Monday, March 16, 2015

How to organize an artist file system, upcycle cards and reap benefits of a creative life

How to organize an artist file system, upcycle cards and reap benefits of a creative life

Collecting inspiration and useful materials for art and design.

Cards and paper ephemera have been designed to be useful or important for only a short time. Writers, artists and graphic designers are paid by card companies to create beautiful, meaningful works of art to sentimentally touch your heart. Some greeting cards are hand stamped or uniquely crafted. After they’ve been briefly cherished for the hallmark moments of life, it is acceptable to throw cards away.

How long do you keep or save greeting cards?

  • minute
  • day
  • week
  • year
  • 5 years
  • until I figure out a way to reuse it (often, this is me)
  • forever

Why keep or save greeting cards?

  • it’s handmade and so lovely
  • sentimental keepsake for scrapbook or treasury box
  • photo-cards for picture box, album or frame
  • reminder to stay in touch or pay it forward 
  • recycle or reuse it
    — tear off the signed panel
    — write a personal note on the back of the cover
    — hand deliver or find a new envelope to mail it
  • upcycle or redesign cards
  • use as element of collage, mixed media, altered art or assemblage art works
  • cut into gift tags
  • improve plain color gift wrapping, place mats, place cards
  • make decorations such as ornaments, mobiles and paper chains
  • frosting-glue photo cards to the inside of next year’s holiday gingerbread house before roof is added—faces show through windows

5 ways to handle used items, found objects and created artwork

  1. Give it away and make someone’s day!
  2. Sell it. My shop announcement at FreshRetroGallery includes this quote, “Everyone lives by selling something.”
    —Across the Plains (1892) Robert Louis Stevenson
  3. Recycle to take responsibility in handling waste as you treat or process materials to make suitable for reuse.
  4. Upcycle to honor a good, beautiful item by altering it to serve a new purpose. Create something that is often better than the original.
  5. Donate to help or inspire someone who can use what you have. Find items to use in your own creative works at these places that accept donations. Donating to and supporting thrift shops such as Bethesda, Goodwill, Salvation Army and Disabled American Veterans make win-win situations. 

Creativity runs in my blood

Dad was born in 1922 and Mom in 1929, the year the stock market crashed. The Great Depression influenced their families to save things and become innovative. Hardship encouraged the practice of creativity as a necessity to make ends meet for our family of eight. Mom and Dad’s development of a seed cleaning business from the ground up is evidence of their entrepreneurial spirit.

Dad working on his elaborate Purple Martin bird house
Dad loved designing and building all sorts of things during his retirement. He’s making finishing touches on his Purple Martin house rigged with electric motor, gears, chains and cables (raise/lower/tilt) to manage the cleaning and counting of bird residents. His imagination was versatile and fun. To contrast the industrial magnitude of his works, he once made quirky little containers from plastic pudding cups riveted together to form a swivel cover… and made enough for all of his children and grandchildren. The fancy iron plant holder hanging on the garage wall, partially hidden behind the base of his elaborate bird hotel, was one of the decorative items he crafted.

Mom inspired me to make greeting cards when I was a young child. I celebrate that those little art projects influenced who I’ve become. Beyond frugality, it fueled the ability to dream, attention to detail, confidence, career focus, decision-making, motivational, structure and time management skills. Art is an important aspect of an individual’s life and should be nurtured preschool through adulthood.

Today, a printed card may cost up to $6 or more plus time to find the right one. I don’t shop for cards, instead my time is well spent in making them. The value of a handmade one-of-a-kind piece is measured by the pleasure that comes from making and sending it.

Save and organize free or inexpensive art elements in a way that makes them convenient to use in fun, quick, creative projects.

Filing system for artist

While studying Communication Art and Design at Alexandria Technical College, one class assignment was to create a “morgue file”. Graphic designers use this term to refer to a collection of reference photos and drawings for creative inspiration much like many people use Pinterest today. Artists remember that other people’s art is not to be copied, yet, it inspires us to create our own unique art. The graphic arts industry has changed over the years, but the idea of organizing and filing for creative purposes will always be useful.

Most artists have a collection of paper, text, textures, patterns, printed ephemera that’s sparked a meaningful idea or is just too cool-looking to throw away. The compilation naturally builds up from a variety of sources. We swim in a sea of “found objects” that can be glued to a card layered with colors, words, images, slipped into an envelope and sent to cheer someone up. Much better than a text, Tweet or Facebook “like” is something to physically find in a mail box, open, touch and hold.
  • someone gave it to you
  • you clipped it from a magazine
  • prints of photos you shot
  • from grandma’s closet when you helped her move
  • thrift shop
  • online source (bookmarks and pins)
  • craft store
  • old cards
  • church bulletins, devotion booklets, etc.
  • old paper game pieces
  • band-aid, sticker, decorative tape
  • picked up on a hike—feather, flower, leaf pressed in an old book
  • you name it!
Artists often look for unique material sources as an alternative to the card rack at a common discount store. 

Wausau Paper® Astroparche® 60 lb. text stock and envelope set
Wausau Paper® Astroparche® 60 lb. text stock and envelope sets make a classy neutral base for handmade cards
Personalized hand stamped monogram cards
For special event money gifts or everyday personal notes, made-to-order hand stamped personalized monogram cards are a commendable choice
Design and print your own cards with FreshRetroGallery clipart for a variety of occasions. This example would be appropriate for graduation (handy to have a print file for many graduates), moving, big change, farewell to past, New Year, etc. Use it plain and simple or layer it with other colors and textures. Artists have a license to play!

Art material collecting can become overwhelming chaos without a plan. Treasures are efficiently useful when you start organizing with 3 simple items:
  1. file cabinet or box
  2. file folders
  3. scissors or x-acto knife
Label folders alphabetically by topic, paper, color and art material categories.  Choose a few to get started or make a comprehensive file with this full list.

Art materials morgue file index to print for quick reference—keep in front of folders. You may want to color code the index to match the folder tabs. Use a file cabinet or box that is large enough to fill with bulky items you collect over time.
Art materials morgue file index to print for quick reference—keep in front of folders. You may want to color code the index to match the folder tabs. Use a file cabinet or box that is large enough to fill with bulky items you collect over time.

Get out your glue, pencils, pens, paint, cutting and paper scoring tool. Start creating wonderful new personalized greeting card art, spontaneously, at the very moment a need arises.

You may discover that you want to spend hours at a time building up your own card stash. Handmade cards are fun to send one at a time or give as a gift set.

Throw a party for friends from your church. Make cards together as a group to send to members. Ask everyone to bring something along such as papers, envelopes, embellishments, rubber stamps, old cards, clippings from seed magazines, tools, scissors, glue, etc.
I threw a party for friends from church. We made cards together as a group. I send them from our local Lutheran Women in Mission organization to members celebrating baptism, dealing with health issues, those in the hospital and sympathy to families who’ve lost a loved one. I supplied the goods for this party, but you could ask everyone to bring something along such as paper, envelopes, embellishments, rubber stamps, old cards, clippings from seed magazines, tools, scissors, glue, etc.

Use your coordinated collection of art materials for more than cards. Try making an art journal, scrapbook, wall art or decorated box. Push the envelope and find out how rewarding it is to be an artist/creative/designer who is organized and always ready to make things.

Benefits of a creative life

  • pushes us to listen to ourselves and fight against unhealthy distractions that lure us
  • helps make people happier—both the creator and the recipient of created works
  • offers a sense of purpose—it fills the void, empty feeling
  • reduces anxiety
  • exercises mind, eye and hand coordination
  • makes us resilient
  • requires that we develop a schedule and routine
  • equips us to solve problems in the face of hardship
  • passion toward activity is healthy and allows us to work harder and longer rather than face boredom and struggle with work that is meaningless or less satisfying
  • innovation requires spiritual discipline and inner strength
  • ideas, perception, vision, dreams and imagination from within are given a voice and come to life in tangible art form
  • feeds our spirit of curiosity
  • honors God as we grow and use the gifts He created within us to love and serve others
Recharge with 
  • church
  • play and recreation
  • physical work
  • exercise
  • nature
  • music and performance arts
  • reading
  • travel
  • study of paintings, photography and other visual art
Live life to the fullest and bring out the capabilities or possibilities of your artistic talent. Experiment with my methodized system to begin enjoying creativity at a new level of efficiency and organization. Pin (or bookmark) this reference to find it when you are ready or share it with someone you know who might enjoy it.

You might also be interested in Wording ideas for handmade cards, favorite Bible verses and Christian encouragement for 25 occasions

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How a German-Norwegian American couple connected with a family in Poland

Time goes on, life changes, we move, downsize and let go of childhood gifts. 

My son Nathan asked me if I wanted this doll the other day. I said, “It’s such a cute thing, do you remember where you got it?” It evoked memories of a gift given it to him when he was 7 years old. Memories of my parents rushed back. Nathan has moved from home to college to seminary to a vicarage assignment and temporarily home again. He needed room for books, so the doll and some other things had to go. We let go of precious “things” from time to time, but, memories of the people we love—who have influenced us—remain in our hearts. This doll reminded me of the compassion and Christian generosity of my parents.

Boy doll with blue eyes and blonde hair dressed in a Krakowiak outfit from Poland at FreshRetroGallery.
Boy doll with blue eyes and blonde hair dressed in a Krakowiak outfit from Poland available at FreshRetroGallery.


The story below was written by the late Dianne Johnson, published in Prairie Winds, Vol. III, Issue 38, Nov. 14, 1994.


Walter and Ruth Busse entertain visitor from Poland

It was an exciting week for Walter and Ruth Busse as they entertained Hanna Witt-Pasztowa from Plock, Poland (a town of about 130,000 population) for four days. Hanna says she found it just as exciting, not only to tour a completely different part of the country and way of life, but also to, finally, meet first hand the people who had so much influence on her life and the life of her family.

A VERY special visitor at the Walter and Ruth Busse [residence] this past week was Hanna Witt-Pasztowa, of Plock, Poland, center. Hanna came to thank the Busses in person for the clothes, food and other things they sent to her family immediately following World War II and throughout the years since then.
The Busses and the Witts became acquainted because of a Lutheran World Relief clothing drive. This particular drive was held after World War II when people in Poland needed so much. Walter, who was about 24 at the time, put his name and address in a pocket. It was fortuitous that the family receiving the clothing was headed by a father who understood the need for knowing a number of languages. Bertram Witt, of Weilun, Poland, knew five languages, one of them being English, and he wrote back to the Busse family to thank them for their gift.
Hanna remembers it thus: “Poland was quite destroyed after the Second World War. Cities were 90 percent destroyed, including Warsaw and my small town. The people of Poland had to have some help. Of course, the first to help were the United States. You know, the United States is quite a strange country. From you all the world expects help. When do you say ‘stop with that, we have our own problems.’ But you do not do that. You continue to help. Thank God you helped my country.

“The protestant church here in the United States gathered clothes and sent it to the protestant church in Poland. My father knew English. English is the language for science and mathematics and culture so he felt it was important to know that language. When he found the note from Mr. Walter Busse in Appleton, he wrote to him to say thanks.

“You know, the first wonder is that Walter Busse was then about 24. My sons are now 25 and 30 and I don’t see that they are interested in helping somebody, although they know there are many people they could help. My father continued to correspond with Walter and the family from 1946 until he died in 1963. They were very nice and warm letters that we received from the Busses so that we knew all about this family. When Walter wanted to marry Ruth, he sent a picture, and asked my father, almost as a brother although my father was much older, for his opinion or blessing.

“The Busses sent us things we really needed or wanted. They sent me a part of my life, really.”
“We didn’t send that much at all,” Walter broke in. “We are overwhelmed that she wanted to come and thank us personally.”

“There were things that we did not even have in Poland, or if we had them we could not buy them. We didn’t have any money. My father was a teacher. My mother stayed at home to raise us three children. So sometimes I would have things, maybe sports equipment or food or even chocolate, and my friends would say ‘where did you possibly get that?’ Other children couldn’t have this help, because no one in their families could speak English. It was quite a wonder really, and certainly an influence on the quality of my life.

“It was important to me that these people who continued to help me throughout the years were protestant since we were a very much smaller group. Most everyone is Catholic.”
Hanna says her church cannot afford a building but rent the use of a Catholic church for their services. “You know, to know these nice people, the Busses, was a motivation for my whole family to learn English and that was a very good thing.”

Hanna is a graduate of a music academy. She is the manager of a small symphony orchestra composed of about 45 people, which means she organizes the concerts, invites soloists and conductors, and is in charge of the program. She is also a piano teacher in the high school of Plock.

She serves in the women’s commission of her Polish Evangelical Lutheran Church and is music commissioner in her church. She also plays organ for the church.

She serves on a committee of 10 people for the government, arranging Esperanto cultural events. Esperanto is an artificial language, which Hanna calls very logical. “Espero means hope,” said Hanna. “it was to be a language to gather people to be tolerant. The doctor who devised it was Jewish. The language is built on the idea that people are better off without wars.”

She served on the city council of her town for four years. “This was the first time we had local government 50 years under Russian dictatorship. I was the chairman of the culture, education and sports commission.”

Hanna came to the United States for the first time two years ago. She was invited by Plock’s sister city of Fort Wayne, Indiana, along with the president of her city and the president of the city council. Hanna was invited because she is chairman of the sister city committee. A part of her job is to prepare for the visits of people from Plock’s sister cities, which includes, in addition Fort Wayne, Darmstadt, in Germany, and Forli, Italy.

Her visit to Appleton at this time was possible because she was again invited to Fort Wayne for a week. Fort Wayne is celebrating a bi-centennial, and the committee purchased her ticket. She enjoyed her visit in Fort Wayne. “I felt like I was right at home, because I made friends on my visit two years ago, and some of them have visited in Poland since then, several have been to Poland twice,” she said. “The only thing is my English is not so good, you know. I read and study English, but this is only the third time I have spoken it. I just studied it by myself. English is not my best language.”

“Actually, she speaks English very well,” said Ruth Busse. That was obvious during the interview. She, like her father, is a linguist, and knows five languages.

Walter and Ruth were a bit surprised to find out how important Hanna and her family thought their gifts were. Walter and his mother began to periodically send more and more clothing and also food items after that first letter from Mr. Witt. They enjoyed the exchange of pictures and cards on the holidays, and most particularly the letters from the family.

Hanna’s husband, Roman, is a medical doctor. Their older son is also a doctor and the younger son is studying theology. “When I first heard that her husband was a doctor,” said Ruth, “I was very happy for her. I thought that finally things were going really well for her, but I now find out that factory workers receive more salary than a doctor in Poland. We were talking about cars one day and she said it was impossible that she could have a car. Her husband does have a car, but an older model and a very small car. They have a telephone now, but in earlier years if he was needed when he was at home someone had to come over to let him know. Hanna walks to work.”

Everywhere Hanna visited in Appleton, she invited people to come to Poland to visit. High on her list of priorities was her wish for cooperation between Poland and the people here. At the Soils Laboratory at Morris, she asked for an exchange of ideas and ventures with her city. At the University of Minnesota Music Department, she asked for an exchange between musical groups here with groups from Plock.

They toured the Pioneer Public TV station, the Appleton Press office, and did some visiting with Floyd Wojtalewicz about his visit to Poland a year ago when he was on an agricultural seminar. She met several other Appletonians of Polish descent while browsing downtown.

She also visited the city offices and talked with Roman Fidler, toured the Appleton Hospital and Clinic, the Appleton Nursing Home, and Pleasant View Apartments. She visited with Ruth’s mother at Riverview Apartments. She toured the Busse Seed Cleaning Plant and saw harvesting and drying at the Brustuen farm.

She worshiped at Trinity Lutheran on Sunday morning, eagerly joining in singing with the choir and very willingly provided piano selections at the evening fellowship meeting.

As time ran out she was only able to view the new high school and Prairie Correctional Facility at a distance, and had to give up a planned visit to a dairy farm.

“Hanna was very impressed with all the things at our disposal in a town of under 2,000 compared to her city of 130,000,” said Ruth. “It was astonishing to her that we had an airport. I think it surprised her to know we have so many churches and apartment buildings, they have no special living facilities especially for the elderly. It was kind of disappointing to have her see that we have to demolish our buildings here at such an early age. For example, part of the building in which her mother lives is from the 13th century, just one example of how different things like that are in Europe.”

While it was very important to Hanna to come here to thank the Busses, for Walter and Ruth the important thing was to meet her. “The family thanked us in the letters over the years,” said Walter. “No further thanks was necessary. This visit is a real bonus.”

“As we have been a part of this Witt family,” said Walter, “in the visit to Appleton by Hanna, we now too, have been touched in our lives.”

A textile fiber art piece—woven wall hanging—was Hanna’s gift for Mom and Dad when she visited. She also brought many different kinds of gifts to give the rest of our family and our parents’ many grandchildren… wooden flutes, small ceramic bird whistles, sheet music and dolls in traditional costume as pictured above.

In 1995, the year after the Prairie Winds article above was written, Mom and Dad took a trip to Europe, planned specifically to visit the Witt family.

  European trip memoir was tucked into a decorative box that Mom and Dad brought back for my niece Jessica. Gifts were brought for everyone in our family. Their Trans-Atlantic Tour took them from Minneapolis to Atlanta to Frankfurt, Germany. They were in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and Czeck. They enjoyed it! The high point of the tour was their visit with the Witt family.
European trip itinerary was tucked into a decorative box that Mom and Dad brought back for my niece Jessica. Gifts were brought for everyone in our family. Their Trans-Atlantic Tour took them from Minneapolis to Atlanta to Frankfurt, Germany. They were in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and Czeck. They enjoyed it! The high point of the tour was their visit with the Witt family. Photo credit: Karen Meyer

The Gift of Jesus Christ in my parents’ lives and the fruit of the Spirit brought them joy in giving, not only material things, but as they often shared their faith through reading the Word of God at family gatherings.