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Taking a Stab at Art Journaling

Posted by on Aug 28, 2014 in Living Creatively | 0 comments

We spent the middle couple of weeks of this month visiting a ton of family back east, and I used the opportunity to try out art journaling. I brought my knitting with me, but I wanted to have a new kind of activity to escape into when I needed a break, and also I’m sort of amused that I’ve become a person who takes a sketchbook when I travel (see).

So I signed up for this new class on CreativeBug.

And I went on a truly astonishing marker-buying spree (sidebar: I was really excited to try out acrylic paint pens, but it turns out I don’t enjoy them at all. Sadface).

And when I couldn’t find a non-spiral-bound mixed-media sketchbook, I got a watercolour one, since that’ll do, though the texture of the paper is a bit much.

And then I watched only the first lesson of the CreativeBug class, and was on my way. (This is my usual M.O. – take only part of a class, read only part of a book, half listen to someone explain something to me, then just go off and make of it what I will until I’m ready for more instruction.)

I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed this. I enjoyed it tremendously. I had no plan, and I had no idea of an expected outcome. I decided to be a little literal with it, because I was at a loss for any ideas at all for what to make, so I made things related to our trip and what we were up to, and that seemed like a lovely thing to do, and as a now-avid bullet journaler, it was in line with my relatively newfound passion for recording daily life. I enjoyed messing around with patterns and doodles, and colours and lettering. And a bit of collage. As an added bonus, Greg’s cousin’s ten-year-old daughter would sidle up to me as I messed around in my journal on a picnic table, and the two of us would share markers and doodle or whatnot for an hour at a time.

I haven’t touched the art journal since we returned home last week, but as things settle back down to normal (before they spiral out of control in October), I anticipate I’ll go back to it every now and then, not as a daily practice, but as an occasional visual check-in. And I’ll certainly take it with me in October, when I’m sure I’ll feel compelled to glue all manner of things into it. Hm. Maybe I should dedicate a wee book to those travels, alone…

Do you art journal? What’s your practice like?

It’s Mighty Ugly Book Day!

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in Books I Wrote, Mighty Ugly | 2 comments

Make It Mighty Ugly is out today! If you preordered it, hopefully that means you have it in your lovely hands right now.

Here’s all there is to know about the book, so far:

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Library Journal gave it a starred review, saying, “Werker provides a thoughtful look at the internal voices that keep people from expressing their creativity in a book that will work well beyond the crafting world; anyone needing to identify their own blocks will find this inspiring title useful in their own lives.” I also did a Q&A with LJ. (If you’re a librarian, I’ve put together some info on how to lead a Mighty Ugly workshop at your branch.)

I spoke with Sean Cranbury about the book, including the harebrained manner in which it came to be. I also did a reading, so if you’d like a bit of a preview packaged neatly in my very own voice, well, there you have it. A bit more of a preview is the list of links I compiled from things I mention in the book.

Ugly is the new pretty.

Several people have asked me where they should buy the book so it’s most beneficial to me, and I love them/you for asking. Truth is, it doesn’t matter at all to me. Support your favourite bookseller, whether it’s your local indie (ok, especially if it’s your local indie), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, or whatever. If you’re a library-book-borrower, borrow it from your library (libraries buy their books, see, so library demand actually helps authors and publishers tremendously; also, libraries are a cornerstone of civilized society, so). If you’re a borrow-it-from-a-friend-when-they’re-done-with-it reader, awesome. Just read it. That’s what it’s all about. And if you get something out of the book, please tell other people about it.

(If you’re into ordering the book online, here are some handy links: IndieBoundPowellsAmazonBarnes and NobleChapters.)

I’m told the book is also available in e-format. I couldn’t find it in the iBooks store just now, but perhaps that’s because I’m in Canada? It’s certainly available on Kindle. If you can find the ebook in other formats/through other sellers, please let me know and I’ll update this post!

The idea of Make It Mighty Ugly is based on one I explore through workshops, which are inherently social. Reading is a solitary activity, naturally, but I put together a book-group guide because it might be super awesome to work through the book with a bunch of other people. If you have thoughts about this book-group idea, please share! And I’d be happy to Skype into a book-group gathering, so if that’s appealing, let me know.

ugly voice demon

This is my favourite of all the demons Kate Bingaman-Burt drew for the book. It’s the UGLY VOICE. And I love (hate) it.

I’ve done a couple more blog/podcast interviews that haven’t come out yet; I’ll let you know when they’re up. If you have any questions about the book, let me know in the comments!

Throughout the book are quotes and anecdotes from thirteen people I interviewed about their experiences of failure, fear of failure, creative block and other demons. I chose them because I admire their work tremendously, not because they’re famous (most aren’t). All are smart, accomplished and creative, and all were extraordinarily generous with their answers to hard, uncomfortable questions. They are: crochet artist/designer/author Allison Hoffman, journalist Ann Friedman, jewelry designer Betsy Cross, sewing designer/author Betz White, filmmaker Faythe Levine, actor/artist Jasika Nicole, cartoonist Joel Watson, illustrator/educator Kate Bingaman-Burt, artist Kirsty Hall, author/entrepreneur/coach Lauren Bacon, artist/author/designer/activist Noah Scalin, artist/maker Rachael Ashe, writer Rachael Herron, artist Sonya Philip, and artist/illustrator Stacey Rozich.

And finally, the book tour. In October, authors Leanne Prain, Betsy Greer and I will be doing events, signings and workshops in San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto, Philadelphia. Boston, NYC, and Washington, DC, all hosted and/or moderated by incredible local artists/makers. (We’ll also hopefully do a live event online for all you folks in between; stay tuned for more on that!). Some of the events and all of the workshops require advance registration or tickets, so please be sure to check out the details sooner than later! I’m dying from excitement about meeting you face-to-face.

I’m more proud of this book than anything I’ve ever made. I think you’ll enjoy it, or at least get something valuable out of it!

self-doubt demon

Interview on 49th Shelf’s The Interruption, with Sean Cranbury

Posted by on Aug 19, 2014 in Books I Wrote, Interviews, Mighty Ugly, Writing & Editing | 0 comments

Greetings from my parents’ living room in Upstate New York! I have a rare hour to myself – the first one of this nearly two-week family holiday, and I’m so glad to have it because it means I can share something exciting with you.

Discover Canadian Books, Authors, Book Lists and More on 49thShelf.comeBefore I left home a couple of weeks ago, I had a chat with Sean Cranbury, who seems to be involved with almost everything related to books in Vancouver. He has a podcast called Books on the Radio, and has been collaborating with the Canadian book blog 49th Shelf to create a podcast called The Interruption.

In the interview, we talked about how Make It Mighty Ugly came to be, about the weekend when I pulled my hair out while writing it, and about the book tour in October.

Sean also asked me to read from the book. It was my first time ever reading from something I’ve written, and I was very grateful for my copyeditor, who while editing the manuscript put a note in to indicate a section she thought would be great for readings. Without her, I’d have had no idea how to choose, and I’d have been intensely nervous. Instead, I was like, “I got this.”

Listen to the interview and reading over at 49th Shelf!

Creative Mornings Talk: The Stories We Tell Ourselves About Failure

Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Crafts, Creativity, Living Creatively, Mighty Ugly | 5 comments

Last Friday I did something I’d been thinking about doing for months and months. Something that kept me up at night and occupied an increasing part of my brain as the spring and summer progressed. Something I was exhilarated and terrified of doing.

I delivered the Vancouver Creative Mornings talk on the August theme of failure.

I was exhilarated because it was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to speak at an event that was not in some way crafts-related. And because I got to explore ideas I wouldn’t otherwise have given myself the time or space to explore. And because I had a time constraint, and I knew the talk would be recorded and distributed, and it was a big deal.

I was terrified because this is my topic, man. I had to get it right. I had to say something important. I had to nail it. It would be recorded and distributed. It was a very big deal. And I suck at giving talks with slides. I just suck at slides.

After two years of writing and speaking about the ugly voice in our minds that tells us we suck, I eventually decided not to talk about that at all. I had realized there’s another voice in our minds – our inner monologue. And we sometimes use that voice – our own, deliberate voice – to tell ourselves stories. Stories about failure. Stories we have full control over, and that we have a tendency to believe as true.

What might happen if we started to listen to that voice more closely? To tease that voice apart from the ugly voice? To exert some power over it to alter the stories we tell ourselves with it?

So here’s my talk. (The sound improves dramatically at around 2:45.) If you enjoy it, please click through to the Creative Mornings site and click the little heart (hover over the video to make it appear on the right). Go ahead and join the site, too. Creative Mornings is pretty wonderful. Hopefully you have a chapter in your city.

That part where I throw my hands in the air and exclaim, “How fascinating?!” Before the talk, a group of wonderful people led the room in an improv exercise that involved everyone throwing their hands in the air and exclaiming “How fascinating!” whenever someone screwed up. I’d like to always have the room do an improv exercise about failing before I speak. So much less nervous! Everyone was laughing! And it gave me something to say when I did, indeed, screw up. (Click to embiggen.)

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I know some of you have been following along on the bullet journal adventure; it’s my bullet journal that I’m holding throughout. Without it, I would have failed at slides even more spectacularly than I did with it telling me when to click.

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DIY Calamine Lotion

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Blather | 0 comments

I’m amassing an impressive/terrifying collection of powders, oils and herbs, you guys. Impressive because it takes up an increasingly alarming amount of space in my studio and it’s becoming varied enough that I find I have ingredients on-hand when I want them, and terrifying because holy crap when did I ever think I’d amass a collection of herbs and oils and powders?

I’ve started using the hashtag #goddamnedapothecary.


This morning, my kid woke up complaining of an itchy mosquito bite. So though I’ve been waiting on a delivery containing ingredients to make Humblebee & Me’s chili-oil tiger balm to use for such things (likely very light on the chili oil on account of soft soft 3-year-old skin; I may end up leaving it out entirely for a kid version, actually), I discovered I already had ingredients to make calamine lotion.

Of course, during all my months of summer camp in Upstate New York and the bug bites that went along with them, I never found that store-bought calamine lotion actually worked. But at least it provided me and the grown-ups around me something to do when the itching became overwhelming, and hooray for something to do and hooray for placebo effects and hooray for the cred of having legs with pink dots all over them.

So this morning I cobbled together a paste of sea salt, baking soda, bentonite clay, witch hazel, and a bit of lavender and chamomile essential oils (based on a few recipes I found, including this one).

Kudos to my kid for trusting me so completely that he didn’t blink an eye when I approached him with vaguely green goop on my finger and gingerly applied it to his bite.

He says it doesn’t itch anymore, so here’s another three cheers for dabbling in becoming a goddamned apothecary and also for the placebo effect!

Books Are Real, Smithsonian Event, San Francisco Workshop

Posted by on Jul 29, 2014 in Books I Wrote, Events | 0 comments

Kids, shit’s getting real.

Yesterday I received a box of books. My books. The books I wrote. When I first saw a galley copy several months ago, I cried. When the box of final copies arrived yesterday, I had no idea what to do with myself. I still haven’t done anything with myself. It’s just too much.

I gave Owen a copy of the book. Naturally, I encouraged him to draw in it. He's really into writing his name, copying it from what I write.

I gave Owen a copy of the book. Naturally, I encouraged him to draw in it. He’s really into writing his name, copying it from what I write.

The book will be released into the world in less than a month. I can’t fully believe it. I’m nervous, to be honest. I love this book. And so I care about what people will think of it. It’s personal, and so I care that much more. Also, it received that one review, and the review was very positive, and so people expect things of the book, and of me. Yikes.

I wouldn’t trade this confusion or anxiety for anything. It’s what goes along with creating something important. Important to me, I mean. Some of my anxiety is that, of course, I hope it will important to readers, too. Anyway. At the same time that I recognize my emotions are not entirely positive, I recognize that I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Because I’ve made something big. Big for me. It’s not often I make something so big. It’s intense.

Speaking of intense, tickets for our book tour event at the Smithsonian on October 20th became available yesterday. It’s our last event of the book tour, and it’s the freaking Smithsonian. Holy crap. Tickets are free, but seating is limited, so if you’re in the DC area and want to come to our panel discussion followed by book signing, please snag a ticket now!

Toward the beginning of the tour, seats are also already available for a hands-on workshop Leanne, Betsy and I will be leading at Makeshift Society, SF. I’m really excited about the workshop we’ve crafted together, to focus on and highlight each of our areas of interest and expertise. (We’ll also be offering a workshop in Brooklyn, and hopefully one in Portland, so keep watch for ticket info.)

It’s possible most of my posts for the next while will be book- or event-related. I’ll try to toss in some other fun stuff, too!

Casting on to Knit a Sleepbot 3000

Posted by on Jul 15, 2014 in Crafts | 2 comments

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Back when I was finishing up the capybara I made for my friend’s daughter, Owen got hold of the book the pattern was in – Huge and Huggable Mochimochi, by Anna Hrachovec. When he saw the utterly adorbz robot pillow in there, he asked me to make it for him. Disinclined to travel anywhere with a 20”x26” pillow, I ordered worsted weight yarn for it instead of chunky, and Monday night I cast on, using 3.75mm needles instead of the 6.5mm ones called for in the pattern. I want this pillow to be small enough not to be a total pain in the ass to tote around.

I’ve never done intarsia, kids. I’m half excited and half petrified. Got tips? I’d love some.