anna brones

writer + artist + activist

Archive for the ‘Design + Creativity’ Category

Awaken: A Creative Retreat

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What is creativity? How do we cultivate it? Why do we need it? How does creativity keep us awake? How do we maintain a sustainable creative practice?

These are questions that I have been thinking a lot about over the last few months and I am thrilled that these questions are going to come to life in the form of a creative workshop that I am leading with my friend Sara Close as a Creative Expression Immersion for Hello Soul.

This October, we will be convening in Montana near Glacier National Park for a retreat called Awaken. This is a retreat that will combine yoga + soulcraft + creative work + whitespace, all intended to wake up that creative fire in you.

A few months ago, I did a workshop that Sara led. As a part of it, she led a yoga session that was focused on challenging us to exist in the space “in between” – in between our creative/expressive/emotional self and our rational/reserved/practical self. That yoga practice did something to me. I ended it by bawling my eyes out, something that has never happened to me during a yoga session before. It opened me up in a way that I really needed at that precise moment, challenging me to push myself creatively and throw myself into projects with a vengeance. Most of all, it helped me to embrace who I was and where I was and give impostor syndrome a swift quick in the pants.

All to say, Sara is amazing and I am so honored that I get to lead this retreat with her. If you need a few days to recalibrate, to reawaken your creative practice, to be inspired and find new ideas, to kickstart a new creative routine – this retreat is for you.

“When we become aware in the moment, we can look around us and consciously decide what to do with the resources available to us. We can make art: both literally, and perhaps more importantly, figuratively… after all, problem solving, empathy, conversation, leadership, our side hustles… it’s ALL art.

That’s what this retreat is about: creative practice as a vehicle to awaken the self. Getting out of the way of yourself.”

Awaken will take place October 18-21 at Dancing Spirit Ranch in Northwest Montana. More information and registration here.

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Written by Anna Brones

June 15, 2018 at 11:26

Win an Original Papercut

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I’m sending Issue 7 of Comestible to the printer this week, and to celebrate the release of the new issue I am giving away this original asparagus papercut.

Everyone who has a 2018 subscription will be entered, and one random winner will be chosen to receive the signed papercut along with Issue 7. All you have to do to enter is subscribe to Comestible by April 16, 2018. Comestible is 100% reader supported, with no advertising. Every issue features essays and artwork about food, the places it comes from and the people who produce it, as well as seasonal recipes. It’s all made possible by readers, so every subscription helps ensure that the publication stays in print.

Written by Anna Brones

April 4, 2018 at 15:55

The Winding Path of a Creative Life

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In February, I worked on a project with Subaru and She Explores. This post is brought to you in partnership with Subaru, all opinions are my own.

“I don’t really think that I’m creative.”

I was road tripping from Taos, New Mexico to Marfa, Texas in a 2018 Crosstrek with my good friend and filmmaker Sarah Menzies. We were headed to a storytelling experience hosted by She Explores and sponsored by Subaru. I was driving and she was sitting next to me, and I had just asked her if she had some kind of a daily creative practice.

Sarah makes a variety of films, all focused on interesting characters and important issues, like my recent favorite, “The Mirnavator.” For the last couple of years, I have been working with her on “Afghan Cycles,” a film about women cyclists in Afghanistan and challenging gender stereotypes from the seat of a bicycle. I would certainly consider her a creative and passionate individual, and she’s one of my friends that continually keeps me creatively inspired.

“You don’t think you’re creative?” I responded back to her, not hiding my shock at her statement. This is a woman who always has interesting ideas for how to tell a story, is always drumming up new ideas.

This launched us into a conversation about creativity, what it is and whether or not we “have it” or not. The idea that some of us are creative and that some us aren’t, based on the idea that creativity is some kind of talent, simply isn’t true. Creative thinking is a skill, one that takes work and practice. You don’t get off the couch and run a marathon in record time, and you don’t go from zero creative practice to coming up with a masterpiece. We have to work at creativity, work at doing the things that make our brains better able to think creatively, better able to make connections between ideas, and come up with new ones.

Our conversation about creativity continued, and we began talking about some of the difficulties that come with working in a creative profession. Creative work can be exhausting. There’s a privilege to being able to say that. I am well aware that I don’t have to go work in a mine every day, and I am thankful that I have a profession where I get to do things that I love. But one of the big fears that I often have is that eventually, the creative ideas will cease to come. When your income is tied to your creativity, there is a real fear in wondering whether or not one day you’ll run out of ideas. What happens if you don’t have another idea for a new project? Then what?

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Written by Anna Brones

March 1, 2018 at 10:47

24 Days of Making, Doing and Being: A Digital Advent Calendar

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The month of December has a tendency to pass in a flurry, the main focus concentrated on Christmas Day. The other days pass in anticipation, and often, a stress inducing countdown. December has become an extension of our overbooked, over-planned, over-digitized lives; a month where chaos and stress levels collide.

It’s cliché to say that we’ve forgotten the true meaning of Christmas, that today, Christmas is an over-commercialized affair that’s about the procurement of things rather than generosity, caring and celebrating.

Given this frenzy, it’s no surprise that Christmas advertising and marketing works; it sells a cozy, slow image that we’re all craving. Families in pajama sets sitting by the fire smiling at each other (if only you invested in those pajamas, your family would be happy too). A cup of tea on the windowsill overlooking a snowy morning (make sure to buy this particular brand on tea, or your mornings won’t look like this). A couple on a winter walk through the woods (trust us, you can’t go on one of these walks without buying these boots).

Here’s the secret to that kind of living: you can’t buy your way to that feeling, you have to create it yourself.

For me, part of creating that seasonal magic has come in the form of an advent calendar. Growing up, every December meant the enjoyment of an advent calendar. There would always be more than one. Often, a beautifully illustrated one sent from relatives in Sweden, and the other one was an advent calendar that my mother had woven, each day made to hold a small slip of paper. My parents would write a note every night, so that it was the first thing I saw when I woke up the next morning. The note might say something fun that we would do that day (“build a gingerbread house”) or just be a reminder to enjoy the season (“curl up with a book and a cup of tea”). The advent wasn’t a countdown to Christmas, it was a way of making every day during the month of December special.

I have had that advent calendar hanging on the wall every single December since I can remember. Today, it’s a link to the past, an object that carries a lot of magical childhood memories. But it’s also a reminder of the present, the prompt to focus on the now and create a little magic every day during the holiday season.

This is a time of year focused on consumption. It’s a time of year that can be stressful. It’s a time of year that’s frantic. The U.S. version of my book Live Lagom comes out at the end of December, and I have been thinking a lot about how lagom applies to the holidays. Certainly, it means a little indulgence, in the form of a plethora of holiday cookies and glögg, Swedish mulled wine. But it also means balance. It means slowing down, spending time with family, taking winter walks. All the things that we often tell ourselves we will do, but never make the time for.

So this year, I’m putting together a digital advent calendar that’s focused on slowing down, creating and experiencing rather than consuming. The advent calendar will be in newsletter format, sent out every morning. It will include everything from holiday recipes to creative prompts, something new every day. You’re sure to find a little Scandinavian inspiration as well. The goal with this advent calendar is to help you create a little magic every day during the month of December, but also focus on slowing down, finding balance, breathing.

It all kicks off on Friday, December 1, 2017, so if you want to receive the advent calendar, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.

 

Written by Anna Brones

November 29, 2017 at 11:21

Welcoming the Darkness

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It’s so easy to complain about the lack of light this time of year, particularly after we have set our clocks back and the afternoon succumbs to darkness even earlier. Yet with that darkness comes a beautiful quietness and stillness that’s hard to find at other times of year.

The Scandinavian way to enjoy this is to bring in lots of candlelight. I’ve been lighting candles both in the morning and the afternoon, a way to welcome the darkness instead of falling prey to it. In Finnish, “kaamos” is the world that refers to the time of year when the sun doesn’t even rise, yet there is still a magical lightness that covers the winter landscape. It doesn’t matter if you live in a place of pure winter darkness or not, candles and a pot of tea or a cup of coffee always help.

So in the coming weeks, invite a friend over and have fika by candlelight. (Here’s a recipe for sourdough cardamom buns, if you are in the mood for a little baking)

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A couple of Scandinavian classics featured in the papercut above: the Kivi candleholders from Iittala and a teapot and mug in the Unikko design from Marimekko. Kivi means “stone” in Finnish, and the candleholder is a gentle nod to the fact that so much of Scandinavian design is influenced by nature. The Marimekko Unniko design dates back all the way to 1964, when the company’s founder Armi Ratia declared that the company would never print a flower pattern again. Designer Maija Isola thought otherwise, and came up with this iconic poppy print that is still used today, over half a century later.

 

Written by Anna Brones

November 9, 2017 at 10:44

2018 Desk Calendar with Papercut Illustrations

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I have always loved calendars. In fact this year, I’ve had three different calendars hanging in my office. Not because I need multiple reminders of what day it is, but because they all feature different artwork that I wanted to surround myself with as I work. Good daily inspiration.

When I was younger, I used to make calendars for Christmas presents, drawing a grid for the days of the week and separate illustration for each month. My parents would take me to Kinko’s to get color copies made so that I could give them away to all my family members.

This year I decided to revive the tradition (but with the help of a professional printer). But I wanted to do something just a little different.

Over the course of the years, I have found that with calendars that I like, I’ve often cut off the month/days once the year is over so that I can use the artwork, either to frame it or send to a friend. Why not have a calendar that’s made to be used in this way?

That’s what my 2018 desk calendar is. After the month is over, you’re intended to cut along the line on the back and turn it into a postcard. I’m hoping it inspires some handwritten notes, because who doesn’t like getting mail?

The calendars are 5×7″ and feature one of my original papercut illustrations every month. They are printed on recycled paper in Seattle, Washington. Each calendar is handwrapped, making it easy to give as a gift.

You can order a calendar here.

Written by Anna Brones

November 1, 2017 at 12:21

Comestible on Shortlist for Stack Awards 2017 ‘Best Use of Illustration’

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Ever since I read about a writer’s goal for 100 rejections a year, I have been trying harder to do more submissions, whether they are for writing, for residencies, for awards, etc. The idea of course is that if you aim for 100 rejections in a year, somewhere along the way, you’re going to get a response that says “yes” instead of “no.”

I decided to submit my indie food zine Comestible to the Stack Awards 2017, a selection of awards for independent magazines. These days, the indie mag scene is strong, and every time I go into the bookstore I am amazed (perhaps slightly overwhelmed as well) at the high caliber of content and editorial vision that is out there.

I submitted Comestible to the Best Use of Illustration category, since I think that’s a large part of what makes the publication different. The food media space is inundated with gorgeous food photography, and when I started Comestible I wanted something different. Every issue has featured my own papercut illustrations as well as drawn illustrations by some of my favorite illustrators, Jessie Kanelos Weiner for the issues in 2016 and Molly Reeder for the issues in 2017.

How shocked was I when I learned that Comestible had made it onto the shortlist of magazines for the award? Quite shocked! I am honored to have it be a part of a group of such incredible publications with creative and unique artwork. Check out the full list here.

Yet another reminder that it’s always worth it to put your work out there.

Image: Stack Magazines

Written by Anna Brones

October 25, 2017 at 12:03