Creative Inspiration

by Laura M.

Like many cities, Nashville is host to a multitude of creative offerings. Beautiful gardens, live music everywhere, visual art, dance, bookreadings, etc. But what’s even better is the number of opportunities to explore your own creativity. And I bet your city is like that, too (or at least I hope so!)

There are many entities that offer classes, whether they be one-offs or series. One of them, the University School of Nashville, offers one-off classes taught by alumni or parents of children who attend their school. The money you pay for the class goes towards scholarships for USN students. Now that’s a win-win!

This past Winter I signed up for 3 classes (I wanted to take 6, but was on a budget!) My favorite was a book-making class I took from these two lovely ladies, Emily Holt and Leslie Patterson-Marx at Platetone:


You can actually thank Emily for pushing me down my creativity path. She taught a book arts class for adults for a few years that was offered by Sarratt Art. That was the first time, as an adult, that I created something that I never thought I could and was proud of it. It encouraged me to try other new things I never thought I’d be good at.

At this particular class we made a simple small book:


I keep it in my purse for when I need to take notes. Super cute, huh?

The class had people of all ages and craftiness levels. Everyone was friendly and eager to make something cool. We were all so thrilled to walk away with something so easy to make, looked nifty and is practical.

I really encourage you to seek out classes like these. If you’re not in Nashville, check your local library, arts museum, JCC, university and art stores.

Here are some great places in Nashville at which you can take classes:

Gordon Jewish Community Center – I took a paper cutting class there from Kim Phillips. Such intricacy! I gave my creation to a dear friend of mine who hangs it proudly in her home.


Owl’s Hill Sanctuary – Ellen and I have taken both a painting class and a book making class there. It’s especially nice when the weather is temperate and you can sit outside under their pavilion.


Sarratt Art Studio Classes – this is the venue through which I took my first book making class with Emily. Look at all these treasures! I learned so many different binding types and was able to give many as gifts over the years.


USN Evening Classes – they offer so many kinds of classes! I’ve taken creative writing, a ‘leftovers’ cooking class, and mixed media art class. This is from the paper collage class with Beth Grubb.


Cheekwood – Probably one of my all-time favorite classes I’ve ever taken was a 6 week mixed media class taught by Cindy Birdsong at Cheekwood. Talk about creative! She has ideas and ways of making art that are so inventive and unique. Especially helpful if you’re on a budget. One of her brilliant ideas is to use spackle (yes, spackle!) to ‘build’ density, texture and dimension. I highly recommend Cindy’s classes. I made this piece as an homage to my dear friend Kelly.


Plaza Arts – I’ve taken a paper-making class here from Courtney Adair Johnson, a wonderful local artist who works with found objects and advocates for re-purposing to create art. The purple paper you see in the above painting is from the class I took with her. I took another class by Cindy at Plaza Arts. She taught us a form of art called Encaustic (see below image) where you work with wax to create an image.


There really are so many things you can learn from so many talented folks here in our fair town. What about you? What are your favorite places to take classes from? Please share your leads with us!

Update on 4/10/2016: reader Charlotte recommends art classes from Deby Dearman, some of which are held in Westhaven Resident’s Club in Franklin, TN. Thanks for the recommendation, Charlotte!


Spark(le) Your Creativity with Zentangle®

Today we are featuring our first guest blogger!

Darla Williamson is a dear friend to the creative universe and to us personally. She lives and creates in Birmingham, Alabama. If you’re near her, you can sign up for one of her Zentangle® workshops or purchase some of her beautiful (mostly functional) art.

Click on the link below to enjoy the lovely gift she’s sharing with you, our five readers: a quick tutorial in making beautiful holiday cards!

Spark(le) Your Creativity with Zentangle®


Guilt-free gift tags

Don’t spend a lot; use what you’ve got

By Laura M.

One of my favorite artists, Courtney Adair Johnson, operates on the principle of using what you’ve got. No need to spend a lot of money on fancy supplies. You’ll find that I apply that principle to a lot of the crafty things we do with this blog. I hope it gives you some great ideas of what you can re-use in your own home.

For our gift tags, start with a paper bag.

paper bag

Cut out the top part of the bag, including the handles so that you end up with this:


You’re gonna fold and glue:


You can use Mod Podge or a simple glue stick:


IMG_0044When I looked at this, I thought it looked like a lock. So I decided to draw in a keyhole. Look, I am not good at drawing and for anyone else like me, I highly recommend using a guide of some sort. Some might call it cheating. Who cares? I Googled “key lock” and came up with these images:

IMG_0045I settled on this one:


Then I took a pencil and drew in the keyhole:

IMG_0047Then I colored in using crayons:

IMG_0048What to do with the other side? Well, a key, of course! Google came up with these:

IMG_0049And I selected this one:

IMG_0050Then I drew the image in pencil:

IMG_0052And then colored it in using a brush marker. I found a really nice set of brush markers at Barnes & Noble. They sell them with their adult coloring books (which are super awesome, btw. Ellen got me one for my birthday and I ADORE it!)

I took another eye to the remaining cut-off handle and decided it looked like a purse. So…

IMG_0073And the back:

IMG_0076I still had other parts of the paper bag that I could use. The side of the bag has a natural fold:

IMG_0056So I cut and folded it:

IMG_0057Then I triangled (totally making that word up) the edges:

IMG_0058Tucked them on the inside of the fold and used a glue stick to seal it:IMG_0064

Then I took a hole puncher to it:

IMG_0066Put a ribbon through it:

IMG_0067And colored it!:



You can add any embellishments you have on hand, from glitter (I used some leftover hairspray glitter from Halloween) to random confetti-like snowmen and reindeer.

Here’s my assortment:


Let us know what sorts of odds and ends you used for your gift tags!