Tag Archives: interview

Are You Drawsome?! – A chat with Mara Belzer

Holy Creativity, Batman! I am so excited to share my very first interview podcast with you. I’m all about the talking…and the sharing…and the integrating. So it was about time I got this party started.

I got chatting to Mara Belzer, creator of ‘Be Drawsome’ – a 30 day practice of self-discovery through drawing for Artists and non-Artists – about the benefits of doodling, self-transformation without the legwork and creative self-care (hint: it might involve new stationary!)

:: How do you plan to bring the element of ‘doodling’ into your creative endeavors?
:: How do you show yourself impeccable self-care while being creative?

We’d LOVE to hear! Let us know in the comments below…

‘Be Drawsome’ kicks off TOMORROW so nip over here for more info and sign up on the double!

And check out some of Mara’s seriously impressive doodling-handiwork on Instagram, @poodlecat, #bedrawsome. You’ll even find a few of my own early efforts there too, @parisaroohipour.

marabelzer.comMara Belzer is a brand-decoder and ideas-wrangler who helps people
that consider themselves WEIRD build personality-perfect businesses.

You can find out more about her work and follow her blog at www.marabelzer.com


The 5 Lessons of Vogue

You expect ‘The September Issue’ to show you something specific. Specifically the world of fashion, the trivial pursuits of looking good and the mad dash to look better than someone else (because, really, fashion is always relative…and circular).

I own the docu-film and have re-watched it numerous times despite it annoying me so much in parts.

I finally realised this evening that I re-watch it so much because it reminds me, it brings me home, to some of the most important lessons of Art-making.

1. It’s all about the collaboration…

For a documentary supposedly focused on the woman at the helm of Vogue, the helmet-haired and tight-lipped Anna Wintour, the real heroine of the piece is Senior Stylist Grace Coddington. The point of this film is how these two greats of the magazine world work together, the push-and-pull of Anna’s ruthless eye for the business of print media and Grace’s Artistic sensibilities. She’s the talent behind the ‘big name’ and Wintour pretty much admits it in the final minute of the film. This documentary is entirely about collaboration and the dynamics of art-making when more than one viewpoint must be respected.

2. Are you prepared to stand-up for what you make?

Grace Coddington has a fit on camera when she realises that her spread is being cut. She bears her teeth and the depth of passion for what it is she creates is disarmingly obvious. You see just how much of herself is invests in the clothes she picks, the scenes she curates, the vision she wants to communicate. You see just how much it hurts when her vision isn’t respected. No need to ask where she gets the nerve to push back again the most respected editor in fashion or where she gets the energy to keep creating even when it has all been cut. She admits it’s hard to pick yourself up again but she doesn’t quit. She believes in what she creates.

3. Grow an Opinion

Oh man! After watching Coddington standing up for her vision and giving cheek to Anna Wintour, the rest of the Vogue team look like they might burst into tears if Wintour looks directly at them. When looking at spreads everyone is suddenly in complete agreement with Wintour, oblivious to the fact that they just stated something completely different on camera two seconds earlier. The words ‘maybe‘, ‘kind of‘ and ‘eh, well Anna said…‘ should be banned they’re used so often.

I like people with opinions, even if their opinions are completely different from my own. Bland and agreeable do not serve me when I’m pushing to create something remarkable. A bit of honesty, kindly given preferably, is what I’m looking for.

4. Keep your eyes open

Grace Coddington, while being taxied around Paris, talks about how she was advised early on in her career to never read or zone out on the move because you never know what you might see.

This is just plain everyday good advise for a society that’s obsessed with multitasking. Paying attention fuels your creative reserves because it’s life that inspires Art. Yes, I realise the irony in needing a film to remind me to pay attention to life!

5. Having a Point of View makes everything easier

Love her or loathe her, Anna Wintour has a perspective that is all her own. Knowing it strengthens her when others belittle her work. Her point of view steers a ship as colossal as the fashion industry itself and since it’s her own it is always the right direction, she is always being truthful to herself, no second guessing. It seems somewhat simplistic or obvious, even wrong somehow, and yet… How refreshing would that be in your life? She had made it so that, in her world, she is always right!


6. Make freakin’ sure that you have something more to come home to than a (albeit beautiful) bookshelf filled with with your magazines, and more work. There is more to life that work, fashion, even (dare I say it?!) Art. Don’t get swallowed up. Even if you love your work. Yes, you need to do it, follow your potential, release the beauty/message/experience into the world. But you can’t take it with you when it’s all said and done.

Just something to think about…

Day 13 – Getting a Grilling: Interview with Jillian van Ness

Well it’s nearly the very last day here at AMDD headquarters and I am sad. I like blogging about all this stuff, and I know I don’t need to make excuses to do, I can do it any time, but it feels nice to make a little event out of it. In fact I am thinking seriously about putting together an e-zine to release twice (maybe more, maybe less) a year, but that idea is still very much in the ‘floating round my head’ stage.

And so on to today’s goodies. I feel the need to make something tasty to go with my yummy old brew coffee that is working its magic in my fridge right now. So I’m including my adapted recipe for ridiculously tasty, ridiculously easy muesli bars…healthy and yummy!

Also here is a few thoughts and lots of inspiring photos from artist/musician/superwoman Jillian van Ness. I hope you enjoy…

Getting a Grilling – Jillian van Ness

Jillian van Ness is an artist who is very hard to put in a box! More than just ‘make art’, she seems to be ‘living art’ or at least making it constantly, spontaneously and without regard for different mediums, genres, materials and styles. She is a musician, songwriter, book-maker, crafter, writer, traveller, painter, photographer and Permaculture enthusiast. She currently lives in California. You can contact her and hear her music at myspace.com/jillianvanness

I was fortunate enough to meet her while attending music school and have found her creative abandon inspiring. She shared these few thoughts and photos with me recently…

1* Describe a typical day in your life.

Oh goodness. A “typical” day in my life. I’m really looking forward to that! My partner, Adam and I recently returned from a stint abroad, living and working in Ethiopia and have been essentially living out of our truck, searching for a home in the States from coast to coast. (If any of you know of a place for a teacher, an artist, and some gardening, outdoor adventure lovers, please get in touch!) A typical day for me right now starts with a fruit bowl, herbal tea, and a walk with my dog, and ends with a hot bath in sea salt and lavender. I also carry a stack of sticky Post-it notes around with me in my purse or pocket to write down any creative idea I have during the day. When I’m on the run and don’t have time to get out my art supplies, this helps me feel like I still have an outlet for all my creative energy and am honoring my artistic side, no matter how fleeting or realistic it may be. A typical day for me right now is very uncensored and very much about being in the flow.


2* How would you describe your ‘Artistic Style’?

I would call my artistic style “intentionally spontaneous” and always incorporating partial if not total elements of sustainability, recycling, up-cycling, etc. I’m a collector, so when I find objects, I sit with them awhile and wait for them to tell me the best way to use them or incorporate them into a piece. Sometimes I don’t even use that object in a tangible sense. Later on, it may become the inspiration for or subject of a children’s song or a greeting card.

I’m also a student of the Permaculture movement, working to holistically integrate my life as much as possible. Over time, I’ve noticed how one Permaculture principle in particular has wriggled its way into my creative practice, and that’s this idea that,”The problems are the solutions.”

When I hit a wall or spill, break, lose, crack, falter, or the original vision just falls completely to pieces… I find that everything’s better when I just allow that new reality unfold: my reactions, my attitude, and ultimately, the piece or project I’m working on are always better for it. Think of it as an exercise in Trust. Trust that everything will be okay in the end.

3* Tell us about your favourite piece of artwork/writing/music at the moment.

I”ve recently completed my first installation piece called, “The Last Apothecary” which exhibited last week in San Francisco, CA… and even though I’m tired, I’m still pretty excited about the concept and other spin-off projects that may come from it. I created the piece in response to a call for Eco-Art around the theme of “Water” (and the political & social implications of the element).

-Quick fire-

~Pretty interesting or interestingly pretty? Interestingly Pretty

~Rolling Stones or Beatles? Beatles

~Boxers or Y-fronts? Boxers

~Abstract or Realism? Realism

~Blondes or Brunnettes? (or redheads?!) Anything as long as it’s curly!

~Clooney or Depp? Depp. c’mon.

~Classic or Modern? Modern

~Custard or ice-cream? Ice-cream! Gelato!

~World Cup or World Series? World Cup

~What’s your favourite colour? I love blues… Caribbean to cerulean.

~When are you happiest? When I’m outdoors or submerged in water.

Muesli Bars

adapted from recipe by Nigella Lawson’s ‘Nigella Express’


  • 1 x 397g can condensed milk
  • 250g jumbo oats
  • 100g raisins
  • 200g mixed seeds…I love pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, poppy, anything you like…
  • 125g almonds…I like mine with a mixture of whole (big and crunchy) and sliced (blend in with the jumbo oats really nicely)
  • anything else you like really…add chocolate chips for naughty ones or cranberries for sweet n’ sour. Why not try peanuts, hazelnuts or walnuts instead of almonds? The original recipe calls for shredded coconut as well, which I don’t like, but hey! In fact, if you have leftover, never-going-to-get-eaten muesli lying at the back of the cupboard, why not throw that in too…the more the merrier :)


Preheat over at 130 C and throughly grease a 23 x 33 x 4 cm tin…better yet grease baking paper so you can lift it out or use a disposable tin.

Warm the condensed milk in a pan ’til runny.

Mix together all your dry ingredients in a bowl. Then add the warmed condensed milk and blend throughly until everything is coated and sticky.

Press your mixture into your tin…it’s super sticky at this point so hand may have to be used.

Bake for 1 hour. Remove from over and let cool for 15 mins before cutting into 16 or so chunky bars.

And enjoy…

Getting a Grilling: An Interview with Lee Meredith

Getting a Grilling: An Interview with Lee Meredith a.k.a. Leethal

Lee Meredith is a blogger, crafter, knit designer, photographer, yarn spinner, recycler and inspire-er (thank you!) to name but a few of her skills! You can keep up with her amazingly creative life at her website Do Stuff! Be sure to check out her ‘Quick Knits’ monthly yarn/pattern club and her self-published e-book ‘Game Knitting’. Thank you Lee for this incredibly detailed and open interview…with your glass of iced coffee at the ready, dive in!

* Describe a typical day in your life.
Hah, there is no “typical” day!  But, ok, I’ll try… I am a total night person, and my partner (Pete) works the late shift and doesn’t get home till 10:30 most nights, which puts us on a late schedule, so I usually sleep till 9 or 9:30, then wake up slowly with coffee and email checking, twitter reading, etc, and eat breakfast with Pete.  Then he goes to work around noon and I get to work, whatever that means each day – could be knitting to work on designs, could be computer work (blogging, website stuff, bookkeeping stuff, etc), could be yarn-making or working on any of the projects I’m always in the middle of.  So, the rest of the day is all up to whatever my priorities are; for example, the week leading up to my monthly club mail-out date is all focused on club stuff (making the yarn, designing the patterns, putting together the extras).  If I’m really into a project, like a knit design, or a new item for my shop, then I could spend the entire day on that project.  I’ll often take a walk to the grocery store or the post office or something in the middle of the day, to get outside and break things up.  If my work is knitting or another kind of crafting, I’ll usually do it on the couch with some Netflix instant movies or bad TV.  Then, when Pete gets home at night, we’ll eat dinner together and watch a movie or TV while I usually continue knitting (or crafting, or blogging, or whatever) until bedtime around 1.  That was long and rambly, but that’s how my days are!

* How do you juggle the demands of working for yourself?
It’s tough… just today, like many days, I’ve been thinking a ton about what exactly I should be focusing on – it’s always a struggle for me, deciding what needs to be put ahead of everything else.  I used to do much more freelancing work, with deadlines, making it easier – the project that’s due first got done first.  So, now that I have a bunch of projects, and I’m super excited about releasing all of them, but they all need a ton of my time before they’re ready, I try to figure out what’s the closest to being finished?  What will people like most?  What will be most profitable for me (gotta pay those bills)?  And then there’s all the more day-to-day stuff, like responding to emails (which I am not good at!), shipping out orders, trying to do blog posts a few days a week… so I’ll try to get those kinds of things done first, then focus on the big, long-term projects, but a lot of the time the long-term projects are the ones I’m excited about, so the little stuff will fall behind.

* How would you describe your work?
In all the different kinds of things that I make and design, I hope for there to be at least some element that is unusual, unique, or surprising – this could be the construction method of a knit design, or the materials chosen to make an object, or something having a dual purpose (like my connect-the-dots stitch sets being both an embroidery pattern and a puzzle!)…  Color is also something that ties most of my work together – when people think of my designs and works, I doubt they think of black, white, or neutrals!

* Tell us about your favourite piece of artwork/craftwork at the moment.
Of mine?  My favorite things are usually my most recent or things I’m currently working on… I love my Shapeshifter design because wearing it is so much fun!

* When faced with the dreaded ‘Blank Page’ how do you get started?
I’ll need to come to a starting point – usually my blank page is for planning my club each month… which is why I love giving each month a theme.  The theme becomes my starting point, then I can go from there.  If the ideas really aren’t coming and I’m stuck, then the answer is usually brainstorming with Pete – talking with him about the theme, or where I’m stuck, or what I have so far that I can’t turn into a solid idea, always helps me see new directions that weren’t showing before, or he’ll think of some solution I never would have thought of on my own!

* I’m very taken by your often unique approach to knit wear and design. What tips could you give someone who wanted to start designing their own patterns?
I was just improvising knit stuff, without writing anything down, for years before I started trying to actually “design” – there’s a big difference between just improvising something and developing it into a pattern that other people can follow and work from.  I think that helped me a lot, to have a good grasp of how to make a thing without a pattern to follow, then eventually I could make a thing and write down what I did, and turn that into an actual pattern.  So, I’m not saying that you should spend years before trying to design something, but just don’t rush into it I guess… If you make something you want to turn into design, test it out a bunch yourself, trying it different ways maybe, to see what works best.

* Where do you find inspiration?
The internet – browsing craft blogs, ravelry, flickr, etc – and flipping through craft/art books.  Usually an idea will come to me out of nowhere, or emerge from a conversation, but if I’m feeling stuck and need to seek out inspiration, I dig into the online craft world or open a book.

* Describe your workspace.
I just moved, so my studio space isn’t in working order yet – I can use the desk and tables when I need to, but there are boxes everywhere and things aren’t organized yet, so I do most of my work in the living room on the couch.  But, once it’s in order, there’s a big desk for computer work, a table for messy kinds of craft work, and another table for sewing and other related stuff, and tons of shelving and drawers.  One side of the closet (it’s a converted bedroom) is filled with hanging shoe holder things, which are used to store yarn.  There’s a record player, a CD player, a radio, and a cord for my computer or ipod (music is a must, of course!), great lighting (I chose the smaller bedroom to be my studio because it gets better light than the bigger room), and multiple magnet, inspiration, and dry erase boards.

* Who would play you in the film of your life?
Oh gosh, I don’t know… a friend of mine on twitter suggested Katharine Hepburn, if it doesn’t have to be someone living, but I don’t know about that… Maybe Drew Barrymore? I’ve always liked her, and she changes her hair a lot, like I do…

* How do you relax?
If I’m at home and fully relaxing – like watching a movie and doing nothing at the same time – I feel restless and not good most of the time, so my version of relaxing at home is watching a movie and knitting or doing something else at the same time.  If I really need to get away from work for awhile, then I have to leave the house – go out for food with Pete or friends, go out to a movie (yeah, I like movies) or anything else out in the world.

* What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Leaving my day job behind to be self-employed doing creative work, and succeeding!  When I left my day job over 2 years ago, I really expected to end up getting a part-time job at a yarn shop or something to make ends meet, but with a combination of freelance writing and teaching, and my own business and knit designing, I’ve been able to pay the bills every month – it’s not easy, and I’m lucky to live in a city with a relatively low cost of living, and to have a partner who can help me out if I’m cutting it close… but yeah, I still can’t believe I’m making it work!

-Quick fire-
~Pretty interesting or interestingly pretty? interestingly pretty
~Rolling Stones or Beatles? beatles
~Boxers or Y-fronts? y-fronts
~Abstract or Realism? abstract
~Blondes or Brunnettes? (or redheads?!) brunnettes
~Clooney or Depp? depp
~Classic or Modern? modern
~Custard or ice-cream? ice-cream
~World Cup or World Series? no sports for me
~What’s your favourite colour? I love all colors!
~When are you happiest? when I’m not stressed about something and I can appreciate how lucky I am
~Tell us a secret. I almost started a Carpenters cover band with my friend Abe many years ago, even though I can’t play any instruments or sing well.

Day 10 – How to make Cold Brewed Coffee Concentrate!

Today I am so happy to share an interview with you from the blogger/crafter/force-to-be-reckoned-with Lee Meredith a.k.a Leethal! Click here for the interview! I’m particularly excited because it was Lee’s blog and go-getter attitude that inspired me to start this blog and hold my first blogfest – 12 Days of Craftmas. Not only has Lee given us a really generous look into her creative life and inspiration but she has also contributed an amazing tutorial on cold brew coffee, perfect for making a refreshing summer treat. I’m making mine a latte! My poor battered conscious and weary purse will be so happy that I won’t be relying on St*rb&cks for my fix anymore :)

How to make Cold Brewed Coffee Concentrate!

by Leethal!

Cold brewed coffee is by far the best way to stay caffeinated in the summertime – I first read about it a few years ago when a blog linked to this New York Times article and I’ve been making it every summer since.  My way is super simple, and there are methods out there that might be a wee bit better, but I’ve been doing it this easy way for years and my coffee tastes oh so delicious!  None of the bitterness that you taste in regular drip-brewed coffee that’s been cooled; be sure to taste it before adding any sugar, because you probably won’t need any!

You’ll need:

  • ground coffee beans
  • a container in which to brew – either something with measurements on it, or an additional measuring cup, and either with a lid or with plastic wrap to cover it
  • a spoon to stir
  • a second container to store the final concentrate – a small pitcher is good
  • a reusable coffee filter or some kind of strainer fine enough for coffee grounds, or a strainer with cheesecloth to strain the grounds

The concentrate gets combined with water (or milk) for drinkable iced coffee, so however much you make will be about half the amount of total coffee you’ll have to drink.  I usually make enough for a few days, just for myself, but if I were making it to share with guests I would use a larger container than I did here and make more concentrate.

Step 1:  Measure grounds into brewing container (as much as you want this measurement will be about one fifth the total brewing mixture that will go into this container).

Step 2:  Add water – about four times as much as the amount of coffee grounds.  So if you’re adding it into the same measuring cup, your total measurement now should be approximately five times as much as the coffee grounds measurement.  Stir mixture well, then cover and place in refrigerator.

Step 3:  Let sit in refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, or up to overnight – I usually leave it overnight.  I’ve never experienced it being too brewed, and I’ve left it over 24 hours, though it’s probably better to keep it under 12 hours.

Step 4:  Pour brew mixture through strainer or filter into the concentrate container.  You may need to move the filter around to strain all the concentrate through, depending on your filter/strainer.

That’s it, all the steps, now you have your coffee concentrate!  Keep it in the fridge as is, or you could mix the whole batch into drinkable iced coffee and store it that way.  To make iced coffee, mix equal parts concentrate and water, plus as much ice as you like (try out varying mixture ratios, as maybe you’ll like it stronger or weaker).  To make a cold brewed milky iced coffee, similar to an iced latte, combine equal parts concentrate and milk (or soy milk, my favorite!).  Try adding some chocolate syrup for a drink similar to an iced mocha, or a flavor syrup (like vanilla or hazelnut, etc) for a sweet cold coffee drink!

—–>Click here for the interview with Lee Meredith<——