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  1. Photostyling 3

    This month’s theme was Summer. Very appropriate – it was baking as I made my way from the little train station to my Sensei’s house.

    I have never noticed the colour and texture of blueberries in a way I did when photographing them for this session.

  2. Pattern course student signed by!

    The good news just keeps pouring in for our fantastic graduates of ‘The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design (the e-course)’! The lovely Suzanne Washington has been signed by and has created a collection of 6 beautiful designs for them! You can see her fantastic designs below. This was a direct result of Suzanne submitting to a live brief set by for Module 3.

  3. Going back in time

    A couple of days after we arrived in Kyoto, my man and I went on a long cycle across the city (hence the dodgy outfit in the photo below!) and out west, through rice paddies and bamboo forests under a huge blue sky. I wanted to show him where I lived for a formative year when I studied here at the tender age of 19, doing homestay with a Japanese family.

    I had written them a postcard and intended to pop it through their door, hoping to arrange to meet up some time soon. But when we turned into their road, my homestay mother was out in the street chatting to a neighbour. “Besu???” she cried. (There is no ‘th’ sound in the Japanese language so my name becomes Besu!) I was surprised she recognised me after more than 15 years, but she did right away. Within five minutes she had called over my homestay father (the sweetest old man ever), invited us in for sweet potatoes and tea, phoned her daughter, got the old photo albums out and got the neighbours round!

    With my homestay parents, Mr & Mrs Ito, outside the house I lived in for a year aged 19

    As we sat in their living room sipping tea I had a kaleidoscope of flashbacks – feeding fish sticks to their dog from the little kitchen table, making long distance calls to my family from the phone by the window (no Skype back then!), checking the bottom step of the staircase for letters that had arrived in thin blue airmail envelopes, being dressed in a kimono for my coming-of-age ceremony back when I was 20… one after another the memories came rushing back, and it was lovely to be able to share them with my man.


    When we had finished up our tea and my man had polished off the last of the sweet potatoes, we and half the neighbourhood headed over to Heiankyo for a festival by Ikeshita pond, with more tea served by ladies in kimonos. What a lovely unexpected interlude that was – and such a blessing to know there are people in this city with whom we go way back.

  4. *Shared Stories* (66): Teresa Metts and Liane Wakabayashi


    Today’s *shared stories* come from Teresa Metts and Liane Wakabayashi


    Teresa Metts


    To me doing what you love is the greatest expression that you value and love yourself.  I have had people in my life that put off what it is that they dream of doing until it is too late.

    My Mom was one of those people.  She worked hard her whole life. Her one dream, that she shared, was to go on a cruise to Alaska.  She never did take that trip.  She claimed that she was okay about it, but I always wish I had just swept her up and taken her.

    I have learned a lot from my Mom and her greatest lesson to me was to live your life so you don’t have regrets. 

    What does this have to do with me being creative?  I think I spent my whole life learning this lesson from my Mom.  I have been creative as long as I can remember.  I recall spending my allowance to buy blank paper, envelopes and watercolors so that I could make stationery to use and to give as gifts.

    Over the years, I have tried many different ways of expressing myself, from painting to sewing.  None of these “hobbies” lasted very long.  They all left me looking for something else. Then, I re-learned how to knit.  Knitting was much more satisfying.  It filled my need to create and to be able to create for others.  Little did I know that knitting was just the beginning of my love affair with fiber.

    I tend to get bored, and after a while just knitting wasn’t enough.  Thanks to the internet I was exposed to all the other things you can do with fiber.  You can spin it, dye it, knit it, crochet it, felt it; the list just goes on and on. It has been over 14 years now, I think, since I discovered that you can dye wool yarn with Easter Egg dye.  And at least 8 years that I have been spinning.  In the last few years I have even learned to spin with a hand spindle, not just a wheel.

    My fiber life makes me, happy, calm, excited, frustrated, and it has never bored me.  If I get tired of knitting, I can spin, or if I don’t want to do that I can dye some yarn, or wash a sheep fleece.  The possibilities are endless and so rewarding.

    In the last year or so I have taken a real leap and opened an online Etsy store.  I have been doing pretty well selling my creations.  I am not at the point of supporting myself yet, but I may get there, I may not.  The most important thing to me is that I am actually doing it!  I took the leap and I am having a blast.  I am forcing myself to show the world what I like and what I can do and it is one of the best things I have ever done.

    Thanks Mom!

    [All images courtesy of Teresa Metts. Find out more about Teresa on her website or connect on Facebook, Twitter or Ravelry.]


    Liane Wakabayashi

    It was by chance that I got pulled into this journey of accessing higher wisdom through art. I had been participating in a workshop led by my husband at the acupuncture clinic where he worked back in the mid-1990s. The idea was to believe that we could manifest absolutely anything our heart desired. One of the ways was to declare something we wanted and then draw it. I had been struggling with infertility and so I drew myself pregnant. The act of drawing something I desperately wanted, then afterwards smiling and relaxing when I saw it manifested in art, had a surprising side effect that I never could have foreseen. I was a journalist at the time struggling under the constant demands of deadlines. Drawing that picture released me from the grip of feeling that my life had to be like leaping from one emergency to the next. I went out and bought myself a box of pastels and a sketchbook. And soon I was hooked. I continued to write but never again would it hold such power over me.


    Hope – an oil painting created after Japan’s 3:11:11 triple disaster

    I was used to keeping a journal so when I turned to art, having no formal art background, it was a seamless transition to continue expressing intentions, observations, hopes and dreams using art supplies instead of a pen. What I was actually doing was the same—recording my life story. But instead of recording it in just in words, I was expressing my life in pictures and then, as I had been accustomed to from years of journaling habit, I would write down my observations about what it was I had just drawn. From my college background in art history, making my own art returned me to the pleasure of analyzing and dialoguing with the creative process.

    But what happened next was something that no art history professor had ever told me or braced me for. Art historians are in the business of explaining artists’ work or going into a period of art and explaining it from a sociological point of view. There you have painting after painting rolling out and you as an art historian are sitting in front of all this gorgeous art trying to make connections. You make connections between artists who knew each other and you make connections between artists who never met but supposedly influenced each other. But what art historians never ever do for themselves or for their museum-going audience it to find direct evidence of the spiritual experiences that artists undergo under the influence of their own paintings, drawings, sculptures and more.

    When art is created from the soul, the art changes every viewer it comes into contact with. We know that by standing in front of great art in museums. And every artist – whether their art is hanging in a museum or their own living room – can attest to the fact that art changes the way you see the world. It changes the way you relate to family members. It strengthens your core so you need not be influenced by changing fads. Art gives you hope, brings you awareness of spectacular powers of creativity that are not exclusive. Art comes from a source that everyone has free access to if only you show up to receive what it is you ask for. 


    Hydrangeas, hypericum, butterflies in the garden of my imagination

    This discovery led me to drawing daily in pastels, then gradually moving into gouache, watercolors and acrylic. The turning point came in June of 1997 while I was at Findhorn Foundation in northern Scotland.  It was there that I got the idea to paint with my eyes closed after choosing colors and brushes randomly. I stood in the same garden where Eileen and Peter Caddy first grew their miraculous cabbages. I imagined that here in this garden I too could find seeds to my creativity through the act of releasing any expectations of what art had to look like. Just feel it, I told myself.

    This became my new way of creating. I would start with an intention that arose from a thought that popped into mind. I’d jot it down. Then I’d start to work with colors that to me resonated with that thought. If it was an energizing thought I’d go for warm colors and if it had to do with a relaxed state, for instance, I’d go for the cooler colors. I gravitated toward the seven hues that make up the rainbow and our chakra system. Color is vibration and as the Hindus teach in their vast awareness of vibrational medicine and the power of the chakras, we as humans are unique expressions of vibration. Our shared mission is to raise our vibration through acts of love, kindness and harmony. I hold that intention with me always. I believe that every color can have a positive affect by bringing us into the balance we need in that moment. 


    In 2000 I started to teach these discoveries. I did it as much to share these awarenesses as to start a dialogue with artists who were similarly approaching creativity as a path of spiritual growth.

    In 2008, a selection of my paintings and drawings became a deck known as the Genesis Cards. These are 44 cards that come with messages like the gift and challenge types traditionally found in the tarot and oracle decks. What makes these cards different from any other that I am aware of is that they challenge you to create your own artwork so as to afford you a deeper more authentic and custom-fit visual answer to any question you might have.

    Genesis art is all about syncronicity. We find it everywhere when art is completed and randomly chosen cards are turned over

    In my approach to teaching Genesis Art Workshops, artists of all ages and backgrounds learn to use the Genesis Cards as creative companions in ways that can help initiate, guide, develop completely original and uplifting works of art from start to finish.

    If you would ask me what I actually teach at these workshops, I’d call myself a nutcracker helping other artists crack open the Big Nut. Art to me is the nutshell, and when its decorated with interesting and beautiful, moving colors, lines, forms, you know this is the external expression of something much greater to be discovered at the core of our selves. The nut is the form. Inside the nut is where the deeply mysterious process originates and resolves itself with each act of creation.


    Energy pastel (1997) created 1 year before my daughter’s birth. On right is photograph of my daughter taken by a photographer we only met for this brief encounter in 2008

    I am obsessed with reaching the source of creativity and holding an audience with my creator. Each time I create, I expect that my creator is with me for a reason that far exceeds the original impulse that brought me to the drawing board in the first place. I may have thought I was sitting down to draw a self-portrait. The intuitive voice of my creator tells me otherwise. The voice tells me to shed tension, to embrace happiness, to connect more deeply with family members. If I heed the message and take action, then I only need to hear the message once. And if not, the message repeats itself in exquisitely subtle variations until I heed its call.

    If I could ask one thing of the universe, it would be to help me locate the soulmate to this creative process. I am a teacher not a marketer and it would be my dream come true to find a collaborator who can be both sponsor and producer, and some wonderful soul who felt as passionately about me in disseminating the Genesis art teachings for years to come in workshops and video-recorded teachings.  I live in Japan and offer these workshops anywhere in the world where an interested group are waiting to receive the teachings.

    [Images courtesy of Liane. Find out more about Liane on her website here or connect on Facebook]



    See here for more inspiring *shared stories or to submit your own!


  5. The road to Takao

    The other day we got up really early to go to a famous temple so I could take pictures before all the tourists arrived. But when we got there we realised it didn’t actually open until 9am. So instead of hanging around, we got back on our bikes and went for an impromptu 2 hour cycle ride. Knackered by nine but oh-so-awake and inspired! Here are some pictures from the road to Takao…

    I am completely in love with this house entrance… 

  6. Philosophising

    One of my favourite little paths in Kyoto is the Tetsugaku-no-michi (‘The Philosopher’s Path).

    When the cherry blossom is out it is one of the busiest places in Kyoto, but I like to think that is because everyone is a philosopher, and they all have so much to philosophise about!

    We snuck back the other evening, when the night was dark but the air was warm and the place was unusually empty. We parked our bikes at the top of the stream and walked along the tree-lined bank to a little bridge where fireflies were dancing in the blackness. Magical green glowing fairies, hovering over branches, dipping and diving, serenading each other. I wonder what they were thinking about…

  7. Play time!

    ‘Hollywood dream’ rollercoaster  – Hollywood nightmare more like!

    On Friday my man skyved of school (shhh) and we sneaked away to Universal Studios Japan – a surreal expanse of movie sets and theme park rides near Osaka. I am totally terrified of roller coasters but made myself go on most of the rides and surprised myself by actually loving some of them!


    It was refreshing to be in a little piece of America for a day, although it has definitely been Japan-ified (Hello Kitty everywhere)…

    Some of the rides are based on really old films, and it was quite freaky to listen to the Terminator ride with it’s wild guesses as to what incredible far-flung future technology would look like – it predicted online education (e-courses) and video phone calls (Skype)! Thank goodness the robots haven’t quite made it yet…

    That car from Back to the Future

    Such a good day of being alternately scared and elated, laughing a lot and having fun.

    The amazingly realistic ‘Amity Village’ from the Jaws ride 

  8. Rainy season

    It’s the rainy season here in Japan. That means it is hot and wet. That means mastering new skills of cycling whilst holding an umbrella and pedalling in flip flops. That means puddle splashing and ice cream in the rain. That means chilled Saturday nights playing cards and drinking beer in cafes that used to be old wooden houses, listening to the rain lashing against the roof. That means endless cups of tea and musings about the weather. That means the smell of pine in the air, and fireflies hovering in the night. It’s the rainy season and I think I actually like it.

  9. Taking time to stand still

    We are here in Kyoto for six months. A long time. A short time. Depends on your perspective. It’s an interesting amount of time, because it is long enough to get familiar and settle into routines, but short enough to want to make the most of every moment.

    We have a big monthly calendar posted on our kitchen wall and I just noticed that as of this week we are half way through our trip. This set me off on a flurry of planning how to squeeze in all the things we want to do, places we want to go and people we want to see before we have to go home (right at the bottom of the last page of that wall chart).  The white spaces are quickly filling, but I am trying hard to preserve some of them with nothing written on them, for it is often these moments of nothing in the diary that lead to unexpected discoveries, relaxed happy days in the sun, improptu trips and all sorts of fun.

    Kyoto is good for me. It has made me slow down, reflect, soak up the beauty around, head out somewhere new almost every single day. Look up, look down, look around. Look inside. Take time to stand still.

    The ideas I pushed away before we headed out here (because I was so crazily busy) have been invited in, and are currently washing around in my head. Now is not the time for filtering, that will come later. Now is the time for letting them all flow forward, and seeing what emerges. And there is no better place to do it than here, on an adventure, with the luxury of time…

  10. Pattern course Module 3 showcase part 5

    Pretty ‘Summer Flutter’ by Susan Driscoll

    Yet more of the talented work from the graduates of Module 3 of ‘The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design (the e-course)’ for you today! We have been so impressed with the quality of work from the graduates! We are also proud of the testimonials from the surface pattern students here!

    Quirky motifs in ‘Put The Kettle On’ by Susan Driscoll

    Retro look in ‘Circles & Circles’ by Mary Maness

    Organic shapes in ‘Ginkgo & Bark’ by Mary Maness

    Leaf inspired ‘Native Trails’ by Michelle Drew

    Two-colour palette in ‘When Grey Met Yellow’ by Michelle Drew

    Product simulation in ‘Odyssey-Gift-Wrap’ by Nicky Ovitt

     ‘Sikuli’ by Nicky Ovitt

    Washed out shapes in ‘Floral Raindrops’ by Nikki Griffiths

    Cute ‘Retro Rainbow’ by Nikki Griffiths

    Floral ‘Butterfly wishes’ by Phyllida Coroneo

    Cultural inspired ‘Morrocan Dreams’ by Phyllida Coroneo

    Organic ‘Blossoms – Pink Blush’ by Samina Khadam

     Bold and bright ‘Blossoms’ by Samina Khadam

    Quirky shopping trolleys in ‘New Baroque’ by Simon Reeves

    Event inspired ‘Olympics’ by Simon Reeves

    Colourful ‘Art Abstract’ by Sue Cashman

    Illustrative ‘Seashells Collection’ by Sue Cashman

      Bright ‘Pill’ by Tammie Bennett

    Cute patterns in ‘Fiesta Collection’ by Tammie Bennett

    Module 2 ‘Creating your professional identity’ started yesterday but you can still squeeze in if you are quick –  find out more and register here!