A world of altered altoid tins

4tinsTis the season for…making altered Altoid tins.

First Meg and then Kerr wanted to make these for the holidays, which happens to be a great idea. They’re easy, inexpensive, and make great gifts—as is, or filled with treasures.

My friends took me back into the world of all things Altoid, where you can find whole sites devoted to these things and thousands of ideas for using them.

I’d show you how to cover your own, but your best bet is the excellent tutorial I learned from.

Deciding what to put inside is the fun part anyway. Here’s what’s inside mine: a felt “needle case,” book plates, tiny sketchpad with crayons, and a strange book.


What’s next? I’m thinking magnetized paper doll or maybe another change holder (someone stole the last one I made!).

You can see some of my favorites on my Pinterest album. But you’ll have to look elsewhere for the Altoid radio, fishing reel, or BBQ.

Boring myself

These curtain panels I made for the studio are definitely not boring.

I’ve written four or five posts in the last few weeks and haven’t sent any of them.

Why? Because I’m beginning to bore myself here—even though I’m so inspired in other ways.

I guess I care less about what I’m thinking and more about what I’m doing and learning. So I’ve decided to narrow my focus and make debzweb about creative journaling, lettering, and making stuff.

The new debzweb will probably include ideas for how to have fun in your journal, express your unique voice, use different media and tools, improve your handwriting…you get the idea.

I know that’s not for everyone, so please feel free to unsubscribe. If you have any difficulty doing so, email me at deb@debzweb.com and I’ll manually remove your name.

This is the first time in a long time that the words have flowed out my fingertips onto the page. I’m ready for a new adventure. Are you?

Is it good? Does it suck?

2questionsTwo questions hold our creativity hostage, according to Lynda Barry.  One: Is it good? Two: Does it suck?

It’s hard to believe that an accomplished artist like Barry understands the forces that hold us back, but she nails it in What It Is.

The book outlines her journey from creative joy to creative dread and back again, and suggests ways to get past the monsters inside. The first step is asking a different question:


Aliveness is the hard part, Barry says.  To get there, you have to “be able to stand not knowing long enough for something alive to take shape.” How? Here’s one exercise she uses in her class.

List the first 10 cars you remember. Pick the one that’s the most vidid and answer these questions. Where are you? What are you doing? Are you in the car or out? Who’s with you? What’s in front of you? Behind you? Why are you there? What time of day is it? What season?

Start with the words “I am…” and write what’s happening. Stay inside the image and keep your hand moving.

I am… in my mom’s white Oldsmobile convertible with bright red seats, riding in the back with my brother—in our pajamas!—to Don and Bob’s. We love D & B’s burgers, so big the patty hangs off the bun, and I’m crazy about their fries. I like to use the little wooden thingy to eat the inside first, then the shell. Just don’t let any ketchup get on them! I hate ketchup!

I bet you’ll see things you haven’t thought of in years, things that are alive for you. And that’s a good place to start.

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.