Lady with Hydrangea Hair

hydrangeahair_edited-1I’m at the age of getting rid of stuff, not acquiring it. So why did I buy this vase?

  1. Saw it and loved it.
  2. Reminded me of something my mother would buy.
  3. Everything my mother bought was exceptional.

ladywithblueThanks, Mom.

This vase looks good anywhere, and it’s fun too. Today she’s sporting a hydrangea hairdo, tomorrow—who knows?

I think Kamster has some ideas.



Looking back looks different

blanket_edited-1I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

Things I made and hated look a lot better months or years later.

Front cover

Like, I knit these squares for an afghan a decade ago, but wasn’t happy with the way they came out. So I hid them in a stack in our linen closet and didn’t look at them till last week—and was shocked by how cool they are.

Glimpse of drawing room, between entry and dining room
Library and gameroom

Or like the Victorian doll house book I made when I was recovering from hand surgery. I kept putting pages together and tearing them apart until I hated the whole thing.

But Margaret said it was “enchanting,” which gave me the energy to finish. That’s when I discovered that the book stands up by itself, making it a 3D dollhouse with room for paper dolls and more.

I would have loved that when I was a kid. And still do.

The creative adult is the child who survived.  – Ursula K. LeGuin




Color, I love you

walls_edited-1I don’t know what I was thinking the last time we painted, when I covered the walls in shades of gray.

Maybe it’s like Dr. T. once told me: the state of our house reflects the state of my mind. Six years ago, times were tough. But we’ve done a lot of healing since then, and it’s beginning to show in the walls.

My color expert, Lynda Lankford, helped me choose the colors you can sort of see in the picture (they’re even more vibrant in real life) and the very white high gloss trim, which makes it all pop.

Then there’s just plain old serendipity. The paint crew painted the “wrong” wall in the living room—and we love it. Thank you so much Sue!

So color me happy and come on over: we can’t wait to share our joy with you.

Starting vs. Finishing

IMG_1819I was so proud of finishing this blanket I made for Sam. Two previous attempts were disasters, and I was beginning to doubt that I’d ever make one. So, ta da!

At least that’s the way I felt for a few minutes. But sitting down to write about it showed me something I didn’t particularly want to see.

I’m just like Sam…Except when he starts things and doesn’t finish them, it drives me crazy.

What’s the difference? Scale. My projects are small, so no one has to see them. His, on the other hand, are so big they hit you in the face—at least my face. (Besides the fact that it’s easier to see his flaws than my own.)

What’s the same is the root cause: perfectionism. Whatever we’re making, the product is never as good as the image we have in our minds.

Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity. It drains our energy and keeps us from trying, learning, growing, failing, changing—and finishing.

All that’s to say, I am proud of this blanket. It’s not perfect, but it’s warm, cozy, beautiful—and DONE.

Snollygoster or blatherskite?

troglodyteIt started with these birds yelling at me for putting them on an ordinary page with simple doodles. In defending their dignity, they came up with some impressive insults: troglodyte*, ignoramus, cretin, idiot.

Then I opened my email and found the word for the dayultracrepidarian, or “one who gives opinions beyond one’s area of expertise.”

I could use that one, way too often, as well as these.

  • Snollygoster, an opportunistic, power-hungry person
  • Blatherskite, one who talks foolishly at length
  • Cacafuego, one who brags too much
  • Mythomane: one having a tendency to exaggerate or lie
  • Coccydynia: literally, a pain in the butt

So next time someone offends you, try using an uncommon insult. That should really piss them off.

*Troglodyte: a cave dweller from prehistoric times, or a person who acts like one.

Some things are worth waiting for

handmade book_edited-1You know those old projects lying around your house? I have plenty: the needlepoint I abandoned…knit afghan squares in a pile…half-full journals…

Well, last night I finished one of those.

I’ve had this vintage book cover forever, cut the pages at least a year ago, and then put it on a shelf and forgot about it. Or mostly forgot about it. The truth is, I realize now, I was scared. It was less painful to do nothing—and have nothing—than to risk screwing it up.

I don’t know what changed, but yesterday I pulled the pieces off the shelf and finally put them together. There wasn’t much to it: the whole project took just a couple of hours.

That’s all it took, unless you count the hours I spent taking bookmaking classes and collecting the necessary tools and supplies, which is a lot. Now I know why I struggled through them: just being familiar with the process made it possible to make this book.

I found a simple binding to sew, punched slightly larger holes, and was amazed by how much easier the whole process was when I didn’t follow someone else’s instructions. And Sam made it even easier by building a tool that helps align pages. punch tool

Hope I can remember this experience next time I’m avoiding finishing something…

What’s so great about journals?

journals copy 2I know that keeping a journal is important, healing—maybe even life-saving—for me. But why? Or how?

I’ve read a lot about it, and learned from some masters, as you can see in this journal page from 2006. I was planning to expand on it by quoting other writers when I realized I could quote myself.

Ten years ago I created my own list of why a journal matters, and today somehow found it. What I wrote then is just as relevant today: a journal is a good place to…

Experience the present more fully. Notice what you’re thinking, sort out the random experiences of your life, and find patterns, perspective, and deeper meaning.

Express yourself, safely. A journal is a safe place to release your anger, name your fears, explore your dreams, and figure out what to do with all this raw material.

Flex your creative muscles. Try things out, see what works, and just as important, what doesn’t. Keep practicing and watch your skills improve and your style emerge.

Record things you want to remember: stories, books, quotes, ideas, inspirations. (One of my favorites is a conversation wi th many years ago. Ben: Mom, is there such a thing as the human race? Me: Yes. Ben: Well, who won?)

Practice a form of meditation. Writing in a journal is time to be alone and quiet—a rare pleasure in our busy world and a necessity in developing creativity.

Play. Enjoy yourself! Explore writing, lettering, doodling, color, and just plain messing around.

Bear witness. Ultimately, keeping a journal is a way of saying that your life matters. Which it does.

Obviously, I want everyone to keep a  journal, whether it’s about gardens, trips, dreams, cooking, children, books or anything else. So I’ll leave you with this blessing from one of my favorite journal/authors, Christina Baldwin:

May you have good journeys and full journals.

Celebrating new tools

colorbrushTuesday was a good day for the Averitts.

The custom milling machine Sam has been waiting for—forever, it seems—finally arrived.

This time it was delivered, very carefully, by forklift. (The first time it fell off the truck and had to be rebuilt.)

mmPlease don’t ask me what a milling machine does. Sam has explained more than once, but all I heard was it’s “a machine that makes machines.” I do know that it’s big, heavy, complex, computerized, and made in America.

With Sam and Ben so busy, I’ve had lots of time to meditate with Kamster (our singular cat) and of course, to journal.

The spread above is the result. I colored the background with Zig dual tip brush markers I bought at Betty’s Creative Studio in Greensboro—one of the few independent scrapbook/stamping stores still around, and a real gem.

Here’s how I did the lettering—and you can, too:

  • Draw irregular curvy lines
  • Write big letters and make sure they touch the lines on top and bottom.
  • Fatten parts of each letter and fill them in.
  • The easiest way is to use all caps and thicken the down strokes (everywhere your pen goes down to make the letter).

This kind of lettering looks a lot harder than it is. Just like the milling machine, I hope.

Traveling to Tibet


tibetNo, I’m not really going to Tibet. But I feel like I’ve been there after reading The Skull Mantra by Elliot Pattison.

That’s what’s so great about mystery series. You not only get a good story, you experience worlds you’d never know otherwise.

In this case, the setting is the story. It’s about what happens when a peaceful, spiritual culture (Tibet) meets the brutal efficiency of invaders (China). You can’t help but root for the Tibetans, even when you know the outcome.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. – Dalai Lama

Reading this made me want to know more about the Tibet that was. And I got a glimpse of it last night, watching the movie Seven Years in Tibet.

It’s the true story of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountain climber who became friends with the Dalai Lama at the time of China’s takeover of Tibet.

It’s not a great movie, but it does show what happens when civilizations clash—something we all need to know about in today’s world.

So please join me in a prayer for peace. Om mani padme hum.

“Good artists copy; great artists steal”

johnalcorn copy
Copying John Alcorn, inTreasured Southern Family Recipes 5.27.15

That’s what Picasso said, and it has a nice ring to it. But what does it mean?

This has been a hot topic among artists, and there are too many perspectives to summarize.  So I’ll just give you my conclusions, based on their knowledge and my experience.

johnalcorn copy 2_edited-1
Copying John Alcorn, Treasured Southern Family Recipes 5.27.15

Copying is a good way to learn. By copying your heroes, you learn about their process and how they arrived at the results you admire. And it’s all good, as long as you don’t try to pass it off as your own.

That’s a relief, because I’ve spent a lot of this week copying the work of John Alcorn, a mid-century artist/illustrator I admire. You can see the results in my sketches.

Stealing is about transforming others’ ideas into your own. The thinking here is that there is no such thing as an original idea; everything is a juxtaposition.

That’s okay, because when you put existing ideas together and add yourself, you turn the work into something else: art.

You can do this. If you’re wanting to create and don’t know what to do, Austin Kleon has a suggestion. “Think of your work as a collage. Steal two or more ideas from your favorite artists and start juxtaposing them.”

Better yet, read his five-star book, Steal Like an Artist.