Jealousy, Art & Tea: An awesome day of creative block-busting with The Jealous Curator and Lisa Congdon.

I recently attended the San Francisco Girl Crush Tea Party, brain-child of Danielle Kryza, known as The Jealous Curator, and hosted by SF-based artist and illustrator, Lisa Congdon.  It was awesome.

"Amazing Things Will Happen" artwork by Mary Kate McDevitt

As a fan of Lisa's work, I simply could not resist the opportunity to meet her in person and learn more about her process. Little did I know-thanks to Danielle - that the day would also ask me to take a deeper look at my creative blocks, and the very thing that I now realize draws me to Lisa's work: a feeling of admiration that borders on - yes, good old-fashioned jealousy. To quote Danielle, it's that feeling of "Damn I wish I thought of that" many of us often get when we see work we admire.   

I wasn't quite sure what to expect of the day, and I admit I had a bit of the highschool cafeteria jitters on the way in.  I had been following Lisa's 365 Days of Hand Lettering on her blog since hearing her speak at the Alt Design Summit earlier this year, and she seemed awesome, but I had no idea just HOW awesome she really is. Throughout the day I was completely humbled by her generosity.  Not only did she invite us into her cozy, light-filled studio - allowing us to snap away at all the amazing details of her displayed collections and artwork, she shared the inspiring story of her path from first grade teacher to fine artist, showed us her very first painting, and discussed her own battle with over-coming creative blocks, while offering insight on ours. 

Here is some of Lisa's most current work.  Her palette is really fresh and inspiring.  I love her use of pink and NEON (oh my lord! I thought I'd never be okay with it after the 80's, but now I'm so hooked!) Here are links if you are interested in seeing more of Lisa's fine art, or prints.

Lisa opened up her files to show us some other things she has worked on, including illustrations for book and retail clients, as well as her own book of photographs: A Collection a Day.

Did I mention the goody bags??  

Filled with all kinds of products with Lisa's artwork on them - these were the best goody bags ever!  Here are just a few of the surprises I found in mine:

The event wouldn't have been what it was without Danielle, The Jealous Curator, a Vancover-based graphic designer and artist in her own right.  Danielle spoke with utmost sincerity about her fears of "messing up the pristine white of a blank canvas" and not wanting to "spoil the perfect notebook." She shared her experience of "soul crushing" envy, and how her blog evolved.  

I was delighted when she pulled out exercises from The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron to help launch our discussions.  It's been a while since I first read and began practicing some of the teachings in this book.  It might be a little too "self-helpy" for some, but I remember loving doing the "morning pages", and I still apply some of the techniques when I'm feeling stuck.  

After feasting on a delicious lunch from Square Meals, we got down to the business of exploring our creative blocks.  The event drew an impressive group of creative, warm-hearted, accomplished women with varying backgrounds and interests.  I paired off with the lovely Bridget Watson Payne, book editor for Chronicle Books, to do a little creative soul searching.  

Then we all bundled up and headed out into the sunlight for a gallery walk in Lisa's neighborhood.   


We checked out Guerrero Gallery and Southern Exposure, before landing at the gallery that reps Lisa's work in San Francisco, Gallery Hijinks.  We met with owner/director Jillian Mackintosh-who is an inspiration herself-having decided to open a gallery at the age of 27! I love the vibe in this space, especially with all the bold swatches of color they have painted on the walls for their current exhibition, Infinite Color.


We returned to the studio to sip tea from an assortment of vintage tea cups donated by Victoria of SF Girl by the Bay and delicious treats from Batter, some of which were inspired by Lisa's artwork - like these yummy chocolate ganache cookies sprinkled with neon pink non-pareils! I love how Lisa combines intricate, but subtle pencil drawings with bold pops of color...


As we sipped tea and nibbled, we did a little more wrangling with our inner critics, and this was really my favorite part of the day!  As we took turns sharing some of our personal jealousies, the idea emerged when we identify what we are jealous of, and why - when we are capable of saying it out loud, then we are able to see it for what it truly is (profound admiration), and then we can let it inspire us towards action.  

All in all, it was a great event!  The best part?  Meeting all of these awesome, generous, supportive women. Who says creative endeavors need to be laden with competitive perfectionism?  After so many years of doing commercial art, I'm ready to start creating something I can truly call my own.  It felt great to leave Lisa's studio full of inspiration and breathing a lot easier.  Time to just shut up and DO IT!


Thank you Danielle and Lisa for a truly awesome day! Girl Crush events are also going to be held in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Austin and Philadelphia. You can sign up here

Special thanks to Taylor Seury, Maggie Hannon, Tiffanie Turner, Bridget Watson Payne, and Samantha Howe for allowing me to include some of their great photographs of the event here.  I learned from them (all bloggers as well) that I have a ways to go in honing my reportage skills! Please visit the blogs and sites of my fellow attendees to see what they're up to:

daily dose of sunlight - Taylor Seury - Maggie Hannon

Corner Blog - Tiffanie Turner

Pippa's Cabinet - Bridget Watson Payne

The Renovation Diaries - Samantha Howe

Cargoh Blog - Cariann Nesler Burger

Catie Cake - Catie Anchev

Still Maybe Studios - Staci Marie Leech-Cornell




From the Portfolio: Crayon Hearts

Every year around this time I get to thinking about one of the first Valentine crafts I developed as a "Good thing" when I was a Craft Editor at Martha Stewart Living: Crayon Hearts.  

Click on photo for the how-to. Photographed by LIsa Hubbard.

I first learned of this idea to create a stained glass-like effect, by melting crayon shavings between sheets of wax paper with an iron, when perusing an old craft book from the 70's. I had a lot of fun testing to see just how hot the iron should be, and experimenting with blending color. It wasn't long before I became obsessed with all the different shades of red, pink and orange in the crayon box, and the idea quickly developed into hearts!

Now I'm delighted to see this image everywhere - on Pinterest and blogs, and even on the cover of Martha's most recent craft book: Martha Stewart's Handmade Holiday Crafts: 225 Inspired Projects for Year-Round Celebrations

It's truly an honor, after all these years, to see something I created still being done, and enjoyed!  A quick Google image search shows countless little hands shaving crayons, and multiple variations on the garland theme.  Here are some of my favorite adaptations:

I like how Lindsay from My Own Ideas turns the crayon heart garland into a Valentine gift with some creative packaging.

Stringing the hearts vertically on a single strand makes them easy to hang.

Sewing through the center of the hearts is a quick and easy way to create a more horizontal garland, like this one shown on Hazelnuts. 

I love how this one turned out on Crafting Mom - great "marbleized" effect! 

Kelly Ann Carter shows how the hearts can also look great mounted against a white wall . . .

and Erin at House of Earnest elevates the idea to a new level placing a single heart against a white napkin. 

How about you?  Have you tried this idea yet?  It's not just for making hearts!  I'm tempted to pull out some crayons and revisit the idea to see what else might evolve . . . Perhaps a mobile for a nursery?  Who knows . . .


Yarn-Wrapped Heart Valentines 


Here's a little last-minute Valentine idea to whip up while you're watching TV.  I'm always looking for ways to make use of left-over yarn from other projects, and this one is quick and easy!


Here's a step-by-step how-to to get you started . . . 

A heart-shaped template will help to make multiple hearts.  Fold a piece of paper in half, draw a half-heart shape along the folded edge, cut out and open.  Tip: I found it best to make my hearts squat and very rounded.  Sharper corners and too deep of a V at the top might make it tricky later when you are winding the yarn around the heart shape.

Trace around your template on a piece of cardboard - I used the flap of a box.  Then cut out hearts with a good pair of paper scissors.  These don't have to be too perfect, since you will be covering them up - but try to keep the edges fairly smooth.

All you need is a little piece of tape to secure one end of your yarn to the center of the backside of the heart.

To get started, wrap the yarn around the center of the heart several times.

Then wrap the yarn across the heart diagonally. Allow the heart to rotate as you continue wrapping diagonally. Wrap all the way around once, allowing spaces in between the yarn strands.  Then continue to wind around and around covering up the gaps.  Keep going until the cardboard is completely covered.

All images photographed and styled by Kelli Ronci. Dishes: Astier de Vilatte; Rug: Serena & Lily.

Then cut the yarn and tuck the end in on the backside of the heart. Voila!  I hope you enjoy - let me know how it goes, and have a great Valentine's Day!