Sunday, November 30, 2014

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life

This season is all about the commercial side of life. As a hand-maker, I love the message of a handmade holiday. Even though I should be pushing my wares, I am still all about everything that isn't commercial at all, about making your own things by hand and celebrating things other than store-bought. I was one of the thousands of people without electricity for several days in New Hampshire. The challenges brought neighbors together and made strangers friendly. Cumberland Farms was giving out free coffee to everyone and a local gym opened its lockers rooms to anyone needing running water, whether they were a member or not. The snow turned everything white and wonderful, and it was a lovely couple of days without technology. I had one of the nicest holidays I can remember (even if it included washing my hair in a bucket of melted snow), and hope I can maintain these feelings of gratitude through the hectic holiday season.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
― Melody Beattie

(And, by the way, everybody looks better by candlelight!)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Small Business Saturday

In addition to the dance lessons and team jerseys, you are also helping this small business owner be available for scraped knees, early school dismissals, emergency car repairs and large batches of laundry in the middle of the work day. Thank you! Shop small!!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Full of thanks

My Etsy store ( has been my little corner of Heaven ever since 2008. It started as a small side business to grow my local art business but I am humbled by its successes. To date, I have more than 4400 admirers, I am in the top 100 Etsy paper goods sellers, I have logged almost half of a million all-time views in 150 countries, and I am just a handful away from making my 5,000th sale, a number I could never have imagined 6 years ago. Wow! It’s been a good run and I am grateful and thankful today and every day. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


"Futzing around" is the term we use in my family when we should be doing something but we have gotten sidetracked with a project that is not a necessary one. Hang on, I'll use it in a few sentences!

"Dinner is going to be a bit later because I was futzing around reorganizing the closet."

"I forgot to call because I was futzing around in the yard."

"She futzed around all day and didn't do her homework."

To me, futzing is a mix of procrastination and a creative spurt that overrides making dinner, doing laundry or even the creative things I do that can become a bit routine. These Christmas tree gift tags came out of my latest round of futzing. I had some pretty scrapbooking paper that were leftovers, a few sheets of green plantable paper and some good shows on the DVR. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wedding colors

Here's what makes me happy: Telling a bride that I can come CLOSE to her wedding colors but I won't be able to match my plantable papers exactly with her flowers because the colors are really specific and there's a lot of color mixing that has to happen. Plus, paper pulp is wet and looks darker and different than when it dries. She trusts me and goes ahead with an order and then I get to tell her that I matched the colors better than I could have hoped. Booyah!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Don't eat your paper!

So, here's something that concerns me. I see more and more people making plantable paper these days, and many of these papermakers are adding herb seeds and vegetable seeds to their papers. I never have and never will make plantable paper with seeds that grow into edible plants. Here's why. Paper is made with many plant-based materials, mostly trees, that can be recycled back into soil. But paper also has dyes and chemicals, including additives that seal paper, bleach the paper and make the paper smooth. Now add a seed. When your plantable paper first grows, it does so because the recycled paper around it has swelled with water and the seed has enough moisture (and warmth and light) to begin to germinate. As it germinates, it pulls in the water from the paper and everything that is dissolved in the water. These chemicals are taken into the leaves, stems and flowers of the plant and, presumably, remain there until you eat them. I can't be sure of the amount of chemicals that could be ingested or the effects they might have on an individual but since I try to only buy food that has not been treated with pesticides, I wouldn't want to knowingly sell something that didn't have the standards for my customers that I hold for my own diet.

Because many papermakers use post-consumer waste, junk mail and the like, they can’t be sure of the manufacturing process that the paper underwent before it got to them. This means they don’t know what chemicals have been added to the paper they are using. Here are just some of the possible additives:
* Wet strength additives ensure that when the paper becomes wet, it retains its strength. Typical chemicals used are as epichlorohydrin, melamine, urea formaldehyde and polyimines.
* Internal sizing of paper, which seals paper so that it can be printed on, include alkyl ketene dimerand alkenyl succinic anhydride.
* Caustic soda is added to increase the pH in the pulping process of fibers. The higher pH of the paper fiber solution causes the fibers to smoothen and swell, which is important for the grinding process of the fibers.
* Retention agent is added to bind fillers to the paper. Fillers, such as calcium carbonate, usually have a weak charged surface. The retention agent is a polymer with high cationic, positively charged groups. Polyethyleneimine and polyacrylamide are examples of chemicals used.
* Styrene butadiene latex, Styrene acrylic, dextrin, oxidized starch are used in coatings to bind the filler to the paper.
 Co-Binders, such as starch and also Carboxymethyl cellulose, are used along with the synthetic binders, like styrene acrylic or styrene butadiene.

So maybe just save your herbs for those you buy from the farmer's market and plant yourself, and leave your paper to sprout things that you won't be ingesting.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Reindeer droppings

Sometimes, I just crack myself up. These brown balls are called Reindeer droppings.

You have been naughty, not nice at all.
Don’t expect presents or things from the mall.
You won’t find Santa smiling on your stoop
Instead, here’s a bag of reindeer poop.

They are really just Seed Bombs, which are plantable paper balls made from recycled paper and wildflower seeds. But potty humor has always tickled my funny bone.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Here's what's inspiring me today: Light and shadow

In my home:

and in art:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving stuffing

I can't wait for Thanksgiving. No, I mean, I literally can't wait. I got such a hankering for stuffing today that I just went ahead and made a big batch of it and stuffed some squash with it for dinner. My family has a tradition of eating James Beard's chestnut stuffing for our Thanksgiving side with the turkey so I will save that tradition for the real day. I made this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink stuffing that is one of my fall favorites. I started making it a decade or so ago when I had some apples (from an over-zealous apple picking season)that were getting soft. They were a firm variety that wouldn't be good for apple sauce so I made various dishes like delicata squash and apple soup, and German apple pancakes. And this recipe. It has onions, celery, apples (bien sur), mushrooms, pine nuts, maple syrup, bread crumbs, chicken broth, fresh rosemary, parmesan cheese, havarti cheese…

It doesn't look very good here in a brown lump in this photo but trust me, it is. Oh lord, it is.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


OK, I am really obsessed with these little gift tags. They are blank folded gift tags so you can write a note or to/from inside. The outside has a little plantable paper earth on it. LOVE THEM! I think I have a weird obsession with miniature things. I still have my dollhouse from my childhood and have taught summer camps and after-school classes on making dollhouse miniatures. Some of the original furniture from my dollhouse charms me so much — as well as associations with pleasant childhood memories — that I display a few of my favorite pieces on a shelf in my studio.

So these tags charm me also. I actually got the little blank tags at a paper auction and had fun trying to figure out something little to put on them. I love getting paper at auctions because it is cheap enough that I can play around with it and not worry about a new idea not working out quite right. But I also get all kinds of papers and sizes of tags and envelopes that I wouldn't normally invest in, which gets my creative juices percolating. These turned out better than I envisioned in my head. If you like them, you can purchase these (or any amount you would like if you contact me) in my Etsy shop here:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Christmas ornaments

Every year, my artisans cooperative sets up a big Christmas tree in the front of the market and we all make handmade ornaments to display and sell, while decorating a lovely, festive tree to welcome our customers. Since the cooperative has been in business for more than 30 years, it has become a local tradition that people come in and buy a new ornament for their tree every year. The challenge is that we, the artisans, have to come up with new ideas annually. It gets pretty tricky, especially when every artist is trying to stay within her medium, but it is a challenge that is really stimulating and pushes our creativity. I have been so enchanted by the creations I see every year that I can't help buying them for myself. I so look forward to opening the Christmas boxes and pulling out the ornaments because each one has a memory or story of the person who made it. There are some ornaments that are so pretty and special to me that I display them around my home year-round. Here are two of my favorites.

Mary Muncil made this sweet painted ball with such fine, patient strokes. I love the little details of the night landscape. You can just barely see the dark trees against the deep blue sky. There is a silvery river that snakes its way down to the bottom of the ball and ends in her signature. It is so simple but you can feel the attention to detail that she put into it and how much she cared to make it. It wasn't made quickly to slap on a price tag and turn into cash. It was made for the love of the creation and it so completely shows. I love it so much that it hangs from a sconce just outside my bathroom so I can see all the time.

Karen Koziol is one of my favorite artists. She makes mixed media sculpture that have such humor and wit. She made these little houses that sit on a windowsill next to my dining room table. As I have said in a previous post, there is something about a house that warms the soul. I love how she made them look really old.

I can't wait to open the Christmas boxes and find even more!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Steal like an artist

This is such a thought-provoking poster that, once I found it, I had to trace it back to its creator to find out more. I found this great Ted talk by Austin Kleon, the guy who said it and wrote a book with the same title:

He says that all art is imitated and that nothing is original but that we need to make it ours. Steal like an artist doesn't mean an outright theft of something. It means to borrow from many places, and make something your own. He had a great quote about imitation not being flattery, but transformation is. When somebody takes the idea of something you created and elevates it and makes it better but also makes it their own, THAT is flattery. What a boring world it would be if all artists stole and made the exact same thing as the original. I love #5 the best, about how important side projects and hobbies are to art. I had an art teacher who said the same thing to me. She said if you live in a bubble and don't have life experiences, you can't create art. You have to have memories, feelings and stories to draw upon to create something with meaning. Amen!

Monday, November 17, 2014

I'm nesting

No, I am not pregnant. I am making these sweet little nests for the Christmas trees for several local shops. They are a different kind of ornament but I think they look fun tucked deep in the branches of the tree, with two little Robin's eggs snuggled together inside. The eggs are made out of plantable paper so that, after the holidays, you can save your nest for something else and plant the eggs to grow wildflowers. (You can save them for Easter and force inside with the kids.) The nests are made out of shredded money that I got years ago and a bit of paper pulp to bind everything together. I bet real birds would really like it!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I miss the front page!

Etsy (the web site that hosts my online shop) recently changed its design and I am missing the old Front Page. It was really something to actually have an item featured there, even if it was only for an hour. To have an item found amongst the millions of items and tens of thousands of shops and make it onto the cover page was exhilarating, especially when I didn't know it happened until I saw a huge spike in views in my stats and had a sudden burst of sales.

I remember the very first time I was on the front page. I found out because I suddenly was receiving emails from friends on FaceBook saying congratulations. I had no idea what was going on so I signed on to FaceBook and saw that there was a post (that looked like it came from me) announcing that I was on the front page of Etsy. To this day, I don't know how it happened. Etsy and FaceBook were somehow linked and communicating, and it was an automatic post from Etsy. I was kinda embarrassed that it looked like I was bragging, and I immediately took it down and changed all my privacy settings. Freaky.

Anyway, I was featured 4 or 5 times since I joined Etsy in 2008. This screen shot is the last time I was featured, in August of this year, for my plantable paper umbrellas.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

National Pickle Day

Apparently, yesterday (Nov. 14) was National Pickle Day! Who knew?!

I am bummed that I missed it because I would have spread the word about a pickle that is very special to me. It’s the Christmas Pickle!

Believe it or not, I didn’t make it up. It is a tradition claimed to have been originated by the German but much more common in the States than in Germany. A pickle-shaped ornament (traditionally made of glass) is hidden somewhere on the tree. The child who finds it first on Christmas morning receives an extra present, gets the first serving of Christmas dinner or some other special treat.

In our household, the first one to find the Christmas pickle gets to open the first gift. Of course, as a paper-maker, I had to translate this quirky tradition into something related to paper. I made a mold for my pickle and then pressed green paper pulp into the mold. I pop the pickle out when it is fully dried, and add a piece of gold thread.

My paper pickle comes with the following explanation:

On Christmas Eve, hang it on the tree
while all are sleeping - do it surreptitiously.
On Christmas morn, don’t get miffed.
The one who finds it gets to open the first gift.

The whole thing cracks me up and I would love to meet the person who started a tradition involving a pickle. That's the type of person I would really like.

Friday, November 14, 2014


This post is for all the self-employed artists out there who might find this financial goodie helpful in saving money. Mr. Papermaker and I met with our various money people and found out about this thing called an SEP IRA. It is for self-employed people who want to contribute to their retirement. I learned that I can put up to 25% of my net profits into a special IRA, which will benefit me in multiple ways: I save for retirement since I don't have an employer doing it for me; I avoid paying 15% of my profits to the government, which employers usually pay, and I have less taxable income. Win-win!

I am not a financial advisor so don't take my word for it — go talk to the professionals you use — but I am really excited about this option for me. The great thing is that it is really flexible so I don't have to make a contribution until I do my taxes and figure out my net profit and how much I want to put in, and it can change every year. Psyched!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

To wholesale or not to wholesale

Picked up an order of my greeting cards at the printer today to replenish my dwindling supplies. I order my cards in small batches when I am running low on a particular style and I am almost out of 4 different Petal People lines. I am starting to save my pennies up so I can make a very large print run of all 11 of my card lines at once. I have had a few stores contact me about wholesale orders but I just can't wholesale when I print in small batches. If I spend a few thousand dollars, I can make a print run that is big enough so that my cards will cost only cents each. Now where did I put that lottery ticket?!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

White house

Well, not THE white house.

In the spirit of all things paper as well as the fast-approaching holiday season, I made this little white house as a Christmas ornament, created from recycled white cotton linter paper scraps. The photo does not capture it well, but the roof is covered with very fine frosty white glitter, and the walls have an ice blue glitter. I know that glitter can walk a fine line between kindergarten craft and something artistic, but I think I met the balance here. Hung against white Christmas lights on a tree, this little house dances and sparkles. There is something about the shape of a house that people are always drawn to, and especially me. (Look at my Pinterest favorites and half of them have some kind of house in them.) I think it's because a house symbolizes family, warmth, coziness and love. I hope your house feels that way now and always.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

More tree toppers!

These tree toppers are going to my artisans cooperative. I have to say, it gets very challenging to make sure two stores — my online store and the artisans cooperative — are both fully stocked all year long, but especially around the holidays. Whew.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Energy begets energy

My mom always said, "Energy begets energy." The more energy you expend, the more you create, so you have even more to expend again. I think she was trying to get a lazy teenager to get up and do something but she was right. I notice that when I am creative and step outside of the usual repetitiveness of making the same things, I produce more creative thoughts and energy. I have been making lots of things lately that are pushing my creative forces and the energy is coming out in many directions. Yesterday, I sat down and banged out some new tree toppers. Their purpose is to hide the raw top of the Christmas tree and put that extra piece of jewelry on the Christmas tree to make it look really special. I use empty weaving cones. (The cones are recycled from when I use up all the wool off of a spool in a weaving project - I just can't throw anything away.) I have made many different themes in the past. Last year I made a single one with polka dots and it sold immediately. It was too late in the holiday season to make another but I catalogued the idea for this year and am making many more. The polka dots are made of recycled scraps of handmade papers from my studio, and the paper star at the top is made from pages of an old, damaged dictionary. (I made sure to use the pages that featured words like handmade, star, Christmas and other words relevant to the holiday season. I have to admit that I found my name in the dictionary, so I snuck it onto one of the double-sided stars just for fun.)

I am selling this one on Etsy to show my diversity, but the rest of them are being wrapped up for delivery to my artisans cooperative for our big holiday display and show. Then maybe I will see what it feels like to sit down and let relaxation wash over me. Or maybe not.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Yeeeeeeeee! I am buzzing around with excited, nervous energy. I applied to exhibit my work at a gallery and was juried in and accepted for a show in the spring. This is the first time I have stretched myself in this manner and it will be my very first gallery show, a show where an entire room will be devoted to only my work for an entire month. That’s crazy!! I am so excited that I actually made about 14 pieces of art already in a three-day I-can’t-go-to-bed-because-I-am-so excited creative spurt! The show’s focus will be on my Petal People, the figures I make entirely out of pressed flowers, plus the greeting cards that are prints of the original artwork. I am trying to ride the creative wave and keep producing lots of new work before I get bogged down in the details. There are so many. Holy cow! I have to host an opening reception…

Maybe a little yoga will calm me down. Standing forward bend, with a little knee bend and stretch, anyone?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Crazy cat lady

I have officially become one of those people who post photos of their cats on the internet. I can't say that I am proud. And I know that nobody else will appreciate how cute he is, but I can't help myself. I burst out laughing when I rounded the corner and saw him sleeping there, so relaxed that even his tail was hanging limply.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014