things you find in nature. 25. Read a book in one day. 26. Illustrate your grocery list. 27. Read a story out loud to a friend. 28. Write a letter to someone you admire. 29. Study the face of someone you do not like. 30. Make a meal based on a color theme. (i.e. all white). 31. Creat a museum of very small things. 32. List the smells in your neighborhood. 33. List 100 uses for a tin can. 34. Fill an entire page in your journal with small circles. Color them in. 35. Give away something you love. 36. Choose an object, draw the side you can’t see. 37. List all of the places you’ve ever lived. 38. Describe your favourite room in detail. 39. Write about your relationship with your washing machine. 40. Draw all of the things in your purse/bag. 41. Make a mini book based on the theme, “my grocery list”. 42. Create a character based on someone you know. Write a list of personality traits. 43. Recall your favorite childhood game. 44. Put postcards of art pieces/painting on the inside of your kitchen cupboard doors, so you can see them everyday (but not become deaf to them.) 45. Draw the same object every day for a week. 46. Write in your journal using a different medium (brush & ink, charcoal, old typewriter, crayons, fat markers. 47. Draw the individual items of your favorite outfit. 48. Make a useful item using only paper & tape. 49. Research a celebration or ritual from another culture. 50. Do a temporary art installation using a pad of post it notes & a pen. 51. Draw a map of your favorite sitting spots in your town/city. (photocopy it and give it to someone you like.) 52. Record all of the sounds you hear in the course of one hours. 53. Using a grid, collect various textures from magazine and play them off of each other. 54. Cut out all media for one day. Write about the effects. 55. Make pencil rubbings of six different surfaces. 56. Draw your garbage. 57. Do a morning collage. 58. List your ten most important things, (not including animals or people.) 59. List ten things you would like to do every day. 60. Glue a photo of yourself as a child into your journal. 61. Trasform some garbage. 62. Write an entry in your journal in really LARGE letters. 63. Collect some ‘flat’ things in nature (leaves, flowers). Glue or tape them into your journal. 64. Physically alter a page. (i.e. cut a hole, pour tea on it, burn it, fold it, etc.) 65. Find several color combinations you respond to in public. Document them using swatches, write where you found them. 66. Write a journal entry describing something “secret”. Cut it up into several pieces and glue them back in scrambled. 67. Record descriptions or definitions of subjects or words you are interested in, found in encyclopedias or dictionaries. 68. Draw the outline of an object without looking at the page. (contour drawing). 69. What were you thinking just now? write it down. 70. Do nothing. 71. Write a list of ten things you could to do. Do the last thing on the list. 72. Create an image using dots. 73. Do 3 drawings at different speeds. 74. Put a small object in your left pocket (or in a bag), Put your left hand in the pocket. Draw it by feel. 75. Create a graph documenting or measuring something in your life. 76. Draw the sun. 77. Create instructions for a simple everyday task. 78. Make prints using food. (fruit and vegetables cut in half, fish, etc.) 79. Find a photo. Alter it by drawing over it. 80. Write a letter using an unconventional medium. 81. Draw one object for twenty minutes. 82. Combine two activities that have not been combined before. 83. Write about your day in an encyclopedic fashion. (i.e. organize by subject.) 84. Write a list of all the things you do to escape. 85. Cut a random shape out of several layers of a magazine. Make a collage out of the results. 86. Write an entry in code. 87. Make a painting using tools from the bathroom. 88. Work with a medium that is subtractive. 89. Write about or draw some of the doors in your life. 90. Make a postcard that has some kind of activity on it. 91. Divise a journal entry using “layers”. 92. Divise an entry using “layers”. 93. Write your own definition of one of the following concepts, sitting, waiting, sleeping (without using the actual word.) 94. List 10 of your habits. 95. Illustrate the concept of “simplicity”.
100 ideas (pdf)

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