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

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.

Coming up at Southwest School of Art


Here are the next two summer classes that you might be interested in. Both are at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, and both are perfect for teachers and/or parents interested in helping kids be more creative -- the weekend course will focus on classroom fiber arts activities, including collaborative and individual projects. The parent's class will give anyone who works with kids the vocabulary of "The Missing Alphabet." a powerful tool to help kids face the future we can't predict.

2381 | Fiber Art: Fit for the Classroom

Whether you teach 4th grade or high school art classes (or just want some fiber art fun with your own kids or grandkids), there's a fiber art technique that will add texture, print, and even a bit of sparkle to your creative activities. Monday, whose experience with a wide range of classrooms and ages of students, will teach a variety of fun and manageable fiber art techniques and design approaches for use with children. Examples include mono-printed fabric art cards, easy screen-printed portrait tee-shirts, fabric paper collage, and fused fabric banners. These activities can be part of a formal art curriculum, or used by any educator to integrate the arts through new skills. Please see SSA website for a list of materials; bring a lunch each day. 

Level: All Levels 
Instructor: Susie Monday 
Dates: Sat & Sun, 7/14/2012 - 7/15/2012 | 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM 
Studio: Surface Design Studio | Campus: Navarro 


6-9550 | Creativity and Kids

special class for parents & teachers

Susie Monday

Mon – Fri, Jul 16 – 20 | 9:00am – 12:00pm Tuition: $145 (Members: $130) | 5 sessions

Discover more about your child’s learning. Explore their world of creativity, and find ways to stimulate and enhance it. With artist-educator Monday, co-author of

New World Kids: The Parent’s Guide to Creative Thinking as your guide, find out how to support, focus and direct your child’s creative thinking at home or at school. Hands-on activities, handouts, and an interdisciplinary approach characterize this invaluable class for the parents and teachers of creative kids. 

Special Class for Parents & Teachers 
Instructor: Susie Monday 
Mon - Fri, Jul 16 - 20 | 9:00a - 12:00p

TO SIGN UP. go to


Filmmakers in the Making

Linda teaches Mass Communications at Northwest Vista College, part of Alamo Colleges (community college) in San Antonio. As a final (three-day!) project, her students had to write. produce or otherwise create a public service announcement that addressed both some form and structure instructions  as well as recent research information about the impact of texting on student sleep deprivation and school performance.

Several of her students did outstanding work, and I can't resist sharing it with you -- note, these are not necessarily done by students taking any courses in media production -- just the  I think they are a wonderful example of how new media, the technology of YouTube and Vimeo, access to inexpensive media tools and an understanding of creative composition, design and how to use them. These are the New World Kids, growing up. This is their language and it shows.

For more about the assignment, see Linda's blog at

Night the Living Stayed Up Instead from Jorge Alvarez on Vimeo.



The Workshop of the Mind

How does your mind work? And what might it look like? Answering these two questions can give any (creative) person (and we are all creative) interesting insight into his or her process of invention, collection and creation.

 Led by my colleague, Dr. Cynthia Herbert, we traveled the road of looking at one's mind at a recent workshop at Ballet Austin. Attending were about 18 arts educators from diverse arts organizations (and/or interests) who took our New World Kids training. This exercise takes adult through a very personal image/collage/sculpture making process based on what currently is known about how the mind perceives, uses and stores information -- and how each of us differently uses that information to create new "products." Products can be as complex as full-blown works or art, as business plans, as research designs -- or as simple as a room arrangement, a lesson plan, a travel plan, a meal.

I'll be leading the same activity in my play and imagination workshop later this summer at El Cielo Studio, and also a parents' version at my weeklong course on creativity for your kids at the Southwest School in August. (There is also a Southwest School of Art weekend course there for teachers on teaching fiber arts, but we will start with this mind=picture activity.) 


July 29-31

Making time to play with odd-ball materials; learning to focus upon artful tasks at hand -- sounds like opposite sides of the coin? At this exploratory and full-of-play weekend, we’ll explore the relationship between the time, play, art and focus. Where does time management intersect with open-hearted fun? Expect bubbles, playdough, sparklers, jello, yoga and seeing the world from new angles and attitudes. Fee $165, including most supplies and meals. (For details, email me through the contact form on the sidebar).


special parent class
on raising creative kids
Susie Monday
Mon – Fri, Aug 1 – 5 | 9:00am – 12:00pm 
Tuition: $140 (Members: $125) | 5 sessions
Discover more about your child’s learning. Explore their world of creativity, and find ways to stimulate and enhance it. With artist-educator Susie Monday, co-author of New World Kids: The Parent’s Guide to Creative Thinking as your guide, find out how to support, direct, and defend your child’s creative thinking at home and in their school setting. Hands-on activities, handouts, problem-solving, and an interdisciplinary approach characterize this invaluable class for the parents of creative kids.

sAug 1 – 5 | 9:00am – 12:00pm Tuition: $140 (Members: $125) | 5 sessions


But here's one little taste that might provide insight (this is actually the final part of the 2 hour experience).

Think of a metaphor or analogy for your mind at work on a creative project, big or small. For example -" my mind is like a bee hive with bees and different tasks buzzing and communicating," or My mind is an assembly line where sensory input goes in at one end, gets organized and reshaped and comes out the other," or "My mind is story telling stage with lots of storytellers taking turns."

Now create a model or drawing of that analogy or idea! This is even more fun in a group, because you will be amazed at the diversity of ideas and of their expresssion.


New World Kids in Dallas

The team  (Susan Marcus, Dr. Cynthia Herbert and me ) is in Dallas preparing for a teacher training for Big Thought's afterschool programs. This is a pilot group of 25 or so teahers, and we've prepared a 9-week curriculum, with future units related to come. It's exciting to know that 25 or so groups of 5-to-6 year olds in Dallas Public School classes will be having a wonderful adventure with the Sensory Alphabet this fall.

New World Kids is our foundation class for creative thought, as described in the book of the same name - that one aimed at parents (or grandparents).

I'll be checking in daily with photos and other info on the NWK blog site. And then it's back to art quilts for a while.

P.S. The photo above is from the last NWK summer program at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CN. We also had a similar progam run last week at the Dallas Museum of Art. Next-- the Exploratorium and Big Thought!

NOTE: I didn't checkin daily or even once. No internet connection where we were staying or where we were teaching. Boy, do I miss it when I don't have it! Even WITH a smart phone. Here are some pics from the week, though:




Think Like a Pro


Skip this one (too) if you are just interested in my fiber art work. I'm on location in Connecticut working with 7-9 year olds on creative projects. Here's a link to our BREAKFAST PROJECT.


And here (I hope) is a link to our movie: "Lost in Tiger Swamp"


Lost at Tiger Swamp from Susie Monday on Vimeo.



Lost at Tiger Swamp from Susie Monday on Vimeo.


New World Kids in Connecticut

Here's the latest on our New World Kids summer programs:

TITLE: New World Kids: Creativity Workshops (Ages 5 & 6)
Venue: Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum / Ridgefield
Category: Children's
Date: 07/19/10 - 07/31/10
Time: 09:30AM h - 12:00PM h

Monday, July 19
7/19 to 7/31, Monday to Friday; 9:30 to 12 noon; plus two events for parents

The Aldrich invites a new group of young children to participate in the fourth summer of this innovative program focused on building creative thinkers, New World Kids and the Next Literacy. This summer, twelve children will explore a new way of looking at and understanding the world around them, and parents will learn about the individual strengths that will help their children to learn productively in the future. The Museum believes in the importance of developing programs that prepare young minds to learn and grow in a future that will require visual literacy and innovation. New World Kids is a program proven to engage children with the creative thinking processes, the capacity to invent with many media, the ability to think across disciplines, and the reliance on (and joy in) the imagination.

These skills are taught through what the program developer and author, Susan Marcus, calls The Sensory Alphabet: the building blocks of creative literacy. Just as basic as the traditional alphabet used in teaching the traditional literacies of reading and writing, it is the basis of our sensory connection to the world—line, color, texture, movement, sound, rhythm, space, light, and shape. The Sensory Alphabet will multiply a child’s early repertoire of ways to symbolize, understand, and communicate ideas. Each day children will explore an element of The Sensory Alphabet by collecting ideas, engaging in open-ended activities, reflecting on their work, and hearing from people in the community about what it is like to think and work the way they do. It is our intention that each child will attain a sense of “I can do that!” at some point in the program. The involvement of parents is a key aspect of New World Kids. Prior to its start, Aldrich educators will meet with parents to discuss the cognitive research that went into the design of the program and to learn about some of the individual characteristics of each child. At the end of the program, the educators will organize an informal exhibition, which will include the children’s work and documentation of both the children’s and teachers’ reflections on their creative strengths. The process of preparing for the exhibition and talking about it with family will give each child an important opportunity to reflect on his/her individual choices and strengths, and will give parents an insight into the natural abilities of their children. Parents are also invited to purchase a New World Kids 2009 yearbook, available in the fall, as a tool to engage children about their experiences.

This year Susan is adding an "alumni" course for older kids called Think Like a Pro. Here's what she'll be doing. I'm heading to Connecticut for the last week to help with the production and technology.

With July ushering itself in at the end of the week, I am writing to touch base with you all about Think Like a Pro, the next step in the New World Kids path to creative literacy. I am thrilled that we have 12 of our New World Kids returning, representing all three summers that we have offered the program.

As you know, Think Like a Pro begins on July 19 and runs Monday through Friday from 1:30 - 4:00 PM. On Saturday July 31 at 1:00 PM, families are invited to the Museum for a presentation of the students' work and a celebration of each child's contribution.

In Think Like  a Pro, we will focus on helping the children become aware of their own individual constellation of strengths, by experiencing various thinking processes and reflecting on them. They will again work with adult professionals, who will model their own way of thinking, introduce new digital media,  and coach the kids through a creative project. Students will explore the qualities of thinking used in the 2-D realm with graphics and patterns, 3-D thinkers who are makers and builders, the kinetic sensibility involving sound and movement, and the social sensibility relating to people, groups, cultures, and roles. Throughout the weeks, they will experiment with different ways to record and present all of the new information they gather. It is our goal that by the end of the program, the kids will not only participate in many new experiences, but go the next step in being able to reflect on their own thinking and learning.

The Shape of the Matter

I've been playing around with notan expanded squares for years, ever since Jane Dunnewold of Art Cloth Studios showed our class the Japanese exercise. Her explaination is on the tutorial section of the Art Cloth Studios website, so you can go there and get the instructions straight from my source.

As Jane writes, so eloquently (as she always does),

Both symmetrical (the same all around) and asymmetrical (different on each side) designs can be achieved through the use of the expanded square concept. In order for the exercise to be completed successfully, there must be a feeling of balance in the design created. A symmetrical design can still be heavy, ponderous, or boring. If the design is working, it will be interesting and will feel balanced on all four sides. Test this idea by turning your paper as you study a completed design. Does it measure up when rotated and studied? Is it interesting from all directions?


There are many other notan exercises, all of them derived from what is considered a kind of visual meditation sometimes by its practitioners.This example is even simpler in execution. Simply cut a square apart in any way you wish, with the object being to reassemble it with white space in between, making again a pleasing and intriguing balance of white and black, light and dark.

I also like to play with the shapes in multiples, enlarging and reducing them on the copier, then reassembling into a rhythmic shape composition.

These exercises are a neverending source of inspiration for stamps, whole cloth quilts, applique, stencils, screen-printing and other graphic applications to fiber arts. I'd love to see your examples! Like snowflakes, there never seem to be two alike! Here's another site with examples too, from Princeton Online.

And here's a wonderful extension of the discipline into maskmaking by a class at San Jose.

By the way, there is room for one more shape-minded person in June's The Shape of the Matter workshop at El Cielo Studio. We'll be doing notan and lot's of other shape exercises in design, using shape as the structural bones for an art quilt, and more. If you're interested, send me a message via the contact box on the sidebar. Dates are June 26 - 28. For further info, see the workshop page.

And, if you're not overwhelmed with opportunities yet, you can find more shape exercises in our new book -- yes, it's for parents, but each set of activities includes a page for the grownup investigators, too.
Here's the exercises in the Shape section -- plus a whole slew of others that didn't make it into the book. I'd love to hear your ideas, too.

Shape investigations to do on your own:

Explore your home as though it were a museum. What kinds of shapes have you collected, consciously or unconsciously? Make an arrangement of disparate objects that share a shapely characteristic on a bookshelf or windowsill. What would the catalog of these shapes say about you?

As you drive through your neighborhood notice the shapes of buildings, homes, stores and other structures. Do the shapes that you see serve as clues to architectural eras, the history of the street? If yours is a new neighborhood, what historical styles have the builders called upon for inspiration? Shapes of windows, doors, rooflines and facades are your best clues.

Cut or tear shapes from colored paper and collage them to solid colored cards for interesting personal note paper.

Enroll in a ceramics class at a local art center or continuing education department of a local college or university. Or for self-guided exploration buy a 50-pound box of ceramic sculpture clay from a local supplier.

Watch a dance or mime performance (live or recorded) with an eye for shape, how the performers use their bodies and each other to create shapes in space. Some troupes and artists to look for: Mummenschanz (on the web at, Martha Graham -- who else?

Take a walk along a creek bed or river and visually collect the shapes you see in stones and water.

Dip into Georges Perec’s 1978 Life A User’s Manual, a non-linear novel that uses writing constraints – rules that the writer has imposed on the content and structure of the book – much in the way a visual artist uses shape in the composition of a painting.

Write a haiku each morning for a week about the weather outside your window. (How do constraints of syllable count shape your thoughts?)

Think about how your clothing affects your silhouette as you dress for work or play. Make an effort to wear something that changes your shape and pay attention to its effect.

Collect a specific shape (circles or cones, for example) or specifically shaped objects (manholes, terracotta vases, interesting doors) by photographing throughout a day, a week, a month. Post your collection on a photography website, such as Flickr, to share it with others.

Carve simple shapes using a craft knife into the side of an art gum or white artist’s eraser. Make shape patterns and grids using black stamp pad ink on white paper. Enlarge and reduce and repeat shape patterns using a copier. Can these inspire a quilt or other art project?


What inspires me?

Inspiration: Fossils

I'm a guest artist over at Bonnie Samuel's blog today. Check out the post over there -- then come back here for a some pictures of what is currently inspiring my work, my studio time, my path on the planet!

Back already? Leave a comment and let me know what's inspiring you, and you'll also be entered into a drawing for Susan's and my book, New World Kids, The Parent's Guide to Creative Thinking.

What I'm listening to:The Beatles Love album, a 2007 remix/remake of classic Beatle tunes that uses the latest in digital production to wonderful effect for all us aging hippies.The remix was done for the Cirque de Soleil performance of the same name. Talk about inspirational!

What I'm watching in the studio: Reruns of House. I love this series and now that we don't have TV, everything I watch is from the library collection. I watch TV in the studio when I'm doing mindless tasks and don't feel the need for silence -- and when I'm doing design work that is going poorly or slowly or not how I expected. Having the audio and visual input seems to give my inner critic something to do so she won't bug me so much.

What I'm reading: I've been obsessed with the fantasy/alternative earth series about Kushiel and Terre d'Ange heroes, heroines and offspring of the Blessed Elua's companions. Just finished the last one though, so I guess I'll have to find another fix for late night bodice-ripping and bondage.

On a more productive bent (except, one never knows how those sexy sensual D'Angelines might show up on a quilt, does one?) I am delighted to be reading and playing around with Lynda Barry's What it is?.

In her NPR interview last summer: The cartoonist, artist, author and teacher says that in her book of full-page color collages, she is trying to tap into the creative, artistic exploration that comes so easily to children.

"Something happens to us as we get a little older," she says. "Adults would never consider [drawing] on a piece of paper and then just throwing it away afterwards. In fact, unless it's valuable afterwards, most adults don't think the experience was worth it. So that's kind of what the book is about. It's about what happens. What happens to that creative urge."

There's another slide show interview with Barry on the NYTimes site here.

What Barry says seems to dovetail with a lot of what we're writing about in New World Kids, but in a different format, and with her own inimitable language and style. Barry has always inspired me with her wit, courage to say just about anything possible in cartoon form and her absolutely original take on media.

We've actually been seeing a lot of movies at the theater lately, and some at home on video too. My top picks: Slumdog Millionaire and The Reader at the cinema, L'Iceberg, at home. Tomorrow we're hosting a food and film potluck and watching an Iranian film called "Border Cafe." (POSTSCRIPT: NOT that wonderful, and not as much to do with food as we'd hoped, but the meal was fab.)

I guess that's it for now -- in addition to the piles of stuff, and the 6000 photos that need sorting, and the work on the table (garments for the Runway show, aurrghe), that's what's inspiring me right now. How about you?

Leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for the book! And let me know if I can add you to my newsletter mailing list -- it's a quarterly publication, pdf format,  and you can "unsubscribe" at any time, of course!

At the Heart of Learning

Photo by Nan Spring, used by permission of the photographer.

Here I am with my mouth open, as usual.

All is well. The book signing on Monday night at The Twig Bookstore went really well and my appearance at a FASA meeting earlier also found Susan and I charged by an eager crowd of (mostly) grandmothers who bought New World Kids as gifts for their children and grandchildren! And it's been so much fun to see orders roll in from around the ether. Thank you to all who've taken the time, money and attention to purchase! Here's one point in our presentation that really gets to the audience:

We as grownups see the attention and money and resources being spent by folks who are trying to find their true callings, some even having made it big in the world's terms who realize that what they are spending their lives doing has little to do with what their hearts want to do. The What Color is Your Parachute series is just one of the long-running successes that help people figure out what to do next -- Julia Cameron's Artists Way books are another. So why don't we give kids the tools and means to figure this out earlier? Once children know their strengths, know something about what and how they are good at what they are, the whole focus of the educational system makes a shift. Students take charge of their own learning to a much greater degree; discipline becomes less the classroom focus; learning becomes its own motivation. Peter Drucker, the business guru, says, " The most important thing is to know what you're good at."

Learning what you're good at can push one into unexpected skill acquisition: I've spent a good amount of time setting up the NWK website with customized  Squarespace templates and then mastering the ins and outs of Paypal buttons. Valuable skills all. Next, the studio desk and work table became the site for proposal staging. I killed my share of trees sending in the paper work with proposals to teach at the 2009 International Quilt Festival, mostly in the Mixed Media classroom, but also a lecture proposal derived from NWK and the Sensory Alphabet. I hope I can teach there again as I learned so much and this time I plan to do it right.

But it seems that I've had little real art time since Thanksgiving and my soul has noticed. What I do best is make art (and teach it), and all this other folderol is just a means to that end. The little nagging ache in my heart means I've neglected the artist and spent way too much time on the support services. We have such a tightrope to walk as working artists (though I am sure this is a quandary for other sole-proprietors/one-person-offices in other fields). I teach at the Majestic Art Ranch this morning, so at least I'll get my hands into the demos and a few samples, since we're on the wind-down. And sometimes just getting my hands on a dyepot puts the momentum in action. What are you going to do today to get yourself back to the heart of things?

PS. If you'd like to see more photos of the booksigning, check the NWK blog later today.

P.s Just found a link to a nice article online about our appearance at the symposium in Dallas in January -- The Baker Idea Institute.