Where creativity grows

Tag: #theoodlearium

They don’t make a card for that…but I do

Have you ever found yourself standing in a Hallmark or in the card aisle at Target hemming and hawing between two different cards– neither of which truly expressed what you were trying to say and both of which cost some ridiculous amount of money? Approximately five years or so, I jumped off of the crazy overpriced card train. Ever since I have been creating handmade personalized cards for everything from birthdays to weddings, funerals and retirements. Goodbye trite overpriced unoriginal card- hello custom designed and personalized package of sunshine. 

I was inspired by a story my sister-in-law told me about the Easter gift bags her mother-in-law made for all of her grandkids. They were brown lunch bags hand painted with the most spectacular scenes. It was an experience to receive these precious gifts every year. My sister-in-law still puts these bags out every spring! I wanted to take the same approach with my cards. 

Initially the cards were very simple–blank cards from a local craft store with images from the internet. 80s movie quotes for our youngest nephew and Vampira for our niece. Over time the cards have become more elaborate. I started making accordion style cards with 3×5 index cards that folded into the cards. Then I found out about explosion cards. Now I exclusively use my Oodle Doodles in my cards. If I don’t have something appropriate I design something new. 

A few years ago my husband bought me a wax seal kit for Christmas, which allowed me to add a unique touch to the packaging of the cards. A friend joked that he felt like he had received mail from the Queen when he got our Thanksgiving card. My students simultaneously want to open the card, but don’t want to break the seal. The next year Tom surprised me with a return address embosser so that I could say goodbye to tacky return address labels. I don’t have the best handwriting, but I do my best with a Lettermate envelope addressing guide. I am still interested in learning hand lettering, but have not made the time to pursue it further. Last year I received a beautiful Pilot pen, so now I have reason to work on my script! For now, when you receive a card from me, it has a custom designed envelope, hand addressed, embossed return address and a wax seal enclosing a custom personalized hand created card. To be honest, I have no idea if they are cheaper than what you can find in a store when they are all said and done. The last graduation card I made took me about six hours to create. What I do know is that they are overflowing with love from me and I couldn’t say that about anything I saw at Target or Hallmark.

I buy my supplies at (these are NOT affiliate links):

Wax seals and sealing wax at Nostalgic Impressions

Tombow markers at Dick Blick

Blank note cards at Michael’s.

Address embosser- I cannot remember, but a lot of places sell them.

Pen and ink- Goulet Pen Company

Inspiring a Creative Mindset

Inspiring a Creative Mindset

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that they are not creative, I would have a pretty nice chunk of money. What most people are saying when they say they are not creative is that they are not artistic. EVERYONE is creative. Creative people are problem solvers. They are empathetic. They are sales people, managers, parents, teachers, coaches, janitors, bartenders and everything in between. They are everyday people trying to figure out how to navigate their way through the world. Creativity is a mindset. Whether you want to be more artistic or less stressed out when you have a problem you are trying to solve, these methods will help to inspire a creative mindset. These 10 pillars will be the foundation for our creative journey together. 

  • Listen to music. In a world of Spotify and playlists, music is the easiest way to get your creative mojo flowing. I am a fan of “louder is better.” Anything that makes you tap your foot or get your boogie on will help to shake the cobwebs out of your brain. When we built out the Oodlearium, we repurposed a shelf stereo from the basement that music could always be available.
    • My favorite Pandora stations
      • Imagine Dragons Radio
      • 80s Pop Hits
      • Arctic Monkeys Radio
      • Bruno Mars Radio
    • I am late to join the Spotify train. The cool thing about Spotify is that people can share their playlists. I found a few to try out with a quick Google search. Try one of these or develop some of your own. Or go old school and put a creativity mix-tape together.
  • Keep an idea journal. I am a bit obsessed with lists. When I discovered the Google Keep app my life changed forever! I can keep color-coded lists, pin more important lists to the top of my lists, insert pictures, videos, links and even drawings. I have lists of things I want to learn, books I want to read, places I want to visit, and of course multiple grocery lists! Because I  always have a device with me, I can add to it at any time. In addition to my Google Keep lists, I have an actual Idea Journal that is a paper journal that I keep in the Oodlearium. I use that journal to sketch out bigger ideas. And of course, I have copious Pinterest boards (crafty, journaling, crochet, and countless more!) 
  • Talk to other creatives.  Find people who fill you with creative energy— who inspire you to make/solve problems (whatever that means for you). I have a list of people both near and far. Spending even just a few minutes on the phone with them helps me to ignite creative sparks. If you don’t feel like you have those people in your life, I recommend checking out this article about  creating a creativity & camaraderie club. I hope The Oodlearium will allow people to develop these kinds of relationships as well. 
  • Embrace failure. My grandma taught me to crochet when I was little. One day my mom told me that my sisters and I were going to spend a long weekend with my Grandma’s sister. Aunt Grace said that we could work on a crochet project together. I bought some beautiful green yarn to make a scarf. I was twenty or so rows into my project when Aunt Grace pointed out that my rows were decreasing in size. She encouraged me to pull out the rows and redo them. I gave her an incredulous glance and kept going. By the end of the weekend, I had finished my scarf. It looked like a drunken sailor had made it, but I was done. If I had realized then that it was ok to make mistakes and that the first draft was seldom the final draft, I would probably still have a lovely green scarf. 
  • Show persistence/grit. Much like when I started running, creativity DOES take work. When my husband and I were first dating, I was in awe of his ability to complete major projects seemingly with one “attempt.” What I didn’t realize was that he was not melting down every time something went wrong like I would. After twenty years together I have seen him work through problems that demonstrate his incredible creativity. If he did not possess that grit, he would have quit on The Oodlearium shelves when he learned how shamefully uneven our ceiling was. 
  • Be a lifelong learner. Soap making. Alcohol inking. Beer brewing. Doodling. Digital doodle coloring. Card making. Crocheting baby blankets. Crocheting hats. Candle making. Pinecone art. Wine bottle art. Cork art. Button art. Quilling. Origami. Sewing. Gardening. Shading markers. Paper making. Book folding. Book binding. Watercoloring. Graphic design. Wood burning. This is just a short list of the different paths my creative journey has taken me on. Some have come and gone. Others are lifelong staples. Some are seedlings in my idea journal waiting for the time when I can further pursue them. The point is that I am always exploring new ideas and trying to learn something new. While the items I listed are artistic pursuits, I am also learning Spanish and how to become a minimalist. 
  • Expose yourself to new environments. As much as I would love to have unlimited funds to explore the far reaches of our planet, this is just not most people’s reality (nor mine!). However, exploring your world to whatever extent you can is a great way to get your creative juices flowing. Here are some ideas:
    • Visit local museums (check to see when they have admission free days for residents)
    • Visit a new cafe or bookshop
    • Drive a different route to work
    • Take public transportation to work if possible
    • Buy a public transit ticket and hop on and get off somewhere randomly 
    • Check out the parks and forest preserves in your area
    • Visit a community garden in your town
    • Check out a summer farmer’s market
  • Disconnect / detox from technology. So many people are admittedly addicted to their devices that we never have an opportunity to let our minds wander. That is when your brain has the opportunity to make unique connections between different ideas. If you are constantly bombarding your mind with new inputs then you never have an opportunity to actually do something with those new ideas. If the thought of going even a few hours without your device causes you to have a panic attack, you need to do this more than ever— as soon as possible. 
  • Have new experiences. Probably close to a decade ago, I did a Project 365. The goal of the project is to take and share a photo a day for a whole year. My first picture was of an anthropomorphized smile that was really our tub drain. As the weeks and months went by the act of practicing my craft every day forced me to pay closer attention to the world around me, but it also encouraged me to have new experiences so that I would have new photographs to make and to write about. I visited places that I might not have otherwise. I visited more with friends and family and made sure to document those memories. Each time I tried something new it sparked a new idea in my mind. Ooh I went to this botanic garden, I wonder if there is another here or there. If I visited a zoo, maybe I could grab my best friend and take a road trip up to this other zoo. All those experiences were filed in my brain— for a craft, an art project, a blog post or just to share a story to show someone that I understand. 
  • Begin anywhere. This morning my husband and I sat out on our patio and talked for hours about my hopes and dreams for this blog. We talked about my anxieties and insecurities as well as the reasons why I should move forward with my ideas. The conversation ended with my husband telling me how much he admires my willingness to just dive into an idea, whereas he tends to research, plan and calculate and then recalculate every move. I have a card on my shelf behind me in The Oodlearium that says “Begin Anywhere.” Start wherever you are and if tomorrow you want to restart again, then go right ahead. Don’t wait for the perfect moment- just start! 

Creativity is a way of living life that embraces originality and makes unique connections between seemingly disparate ideas. Creativity is about living life as a journey into seeing and communicating the extraordinariness of the simplest, most every day acts. (cite)

What is the Oodlearium?

What is the Oodlearium?

The short answer? It’s where creativity grows. For the long answer keep reading.

For years, my husband felt bad that he has a shop in the garage for big projects that involve power tools, a “clean” shop in the basement for smaller projects, and his office upstairs where he can play his guitar or work on computer based projects. My art supplies have been inconveniently stored in closets around the house. I didn’t care though. I am a flexible person. There were plenty of places for me to set up shop around the house, but none that were just mine. 

Our house has a loft that looks out over our family room and through double patio doors to our patio. It has two skylights and a giant window that provide gorgeous light throughout the day. For most of the 17 years we have lived in our house, it had a billiards table and a ping pong table that we hardly ever used. We thought it would be fun for parties, until we realized we did not want people traipsing around our upstairs. When a kid threw a ball over the railing onto her mother’s head the deal was sealed. Selling a pool table is difficult at best. By the time the person pays someone to tear it down and reassemble it they can practically buy a brand new set-up. It took months of hard work, but my husband finally found a buyer. Looking at the 20×10 space, I could start to imagine what it might be like to have so much room for storage and projects. To be able to leave a project out on the table instead of having to always pack everything back up would be amazing. My husband really wanted to do this for me and after my initial resistance I was ready to let him.

The back wall has an angled ceiling that created the perfect space for built in shelves. The shelves vary in height and width allowing for incredible storage customization. There is room for everything from my tubs of yarn to my sewing machine and wax seal supplies and even a retro Spirograph. He is currently working on a custom table that will have additional storage and a full-size butcher block countertop (more on that piece when it’s done). 

To my right is an antique Singer Sewing machine that I nabbed through a Facebook group. After doing some research my husband discovered that it is an 1889 model. It needs a bit of TLC, but it is beautiful and will eventually be fully functional. Next to it is my most prized possession. On a recent trip to visit my family, my aunt showed me a sweater and skirt set my grandma crocheted for her 30+ years ago. There was no way that it would ever fit me, but there was also no way I was letting it go to Goodwill. 

My sister-in-law found me a simple dress form and voila I had the perfect way to display her work of art. My grandma embodied everything it means to be creative. She crocheted hundreds of blankets and baby sets for people around the world. In the kitchen she was a master of baking and Italian cuisine. Having one of her most beautiful pieces is the closest thing I can have to having her here with me. 

When we were designing and building the room, we kept calling it the craft loft. Sure it’s a loft, but it is SO much more than a craft room. To know where The Oodlearium came from we have to take a small detour. There is an awesome art organization in my hometown called Oddball Art Lab.  A few years ago they repurposed an old cigarette machine into a machine that now dispenses the work of local artists on small pieces of wood. After I had what I felt was a nice collection of my doodles, I applied to have a set of blocks in the machine. During the application process I had to provide a link to a website where people could find out more information about my art. I threw a quick Facebook page together and called it Jen’s Oodle Doodles. One day I was walking up the stairs to head into the loft and it hit me— The Oodlearium. 

The purpose of The Oodlearium is to inspire a creative mindset. Here is what you can you expect to see here in The Oodlearium:

  • Stories of my own creative journey 
  • Resources to help you develop your creative mindset (articles, blogs, videos, podcasts, etc.)
  • Discussions with creatives to help inspire you
  • Exercises to stretch your creative muscles
  • Challenges that allow you put what you have learned into practice

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