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  1. Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap (3): Round up

    Wow!!  I thought last time’s swap was fantastic but this time everyone really excelled themselves.  True to the theme of ‘love’, stitchers on four continents (including our first from Africa!) made their stitched postcards with care and creativity, and posted little bits of love off to new friends around the world.  Here is a random selection of the gorgeousness created:

    You can see the postcard I made here, the one my brother made out of metal here, and all the other amazing creations in the Flickr group here.

    This is the postcard I received from Kim Turner at Soggy Dog Studios in the US.  It is really lovely – an excited little girl holding a heart-sealed envelope aloft, made from a mixture of fabric, stitching, oil pastels and ephemera.  It put a big smile on my face and now sits proudly on my inspiration board – thank you Kim! 

    The Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap will be back in the summer.  Sign up for the Do What You Love newsletter (on the right hand side) if you want to be the first to hear when it is open for sign ups.  Thank you so much to everyone who joined in this time, and made the world just a little bit more filled with love!


  2. Introducing the stunning work of Mirang Wonne

    I wasn’t expecting to find such delicate industrial beauty inside the old military station of Fort Mason in San Francisco, but that is exactly what I found when I stumbled across Mirang Wonne’s work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Artists’ Gallery

    You can see the scale of the work in this photo, where Louise is standing captivated by it.

    According to the gallery brochure, Mirang ‘creates drawings on stainless steel mesh by burning the surface with a torch.  The silver coloured metal surface… bears some resemblance to Asian calligraphy and brush painting created on long scrolls of paper’

    The colours in the melted mesh were beautiful, like oil on water, and the work drew me in. 


    I was in California to take a painting class from the awesome Jesse Reno.  You can read about it here, and see what crazy stuff I painted!  More on my USA adventures to follow shortly


  3. A hint of Spring

    Love the way daffodils seem to bring sunshine right into the house, along with a promise of Spring


  4. *shared stories* (7): Eileen Nishi and Debbie Miller



    This week we share the stories of Eileen Nishi, someone who knows she isn’t doing what she loves, but is doing something about it, and Debbie Miller, who reignited her passion for art when she turned 40. 


    Eileen Nishi

    [photo credit: Mary Ingraham-Brown]

    Hi, my name is Eileen – I live and work in Seattle, and I am not doing what I love . . . Yet!  (And here I envision those of you in the virtual twelve-step program for people in my situation saying, “Hi Eileen!”)

    My big “Ah-Ha” moment about doing something different with my life came after attending the Fall session of Squam Art Workshops last year.  When I got home I wrote:

    “SAW was a life-changing experience for me.  How exactly my life will change isn’t clear to me yet – what I know is that there is a lump in my throat telling me that I am supposed to do something much bigger and more creative with my life . . . a voice that is calling me to a higher purpose, which will have something to do with Art.”

    It felt as if a veil had been lifted and allowed me to see briefly the possibilities of what a life doing what I loved would look like – and then it came down again . . . but not all the way!

    To me doing what I love means spending my days doing something TRUE, something that makes my heart sing.  It means creating connections & community through art – and eventually I plan to do that through my photography.  At the moment, I’m only pursuing photography in the windows of time that present themselves on the weekends and occasionally during my lunch hour – which, needless to say isn’t quite what I have in mind long-term . . .

    The biggest reason I haven’t pursued what I love is because I have two children, a “real-job” that pays me well, and I am (for the most part) the sole provider for our family.  We’ve felt the economic downturn personally, so having a good job that provides healthcare benefits for my children and me isn’t something I take for granted.

    Not to be deterred however, I am actively setting intentions and laying down the road-map for my journey toward a full-time creative life!  I am turning 40 this year, and here’s a sampling of what I’ve got going on . . .

    E-courses!   Unraveling with Susannah Conway, and Blogging Your Way with Holly Becker & Leslie Shewring.

    Reading!  Flying Lessons by Kelly Rae Roberts and Ordinary Sparkling Moments by Christine Mason Miller

    Growing!  Integrate personal growth seminar – amazing!

    Travel!  I’m off to Beth’s inaugural “Do What You Love” retreat in the English countryside this May, and back to Squam Art Workshop’s lakeside arts retreat in September.

    And all along the way I’m promoting my work, taking risks, and saying “YES!” to my dream of being able to earn a living and support my family as an artist.  It feels great!

    The universe has been very good to me so far this year.  If I had to ask it for one more thing?  It would be to have a big blog readership and to sell lots of work through galleries and my Etsy store.  OK – so that was two things . . . I can have it all, can’t I?

    [All images courtesy of Eileen Nishi unless otherwise stated]

    Eileen currently works full-time as the Office Manager at a small medical clinic in Seattle, Washington.  Her dream as a photographer is to photo-journal people’s everyday lives, candidly capturing beauty in what’s real. You can find her blog at West of Whimsy.


    Debbie Miller

    To ‘do what I love’ means that I paint because to do otherwise simply does not work for me.  It is how I make sense out of the world.  I cannot imagine NOT painting.

    I grew up in a very ‘art-friendly’ home where my desire to be an artist was never discouraged, in fact it was encouraged!  How great is that? Eventually I found my way to the Rhode Island School of Design where I earned my BFA in Illustration.  I thought that this would be a good way to combine art with a ‘real world’ kind of job.   The painting classes I took though were where I felt most at home, the most natural, happy.  I was lucky to have the late artist Richard Merkin as a professor , his energy , enthusiasm, knowledge and character were infectious and inspire me to this day. 

    Marriage and family came next and that happily became my focus, although I was always doing something creative ‘on the side’ though – like teaching art, freelance illustration jobs, painted furniture and garden design.

    Then I hit 40.  I missed my oil paints.  I had to paint.

    [Oil painting by Debbie Miller]

    I dug out my old box of oil paints, bought some new brushes and set up a small studio in our basement and began to paint again.  It was scary and exhilarating.  Remembering the lessons learned at RISD, I knew painting everyday was crucial to improving and developing.  So that is what I did, everyday, in the basement next to the washing machine.  At night I would scour the internet for information on painting and it’s there that I found other artists doing what I was doing – painting-everyday and blogging about it.  How great to be around so many artists again!  Suddenly I was not alone painting away in the basement, there is a whole community of artists online – sharing info and inspiration. 

    I started posting my small practice paintings on my new blog and from there opportunities like   becoming a member of came about and Debbie Miller Painting was born.

    My studio has moved to a light filled loft in an old mill building, truly a dream come true. 

    I am a painter. 

    Balancing a family with the art does have its challenges – the laundry simply has to wait.   Since starting my blog 4 years ago, one of my favorite things is when I get a message from someone saying that I inspire them or one of my paintings speaks to them in some way.  Many people are timid or afraid to let the artist in them out and I understand that feeling.  I wish I had known as a younger woman that this part of me was OK and should be the one steering the ship.

    Now I have many big dreams – an open painting group here in my studio is something I want to make happen.  Getting together ‘just to paint’ with other artists has so many rewards.  Teaching workshops is another thing I’m thinking about and of course I want to continue my personal evolution as an artist to the point where the income and the artistry sustain me equally.

    [Images courtesy of Debbie Miller.  Find out more about Debbie on her new blog here or on her website here]


    Would you like to share your story on Do What You Love? Please see here and contact me for more details



  5. The strangest pedicure

    Have you heard about those pedicures where you put your feet in a glass box filled with water and… hundreds of fish?! Well I just had one and it’s the strangest thing. 

    They nibble away at your feet and make them all smooth and soft.   It sounds quite disgusting but they seem to like it. 

    It feels like hundreds of tiny hands are tickling your feet – certainly one to heighten the senses!

  6. I *heart* San Francisco

    A couple of weeks ago I spent a fun few days in San Francisco with my good friends Louise Gale and Juliette Crane


    We walked for miles, enjoyed discovering hidden galleries and cafes, nosed through the windows of people’s tall pastel-coloured houses and – dare I say it – even did a bit of shopping! 

    We also met up with the lovely Mati Rose McDonough and Tiffany Moore for lunch, in the gorgeous Tartine bakery.  ‘So fun’ (as Tiffany would say…)

    Now that’s my kind of lemon meringue pie!


    I was in the US for a painting class with the awesome Jesse Reno.  You can read about it here, and see what crazy stuff I painted.  More on my USA adventures to follow soon


  7. Featured in Reader’s Digest… alongside the future King!

    Very strange to open the April issue of the world’s most widely read magazine, Reader’s Digest, and see a picture of myself with Prince William!  You can see it on pages 58-59, or get a sneak peek into my encounter here

  8. Do What You Love interview: Matt Nicholls

    Today I am delighted to share an interview with my very own brother Matt!  From a very young age Matt drew and made models, and I remember how he used to do the most amazing technical drawings of cars.  More recently he has turned industrial welding into a fine art, creating bespoke furniture, sculptures, gates and house signs. He has also just started building bespoke treehouses – I want one! Today I talk to him about how he has combined his love of nature and passion for creating with the very practical industrial skill of welding.

    1) I love the mixture of industrial sculpture and practicality of your work.  Where did the idea for your benches come from?

    My head is jumbled up with ideas for creating but I prefer the idea of a sculpture have a use rather than just an object to observe. I actually made my very first bench to use at home as quite simply, we needed one!
    2) What materials do you use in them?
    The framework is mild steel that usually is powdercoated matt black but the frames can actually be offered in a variety of finishes. I love the look of bare metal that has been left to cure in the elements for a few weeks and is then varnished to protect its rusted patina. The seats themselves are hardwood. I tend to opt for oak due to its attractive grain, natural strength and longevity. The wood can be treated in a variety of ways depending on exposure or aesthetic requirements.
    3) How do you go about coming up with the design?

    I tend to have a rough idea, either from my own imagination or through the commission spec – and it progresses from there. I may do a rough sketch before I begin but generally the work develops organically. This helps create unique pieces that are never replicated and this is a paramount feature of my sculptures.

    4) What do you think about while you are making them?

    That’s an interesting question! They are a passion of mine so obviously I enjoy it. I think about ensuring quality and detail, and if it is for a particular client specification I ensure that it is accurate and in keeping with their design. To be honest my mind often wanders so who knows what else might go through my head! 
    5) Where do you look for inspiration?

    Nature is my main inspiration. I have an in-built love of trees, especially native English varieties such as oak. I also am passionate about horticulture and therefore I like to feature other forms of flora in my work.
    6) What do you like about creating things from scratch?

    Mainly the fact that it will be unique and that I am in total control of how the work will begin, develop and finish. I have a blank canvas for the design and materials I use.

    7) What kind of things did you draw and make when you were younger?

    I used to draw a lot of people and vehicles when I was small. I’m not sure why!? I also was a very keen model maker.
    8 ) Did you carry on drawing/making through your teens or did you stop and come back to it?  How did you get back into creating?

    Funnily enough I have never really thought about it, but yes, apart from Graphic Design studies at school and college, I definitely did stop creating art for many years. I’m sure I always maintained the enthusiasm and wanted to create but possibly lacked the inspiration. My children have definitely been key in returning me to art. I absolutely love making things for or with them.


    Matt has been so busy creating that he hasn’t yet set up a website, but if you want a lovely new piece of bespoke garden furniture just drop me a line!


  9. Drawing dance

    I really struggle with drawing people.  I can never get hands, feet or faces just how I want them, and I have a hard time with proportion.  But most of all I have a hard time with finding enough patience!  So I tackled it head on and took myself off to a five-hour drawing workshop, run by Leeds-based artist Jon Wiltshire

    It was a drawing workshop with a difference – a combination of watching jazz and contemporary dancers perform (to get an idea of movement and flow) and then drawing them in particular poses.  And I loved it!  I had to sharpen my pencil about twenty times, and snapped my charcoal with the energy I found from somewhere.  Here are my drawings.  What do you think?

    These two contemporary dancers looked like they were sculpted from a single piece of marble.

    This was jazz dancer Kelsey performing cabaret.  Kelsey is ‘big in Japan’, having become an overnight internet sensation posting videos of her dancing and speaking Japanese!  Her videos of her dancing under her stage name of KimonoTime have been viewed over 100,000 times!  She performed cabaret for us – I loved the music, and the hat.

    Do you like drawing?  How do you get around issues of proportion and drawings hands and feet?  Any advice welcome!


  10. Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap update

    The Great Big Stiched Postcard Swap has seen small pieces of stitched loveliness flying around the world.  Here’s my postcard, for the theme ‘LOVE’, which was sent off to the USA.  I printed out a section of one of my original paintings, and then stitched over the top of it, and stitched that onto handmade Indian Khadi paper.

    I am going to do a round up post next week, and share some of the gorgeous creations that have been made. 

    If you haven’t posted yours yet please do it asap, as your swap partner is no doubt waiting by their mail box or front door in anticipation! 

    If you have written a blog post about it, let me know and I will link to it on the Do What You Love Facebook page.  And feel free to post a picture of what you received over in the Flickr group.