anna brones

writer + artist + producer

Archive for the ‘Design + Creativity’ Category

Give Your Creative Self Time to Breathe

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Are you ever so slightly overwhelmed by the month of January? The expectations and anticipation that come with the blank slate of a new year?

In writing my monthly newsletter Creative Fuel, I was considering what this year means politically and culturally (an election year after all), and the intensity of the news in the last couple of weeks. Wildfires. War. Crisis.

There’s no one antidote to any of that, but I do know that if we are to work our way through big problems as a society, if we are to take ownership over our everyday lives, if we are to build better communities, if we are to challenge the status quo, then creativity isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

If creativity is a necessity, then investing in our creative selves—no matter who we are or what we do—is a matter of ensuring that we show up in the world. That we are awake. That we stand up for what we believe in. That we help to spark change, in big ways and in small ways.

interviewed author and journalist Alice Feiring this month for my Women’s Wisdom Project series, and she said this: “Writers and other artists give voice to what others cannot or will not articulate.”

That got me thinking: as an artist, as a writer, as a creatively inclined person, what are you going to articulate?

At this beginning of a new decade, I have been thinking a lot about the intentions behind creativity. Yet I look at that question, know its importance, and know that it’s one I need to ask myself.

Not quite yet. The creative self needs time.

You might think that I would kick off this year with some grandiose essay about the importance of setting up a creative resolution for the year. Or strategizing about a new project. Quite the opposite.

I want you to allow yourself to take the time you need.

January is a month of goals and resolutions. Of new projects, of new commitments. We take a tiny moment for our winter hibernation, two weeks if we’re lucky to have a vacation around the holidays, only a few days for some. We try to slow down, but we’re exhausted after the madness of the holiday season. We’re burnt out. We need time off. We need time to rejuvenate. And so we try to slow down, and then January 1st rolls around with the intense expectation that we have rejuvenated, that we have healed, and that we are ready to commit to a newer, better version of ourselves.

It’s an unrealistic expectation. It’s an expectation that’s driven by outcome, leaving the process quickly behind.

There’s a reason we do this: the first month of the year is a prime time to assess and make sure we are moving forward in what feels like a good direction.

In order to do that, I think January should be an in between month. A month where we ease into the new year, where we extend our hibernation, where we let ideas marinate. Where we allow our bodies and minds to catch up, where we take a collective breath that allows us to refocus on our forward movement in a way that isn’t frantic and reactive.

Toss out the expectations. Avoid the goals. Instead, breathe. Refocus. Rejuvenate.

In this in between space, before we launch into something new, before we ask ourselves what we want to accomplish in the year, I would like to offer up the practice of intentions.

Intentions are not goals, they are not resolutions, they are a commitment to ourselves about how we show up in the world, how we participate in relationships, how we do our work, how we take part in humanity.

Intentions guide our creativity, helping us to navigate when the water gets murky. Intentions carry us, challenge us, invite us to open up as humans.

I would ask this: as an artist, as a writer, as a creatively inclined person, as a human being, what is your intention?

Asking this question means asking not what you will do, but who you will be.

Our intention is our “why” behind whatever it is that we end up choosing to articulate.

Our intention is our commitment to our process.

The good news is, you have the entire month, the entire year, your entire life to keep thinking about it, evolving it, adapting it.

A version of this was originally featured in my monthly newsletter Creative Fuel. Sign up to get more creative inspiration directly in your email.

Written by Anna Brones

January 13, 2020 at 14:47

DIY Scandinavian Woven Hearts

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Making things is good for us. Crafting can be similar to meditation and making things with our hands improves our mental health and makes us happier. Making things is intuitive – after all, it is in our human nature to create – and it allows us to connect to others, to come up with new ideas. Usually, investing in creativity results in more creativity.

You don’t have to come up with an involved handmade gift to get the benefit of making something. This is why I like simple creative holiday projects. Even small handmade objects to decorate the house give us the opportunity to use our hands and exert our creativity. That is time well spent.

I always make a batch of woven paper hearts this time of year (featured in my digital Advent calendar last year). These are quite common in Scandinavia. Bigger ones made with stronger paper can even be hung on the tree and used to hold holiday treats, like nuts or chocolates. The perfect way to put your hands to work and get the creative juices flowing.

DIY Scandinavian Woven Hearts

Find two pieces of paper of contrasting color. Usually these are done in red and white, but we’re here to be creative, so feel free to use your imagination.

Fold them both and cut a rectangular shape, with one end rounded. The straight edge should be where the paper is folded.

Cut two lines, so that the piece of paper is separated into thirds. Cut these lines about 3/4 of the way up, towards the rounded edge.

The cut lines create “loops” in the paper. Weave the two pieces of paper together by placing the first loop of Color A into the first loop of Color B, then inside of the next loop, and outside of the third loop. With the next loop, do the opposite, so start by placing the loop of Color A outside of the first loop of Color B, etc.

This all sounds more convoluted than it is, and will make sense when you do it. FYI: the two pieces don’t always weave together super smoothly, but with some maneuvering, you will get there in the end! Here is another visual that I didn’t make myself but that is also helpful.

Cut a straight strip of paper for a handle and glue or tape it to the inside of the heart.

Hang on an available branch or share the creative act and give away to a friend.

Written by Anna Brones

December 3, 2019 at 11:24

Sign Up for 2019 Digital Advent Calendar: 24 Days of Making, Doing, and Being

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24 Days of Making, Doing, and Being is an advent calendar that I have made for the last two years, with the intention of creating a little magic every day during the month of December, so that it’s not just a countdown but an everyday celebration. It’s a focus on slowing down, finding balance and contentedness. The calendar is created as an antidote to the consumer frenzy that has come to define this month, a challenge to ground yourself wherever you are and reconnect with both yourself and the people around you.

I’m bringing it back again this year! This will be the third annual 24 Days of Making, Doing, and Being and I am looking forward to working on it and putting it out in the world. It all starts on Sunday December 1st and I wanted to give you a heads up now so that you could subscribe and be sure to get it in your inbox when December begins.

This year will be a little different, and if you’ve received the advent calendar in the past, or are currently subscribed to my newsletter list, you will still need to sign up. If you would like to signup for 24 Days of Making, Doing and Being$5 will get you access to the entire advent calendar.

The daily email will include artwork, prompts, recipes, etc. and you will be able to access the archives too. For the last two years, I have kept the calendar free of charge, but as it has grown it has taken more and more time and energy to produce, and offering it for a small fee allows me to keep the production of it just a little more sustainable.

And yes, of course you can get a subscription for a friend!

Witch Fika Greeting Cards

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I just got a batch of greeting cards made with my “Witch Fika” papercut illustration. These are perfect for writing notes to everyone in your coven.

After all, who doesn’t love a handwritten note from their favorite witch?

Available in my shop.

Written by Anna Brones

October 16, 2019 at 12:20

Papercutting Class in Tacoma, WA on August 25, 2019

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Ever wanted to try cutting a sheet of paper into a piece of artwork? On August 25, 2019 I will be teaching a papercutting class in Tacoma, Washington at the super cool art gallery and store Minka. We’ll be taking inspiration from the natural settings of the Pacific Northwest that find their way into a lot of my work.

There’s more information here and if you are interested in taking part, please email minka@minkatacoma.com. Space is limited so get in touch soon!

Written by Anna Brones

August 12, 2019 at 21:02

Eileen Gray

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“To create, one must first question everything.”

-Eileen Gray (1878-1976)

I didn’t know of designer and architect Eileen Gray until I saw a retrospective of her work at Centre Pompidou in Paris a few years ago, and I fell in love with her pieces and was inspired by her story.

Born in Ireland, Gray moved to Paris in 1902. There, she studied lacquerwork, designed furniture (her designs are still produced today) and became a major figure of the French Art Deco movement. “She dared to do things that no one did at that time,” Cloé Pitiot, curator of of the exhibition told the Wall Street Journal

It’s interesting to look at her work with that perspective, understanding that her furniture and designs were revolutionary at the time that she made them. And while such designs feel very modern today, think of how bold it was to create them in her day.

In 1929 when she was 51, Gray completed her first architectural work, the E.1027 house. The house is now considered a masterwork of modernist architecture, her furniture designs within it carrying equal importance.

The organisation of the house as a whole is then based on her studies of wind and sun, and on its position on a steep slope descending to the sea. The building is mostly white outside, its interior modulated with planes of slight pink or eau-de-nil, or a nocturnal blue or black. These colours are maritime, but subtly so, such as you might see in deep water, inside a seashell or after sunset. There is an acute awareness of surfaces, both inside and out, and their degrees of shine or roughness. On the back wall of the main living space, playfulness being part of her armoury, she placed a large nautical chart. This, she said, “evokes distant voyages and gives rise to reverie”. The Guardian

Of course, I was horrified when I learned how renowned architect Le Corbusier had defaced the interior of the house with erotic murals, stark contradictions to Gray’s subtle style. The reason for such destruction? Le Corbusier was reportedly shocked that such a beautiful building could have been designed by a woman, saying, “I admit the mural is not to enhance the wall, but on the contrary, a means to violently destroy [it].”

…one of his destructive paintings is applied directly to the hallway screen in E.1027. By his symbolic removal of Gray’s obstructions he rendered her complex house transparent, and with the erotic scenes he painted, he supplied the imagined objects of his desire.

Le Corbusier’s fascination did not stop here: he also built a little shack, his ‘cabanon’, perched like a voyeur’s eyrie above the villa. He spent the rest of his summers here, swimming every day below the cliffs, and that is where he died in 1965, overlooked by the house that had so obsessed him. Architectural Review

Le Corbusier of course remains in the architectural vernacular, known to even those outside his domain.

But Gray, like so many other women artists, slid into the shadows. Self-taught and working in a male dominated field didn’t make it easy within her profession; she existed in a domain where success meant being a chest-beating male. Gray herself admitted to the drawbacks of her own quiet nature: “I was not a pusher and maybe that’s the reason I did not get to the place I should have had.”

Fortunately, with the restoration of E.1027, and a renewed interest in her story, her work and spirit will not be lost. As Cathy Giangrande, development lead for Cap Moderne, the nonprofit association behind the restored E.1027, told Dezeen, “Certainly she deserves to be celebrated as one of the great pioneers of her time…”

To follow Gray’s line of thinking, to create we must question everything. We must question our own perceptions, our own assumptions. We must question the world as we know it, the status quo.

And when we question, we become empowered to challenge. After all, isn’t that what creating is all about?

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

January 11, 2019 at 05:00

Creative Fuel

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In need of a creative kick in the pants this year? Sign up for my newsletter to receive Creative Fuel.

Creative Fuel is going to be a monthly newsletter, sent out the first Friday of every month.

Creativity has always played an important role in my life, but it wasn’t until this last year that I really started to dig into the word and all of its implications. The more time I spent thinking about it, the more I was inspired, knowing that everyone gets to be creative, and that if we want to feel more creative, we have so many simple tools available to do just that.

So that’s what Creative Fuel is here to do: help us invest in and awaken our creative selves. Every month will be an exploration of the creative process, either through prompts or food for thought.

The first one goes out on Friday January 4, 2019. I hope you’ll sign up!

Written by Anna Brones

January 3, 2019 at 19:52

24 Days of Making, Doing and Being: Digital Advent Calendar 2018

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I’m not sure where the idea originally came from, but sometime towards the end of November last year I decided to take inspiration from my childhood advent calendar and make a digital one. The goal was to offer a daily prompt or short essay themed around the topics of Making, Doing and Being. The challenge was to create a little space for slowing down, consuming less, and being more present during the holiday season.

Swedish Christmas always involves advent calendars, whether they are in paper form or something larger. The tradition of printed advent calendars dates back to the early 1900s in Germany. Growing up, I had a particularly special advent calendar, one that my mother had woven, filled with 24 pockets, each to hold a small note. It hung outside my bedroom door and every night, she or my father would write a note for the following day and slide it in. When I woke up, it was the first thing that I checked.

Sometimes the notes would be about a holiday task to do that day, like baking cookies or decorating the tree. Other times it was just a prompt for taking a little extra time to make an ordinary activity a bit more magic, like listening to music or reading a book. It made all of December – not just Christmas – special.

This can be a difficult time of year for many reasons. Family relations can be strained, social expectations can be crippling, stress levels run high and money might be tight. At the same time, there is also so much potential for magic and wonder. But we have to actively create it, and we have to show up for it.

December means the arrival of the solstice, and in the Northern Hemisphere, winter begins. Perhaps just like we’ve lost the meaning of the holidays—trading experiences and togetherness for mass consumption—we’ve also lost the winter way of being. We have forgotten how to slow down, how to hibernate. Instead we sprint as fast as we can to the “big day” and then count down the days to the New Year when we can give ourselves the gift of a blank slate.

Think of all the advertising and marketing that happens at this time of year; so much of it is focused on selling a cozy, slow image. Why? Because that’s exactly what we’re craving. Here’s the secret to that kind of living: you can’t buy your way to that feeling, you have to create it yourself.

The goal with this advent calendar is to do just that; create a little magic every day during the month of December, so that’s it’s not just a countdown but an everyday celebration. It’s a focus on slowing down, finding balance and contentedness. The calendar is created as an antidote to the consumer frenzy that has come to define this month, a challenge to ground yourself wherever you are and reconnect with both yourself and the people around you.

Of course, the joke in my family all of last December was that while I was busy writing about slowing down, I was cranking out the newsletter on a daily basis, often in quick bursts between other projects. There were nights when I was up late because I realized I had forgotten to schedule the next day’s post (my parents tell a similar tale of all those years spent writing notes for my advent calendar), and there were even a few “morning of” emails, all crafted while wondering why I had committed to this thing in the first place.

But inevitably in those moments of insecurity, of wondering if perhaps I could have chosen a better use of my time, someone would send me an email to thank me for bringing a little light into their day, and I would feel a sense of immense gratitude.

The whole endeavor ended up being one my favorite things that I did last December. It turned out that I needed it as much as everyone else did. So much so that I decided to do it again.

If you want to receive the Making, Doing and Being digital advent calendar, all you have to do is sign up for my newsletter. Every day, you’ll receive a morning email. It might include a recipe, a quote, a prompt. Whatever it is, it’s always paired with an original papercut illustration. There will be some Scandinavian inspiration as well, and this year, even some input from friends and colleagues who I think embody this concept of Making, Doing and Being in their own personal and professional practices.

There’s no paywall and you’re not required to buy any of my books or work to receive the digital advent calendar; it’s 100% free. I want to keep it that way, accessible for everyone, because I want to share without expectation, create art and magic and put it out into the world just because. In a world gone mad, that feels like the one sane act that I can contribute. That being said, putting together this work takes time and effort, so if you feel like making a donation to sponsor the advent calendar you can do so here.

It all kicks off on Saturday December 1, 2018, so if you want to receive the advent calendar, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.

Written by Anna Brones

November 29, 2018 at 07:35

Surprise Art

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I love making things. I also love giving art to people, and I believe that our world is better with more art in it.

I wanted to offer something for the upcoming holiday season, but I didn’t have the capacity to invest money in items like prints or calendars. Instead, I want to offer small pieces of original artwork for people to keep or give away.

But here’s the catch: you don’t know what you’re getting. This is surprise art!

Between now and December 5th I will be making a series of small papercuts. Each one will be matted and wrapped. Place an order and you receive one of these pieces, which I will be sending out in two installments. Because I wrap them immediately after making them, I don’t know who is getting what. Consider it “grab bag art,” like when you were a kid and bought one of those paper bags at the toy store and had no idea what would be inside.

Each piece is mounted in a 5×7″ black mat and ready for framing. You can buy it for yourself, or for a friend, and feel free to order as many as you want. Because it’s a surprise, they are priced a little lower than my original pieces, the intent being to provide affordable artwork to bring a little joy to you and anyone you want to gift it to.

You can order here.

Written by Anna Brones

October 16, 2018 at 08:39

Vote

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It’s National Voter Registration Day, so make sure you and all your friends are registered.

I just had these Vote buttons made, featuring my original papercut “Stars, Stripes and Uterus.” I made the papercut in 2016, but it still feels timely. Because women’s rights are human rights, and this button is perfect for election season (but wearable during any season, of course). You can order yours here.

Want the same artwork on a coffee mug? I’ve got that too. Order here.

Written by Anna Brones

September 25, 2018 at 13:54