10 Great Gifts for Artists

Speaking as one, here's what I think any artist would love to get as a gift this holiday season (from big ticket to stocking stuffers). 

1. A handwritten letter that specifically and deliberately tells me what you like, enjoy, appreciate and find interesting about my work. We so often feel like our work is out there in a vacuum. We would love to know what you like about it, what it makes you feel like. I know these things are hard to put into words, but putting them into the words you can really would make us happy!

2. Scratch materials -- what do you see in my studio that gets used over and over? Maybe (for any textile artist, any way) a terrific new set of scissors, even a coupon for scissor sharpening or a sewing machine cleaning would be very appreciated gifts. Quality watercolor pads are expensive and always welcome for the water media painter. A gallon of gel medium or tar gel might make the heart of any mixed media artist happy. If all else fails, a gift certificate from one of the online art stores or fabric stores could be just the ticket. Check out Jerry's Artorama, Dick Blick, Dharma Trading Company, or Pro-Chem.

3. If the artist on your lists likes blank books, just some really functional ones like the black bound ones from any art or book store will do. Different sizes are fun to have.

 4. At the top end of the gift bestowing standard, (if your artist doesn't already have one) a new iPad tablet. Whooo Hoooo! Or if your artist already has one, how about an iTunes gift card for those apps that just need testing out. Another idea would be an iPad workshop for said iPad-owning artist -- there are some online ones, and (modestly, I say) I am teaching one here at El Cielo March 1-3.






5. Speaking of workshops, another welcome gift might be a gift certificate for travel or lodging to be used at a workshop or conference, or a workshop or conference fee paid in advance. The Surface Design Association conference will be held in San Antonio in June, a great gift to give any fiber, mixed media or textile artist on your list. For an event less directly art related, but inspirational for any artist, see if there is a TEDX event scheduled in your community and offer your artist the means to attend (there might be a fee, parking, babysitting, whatever it takes).

6. At the other end of the supply spectrum from a supply something used everyday, how about giving a luxury, unusual, international or unusual material that you think your artist could use in her or his work. Some treats that I've seen online lately:

Shizen papers -- handmade papers from Asia and elsewhere -- (lots of arts stores online carry these)

7. Something inspiring. For example, an art book of one of your artist's favorite artist. A big beautiful picture/photo book of something your artist includes in his or her work (fruit, flowers, landscapes, shells). A book about creativity, such as my own THE MISSING ALPHABET (yes, for parents, but it's a great book for those of us looking for artist dates for our inner artist kid)  Inspired, How creative people think, work and find inspiration, or The Art of Looking Sideways:


8. Travel. Travel is inspiring to most, if not all, artists. Maybe its just an overnight to a nearby city with an art exhibit worth seeing, or a weekend to a nearby spot of natural beauty -- or an extravagant gift of India or Italy. Be sure to package the gift with an appropriate postcards, set of travel tools (book, watercolor or sketch tools, guidebook or tickets!). 

9. A gift certificate for your artist to make a hard-cover book of his or her art  using iPhoto, Blurb or Lulu, or another of the online publish-on-demand sources. You can specify hard cover or soft, size, type of paper (choose the upgrade for better art reproduction).

10. With caution I suggest, A studio clean-up partnership-- just make a little coupon offering your services for a weekend clean-a-thon, and throw in some new storage containers, plastic boxes, filing ideas or other support for an organized workspace. You'll know whether your artist would welcome or reject such a gift -- some of us like our messy ways, others would love some help putting things into order (even if chaos was just around the next corner!) For additional inspiration, add a subscription to Studios, the Interweave Press publication that showcases wonderful artist studios of all kinds, sizes and shapes.

Do you have idea? Post them in the comments section and we'll see how many of us get the gift we really want this holiday season!


More about The Missing Alphabet

Our book for parents is birthed and we are selling quite well -- would love to make an even bigger splash out there is in the world, so if you know of anyone who might want to feature it on a blog or review site targeted at parents, creative thinkers or others who are interested in supporting the NEXT generation of creative thinkers, leave me a comment or send a message via the contact box on the sidebar. This is the book that distills the information and ideas that have informed much of my career as an arts educator -- frankly, the ideas and activities in it are fun for all ages, including adults looking for opportunities to awaken (or reawaken) their creative thinking and "noticing" skills.

Of course, I hope you'll consider it as gift giveing time rolls around. It's a spendid, helpful, interesting and important read, if I do say so myself! For parents and for artists of all ages. 

You can from Amazon or B&N, both electronic and paperback versions are available.

Here's a bit more about the book, from the website at http://www.themissingalphabet.com:

What is the best way to equip our children for the unknowns of the future?

It is impossible to know what the world will be like, or what our children’s career choices will be when they are grown. The scale of change, largely driven by technology, is unprecedented in human history. And it is change itself, this reordering, this inventing of the new world that will occupy our children’s future.

We have entered a time that calls for innovation across the board. This call is already echoing through all fields. The child’s counterpart to innovation is creative thinking, and creativity is our children’s next essential literacy.

The future will belong to children with innovative minds. But where will they get the thinking skills that build effective innovators? Unfortunately, most schools are focused elsewhere. The Missing Alphabet is a practical guide that helps parents solve these problems.

This team of education experts has drawn on decades of applied research in creativity, individuality, play, and media to craft an engaging guide for parents who understand that creative thinking skills are no longer a luxury, but a necessity for success in the new, grown-up world of work.

Yes, you are invited.

OK, this is kind of ridiculous, I know. I have done nothing on this blog except ask you to stuff for a few weeks now. So, this is my life, lovely. Busy. And full of flat out get it done.

Sometimes life is like that, and we who are lucky enough to work at what we love get the benefit. I have been a bit crazy, stitching my way into a solo show, getting ready for quilt festival, trying to think about next year with that half an ear on the future. NOTHING, NOTHING,  has been done exactly the way I'd wish it to be.. but it's done (or nearly). I hope to post a link to an online gallery here in the next couple of weeks. If you can't make the opening but want to see the show, call or email me and I'll make arrangements to meet you at Don and Jacob's for lunch sometime before it all comes down in January. There will also be a couple of other parties and special events there over the holiday season.

The solo show opens on Sunday, and you are invited.

Tomorrow and Monday I prepare for the festival workshops and demos. Saturday a dear friend has asked me to "do" a special workshop with him, for a birthday gift of creativity. The book is out. The website launched.


You can order here on Amazon (Kindle version, too).

Please, if you have any desire for this book -- great for kids and parents and grandparents, order it soon, so Amazon reorders! On such, books are made and lost. We have spent money, lots of time and it's kind of a legacy thing for me and my co-authors. You won't regret the purchase -this is the real thing with lots of great ideas for getting kids off to a creative thinking start.Save & Close

A Brief Intermission, a Big Breath

Don't you know? In betweens -- the breaths between two commitments -- are difficult to keep calm, and so important it is to do so.

I've just made it home from Dallas (after a brief stop in Waco to the see my parents) and am now packing supplies to take to the CREATE Mixed Media Workshop in Chicagoland. Breathe. Of course, a million tasks around the house seem to be screaming, a million "gee I should have done that earlier and had it ready for this big teaching weekend" thoughts are filling the head space. And all that is true, and all of it is rather irrelevant, too.

I am a working artist. I work and teach so that I CAN work and teach. I support my bad habits of eating, sleeping under a safe (and beautifully situated) roof and (seems like mostly) paying my health insurance premiums. So be it. And thanks to the universe for giving me employment, passionate attachment to my work, and support from friends, family and blog readers!

Right now, I am inbetween. The moment is what it is. What I can do, I will, including this short blog that is mostly a message to myself. (But one I suspect will echo though a few other people's psychic and physical spaces.) I also will breathe and look out at the hills, hot and dusty as they may be, with a tiny moment or two of realization that I am just a little dust mote in the whole of it. What I do is my part of the big creative swirl that is creation.



Daily Practice

Go with the flow, but it's nice to have a few paddles that you've practised using.

When the pedal hits the metal, you need a foundation of good practice to keep a modicum of balance in place. I've been tending a family member's serious illness this past week, (my dad, he's better), and it takes every bit of good behavior on my part for me to stay centered and available. What works for me is having certain minimum daily requirements for my physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well being. I'm not legalistic about these, sometimes a week might pass before one of my DMR actually makes it onto the to-do list. But I have noticed that the more I practice these habits/skills/routines and rituals daily -- when I DON'T need them --  the easier it is to make it through the rough patches.

The MDRs change over time and sometimes the focus is on one "realm" of being more than another. But recently, these are the practices that are getting me through. These are the real ones, not the ones I wish I did, not the ones I think I should be doing. And I slip up a lot on the dailyness aspect. but they are the minimums and more often then not, I get around to each and every one of them once in 24 hours.

1. Walking, at least a mile, usually about 3 in 1 to 2 mile stints. This one works on ALL the fronts, physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. Usually at home the walks are dog-driven necessity. (We call Bandera, the coon hound, "The Treadmill.")

Bandera, aka "the Treadmill

2. Keeping my email box purged. This is not easy, and stuff still gets shuffled to some unknown folder at times. But mentally, it helps not to open the email and see 300 messages that are just kindof parked there o "in."

3. Cooking. Cooking good, simple, nourishing comfort food is both a creative and physical best practice in my life. It keeps me centered to handle ingredients and to participate in the alchemy of transforming these six things into some one delicious smelling and tasting one thing.

4. Stitching by hand. When I need a meditative moment, having some handwork to attack with the slow steady pace of a nice running stitch just gets me back into now. I carry handwork with me as often as I can, and its been essential for those hours in hospital waiting rooms. Count it practice for all the mes.

5. Affirmation and prayer. Enough said. Remember to breathe. Everything really is going to be all right. I don't have all the information. I can be present, right now, right here. Spinning out into future scenarios is always always a waste of precious energy.