Inspired by Finland

Reindeer and sun symbols combined in felt on what will become a craft bag.

I’m getting ready for my summer trip to Iceland and Finland by immersing myself in some beautiful images. This reindeer is from a book called Scandinavian Folk Patterns, and the sun framing it I found online researching Sami drum symbols. Felt is one of my favorite fabrics to sew because you don’t need to hem it and it makes big bold lines and shapes similar to the ones I like to use in my block prints.

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Mathematics and Sustainability

Student work from Mathematics and Sustainability class
Student work from Mathematics and Sustainability class

I just finished teaching a three week class on mathematics and sustainability. It was this amazing experience where I felt fully integrated: math, art, environmentalism—all these different parts of me were all there. Here are some samples of my students’ work.

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Art, Activism, and Mathematics

Spirit Guardians, block print with watercolor
Spirit Guardians, block print with watercolor

I’m preparing to teach a class on sustainability and mathematics this January–it’s one of my favorite topics because it’s so personally meaningful and the math is really interesting.

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Treat Your Art Like It’s a Business

American Folk Artist Sam McMillan's Hand Painted  Briefcase
American Folk Artist Sam McMillan’s Hand Painted Briefcase

I have recently been inspired by Rachael Cook at the Yogipreneur website. She runs a business helping yoga teachers turn their love of yoga into a sustainable business. I am not particularly business minded, so I signed up for her 21 day “Fired Up and Focused” challenge.

Rachael sends you an email a day with a link to a video she has made sharing some tip or another about how to run your business better. I particularly like her emphasis on the importance of folding all aspects of your life (including personal and family time) into the way you run your business. I am not a yoga teacher, but I definitely consider my art a heart-centered wellness business. And my math tutoring practice, for that matter. So I adapt what Rachael has to say to my world and I find it fits well.

One thing she said that has helped me a lot is that it is important to create systems to support the mundane, daily operations of your work. Creating systems helps you streamline your energy so you have more to put into the higher level visionary thinking that will help you grow and develop in the direction you want to go. So I decided to create a system for my block printing.

It’s important to me that I print regularly (not just when inspiration strikes) because I know that’s what Real Artists do, (and I’ve spent years being blocked, thinking I was not talented enough, when really I just didn’t have an art production system in place.) I set myself a goal of 12 prints a year and split up my printmaking process into 4 equal steps, each of which I can easily complete within a week.

Week One: Photograph Things that Inspire Me
Week Two: Crop, Sketch, and Transfer Image to Block
Week Three: Carve Block
Week Four: Print and Edit
Rinse and Repeat

Here’s the result of the first round:

apple blossoms draft

I’m pretty pleased with this print (it will look even better when I add color), and for the first time I don’t feel panicked that I don’t know what I will do next. It doesn’t matter. I have a system, and as long as I stick to it and don’t over think it, at the end of the year I will have twelve beautiful new block prints.

Vibrant Watercolors in Twelve Easy Lessons

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Day 8: Asparagus

It’s my firm belief that painting and drawing are not only talents, but also practical skills which can be taught to everybody. I also believe it’s never too late to learn (yay, neuroplasticity!) So I bought the book You Can Paint Vibrant Watercolors in Twelve Easy Lessons by Yuko Nagayama and I’m very proud of myself for having made it all the way to Day 8. I want to add more vibrant colors to my block prints. For me color = emotion and although I love the crisp, clean, orderly look of black and white block prints, I’m ready to add more. Here’s my painting from Day 1 so you can see how far I’ve come!

Day 1: Bananas
Day 1: Bananas