All posts by Owen Wills

I'm an artist and puppeteer! I love Celtic knotwork and red pandas!

Crafting Classes this spring at the Bellingham Foundry!

Owen here! Today I’d like to talk to you about my upcoming classes!

If you’d like to learn how to sew or crochet this spring, come join me at the Foundry! I am teaching a different class each week from now until April 9th! All classes are $15, and materials are included.

You can find out more by clicking on the poster below, and sign up at the Bellingham Foundry Events page.

Crafting classes Spring 2016

See you there!

On being busy

Owen here! Today I’d like to talk to you about being busy – something I’ve been experiencing a lot lately!

The only way to do all the things you need/want to when you’ve got too much on your list is to expand time and space.

I mean, there are tips you can use, and there are promises that you can do all the things if you just arrange it all the right way. If those work for you, congratulations! But here in my world, there’s no way to get it all done – it’s simpler just to assume that from the get go.

So if there’s no hope of getting it all done, what to do?

Imagine a stick. On one side is “ALL THE THINGS DO THEM.” What’s on the other side?

Clarity.

Time is a precious resource. Everything we choose to do with it must be the best, most important use of that resource. This limit lets us look at our to do list and identify what is the most important thing to do right now. Following this, you can rest assured that you aren’t failing to get things done. You’re doing exactly what you need to do at any moment. A much better feeling – and one you would have a harder time finding if you didn’t have a time crunch in the first place!

 

Note: This doesn’t mean that you can’t spend an hour playing games, or hanging out in bed when you just can’t even anymore. Sometimes the most important thing you can do is to rest.

 

 

 

Bumblepost: Start Anywhere

Owen here! Today I’d like to talk to you about just getting started!

Sometimes (maybe a lot of times) I have trouble getting started with things I’m really interested in doing. It’s easy to get caught in an unhelpful cycle where at night I’ll think, “I’m so psyched about doing this thing tomorrow!” And then tomorrow comes, and I want to do everything but that thing.

My superpowers don’t end there, though. Sometimes I can not only successfully avoid doing the things I want to do, but I actually forget what I’m supposed to be doing! I’ll sit down to do a project with identical steps that I’ve followed before – and I just can’t make any sense of it.

When this happens, I find there is nothing for it but a hard push, and just getting started. Recognizing when I tend to need to just get started has helped me get through stressful creative times, plan my day better, and accomplish lots more. So if you haven’t already, I suggest working on figuring out when you just need to push yourself to get started.

Worksheet: Start Anywhere Coloring Page

To help make this more fun, I’m including a free coloring page! The text is a little blurry, because I’m still learning how to balance out readability with a high level of detail. (Note: It’s a PDF! Sorry!)

Start Anywhere Knotwork Coloring Page

Bumblepost: Awesome Art Podcasts!

Owen here! Today I’d like to tell you about the art podcasts I listen to.

I’m a big fan of podcasts. I can listen to them while working with my hands, which means they are perfect for listening to while making art. Most of them are free as well, and they are very easy to download for on the go (For those of us without unlimited wifi!).

Every so often I look for a bunch of podcasts on similar subjects, and listen to them to find the best ones. A few months ago I started looking for artist podcasts, and now have some recommendations!

  1. Artists Helping Artists

Useful for: Learning skills to make art, and how to gain more skills; networking with other artists; social media/marketing; building & tweaking your website; selling in large and small markets

I can not say enough about this show. It is bursting with helpful information! This podcast has years and years of back episodes, so there is plenty to absorb! AHA’s host Leslie Saeta changes things up frequently with new co-hosts. I think this helps keep the show fresh and interesting.

This show covers how to make art, how to sell art, and how to work in the dynamic and weird art world – from big markets to small. There is something for everyone here.

2. Artists Without Day Jobs

Useful for: Social Media/Marketing tips; inspiration; getting jazzed about making art; feeling empowered!

AWD is hosted by Jo-Ná Williams, an attorney, business advisor, and founder of Artist Empowerment.  This podcast is almost entirely about the business of art, especially empowering ourselves to get what we are worth. Many of AWD’s guests have struggled up from difficult circumstances – so if you have trouble seeing yourself getting anywhere with your art, check out Artists Without Day Jobs!

3. The Savvy Painter

Useful for: Learning social media/marketing skills; learning about painting; building enthusiasm!

Like AHA and AWD, the Savvy Painter provides useful info, and often has guests on that give insight gained from their own experience. In my opinion, there is no such thing as hearing from too many artists!

The Unimistakable Creative

Useful for: Inspiration!

It is way too easy to get derailed by a lack of enthusiasm, getting bogged down by the feeling we can’t move forward – that any effort towards our goals will be a futile waste of energy we don’t have. So in that case, I recommend trying out The Unmistakable Creative! It’ll get you pumped and moving again.

(You will learn other stuff here too, but for me, I listen to it to help me keep going!)

  1. The Abundant Artist

Useful for: Inspiration, enthusiasm, resources

This is another one where you’ll learn a lot, but again I think the real usefulness of this podcast is as inspiration. In my experience, things made by business coaches tend to have a quality of getting people up and moving, doing what they need to reach their goals.

 

Bonus: Small Business, Big Marketing

Useful for: Learning social media/marketing; learning good business practices; learning how to do your business well from the start

Now, this one I recommend listening to with a grain of salt. I dislike some of the companies that advertise with SBBM, and sometimes both the guest and host have things I strongly disagree with. So why am I recommending it?

This is one of the few pieces of media made about marketing that is not complete nonsense. Anyone who is invited on as a guest is someone who has become successful, and they share what they did to get there. There is also some discussion about ethics, and also on the quandary of reaching goals and suddenly not knowing what to do. (Something I find unimaginable, but which happens to lots of people, apparently.)

———————–

Now a small note for anyone anxious about listening to content like this where something is for sale if you can’t or don’t want to buy the product: Just by listening you are helping! And doing things like spreading the word or leaving reviews is also immensely helpful!

In the best of circumstances, content (like podcasts) are made available for free because it helps in some other way. It helps show people the person making the podcast knows what they’re talking about. It helps them and their guests network. It lets them help people new to the business (which is good for everyone!). And often, it provides advertising or improves search engine rankings for whoever makes the podcast.

So no need to worry! Just click, sit back, and enjoy!

Five 3d printed projects I want to make

I have a bit of a thing for 3d printing. Ever since we moved our art-making into a space with several 3d printers (and then some!), I’ve been considering what I could make. Here is a list of some of my plans:

  1. A small custom game controller for the X box.

Someone I know got an x-box, but unfortunately he is finding the available controllers are too big for comfort. So I want to make a smaller controller customized with colors and designs he likes. Should be fun!

2. A light-weight puppet head.

The puppets we make are fairly light – but even a little weight wears on the hands after awhile! So I’d like to experiment with flexible but sturdy materials that weigh almost nothing.

Most likely, though, we’ll be using an Mcor Iris paper carving printer to do that job. It slices into stacks of copy paper (or whatever paper you want to recycle!), applies adhesive, and prints designs on the resulting sculpture. Recycling at it’s most fun!

3. A raspberry pi case

I dream of a wearable, audio only computer with just a keyboard for input. Tablet screens are too fragile for me, a bumbly electronics destroyer. So instead I’d love to have something I can strap to my wrist, plug headphones into, and use on the go by typing into it one handed. I will then attack it with glitter and sparkles!

4. Flat celtic jewelry pieces and ornaments

I’m already working on turning some of my knotwork designs into vector files that can then be used for 3d printing and laser etching. I pretty much just want to plaster knotwork into every conceivable type of object and surface.

5. Shelving that uses thumbtacks

Trying to find shelving that works for apartments which don’t allow screws was always very difficult for me! The stuff I did find was either big (as in full sized bookshelves) or not very sturdy. To solve this problem, I’d like to design something that will only leave thumbtack sized holes, but can hold up a decent amount of weight.

 

If you have a problem you’d like a 3d printed solution for, let me know! I’ve got room for more experiments!

Bumblepost: 7 Ways to Keep Your Resolutions

Owen here! Today I want to chat with you about New Year’s resolutions.

Resolutions are popular to make and popular to break. I’ve had luck keeping mine the past few years, so I’d like to pass on what’s worked for me.

1. Choose one major theme, and have the rest be, “I’ll try fixing this when I can.”

Making a change is hard. Making a lot of different ones is much worse. I find that if I choose a category of things to fix, the things I do to succeed at one thing will help me work on the other resolutions. And by the next year, my new habits will be entrenched, so I don’t have to worry about them when embarking on yet more changes.

So if you want to get more exercise, do more sculpting, keep the house clean, start gardening, go see all the historical sites in your city, give up your favorite drinks, etc – Sit down and decide which is the most important one to do first, or which is the most exciting. Make most of the resolutions about that one thing, and then slack off on the rest.

2. With every goal, write down the motivation behind it.

I find the biggest resolution killer is that specific goals become quickly outdated or were too ambitious to start with. Going from “I’m gonna paint every so often” to “I’m going to paint from 3 PM to 5 PM every single day without fail” requires a big shift – and as you try to meet that goal, you’re likely to discover some long-term problems that need fixing before you can actually accomplish that. You may even discover that the changes you would have to make just won’t be feasible for you.

If you firmly understand the reasoning behind your goal, you can then alter the goal without losing it entirely. For instance, if you just couldn’t get yourself to actually sit down and work every day, you might consider a smaller goal of three times a week. Try that for a bit, and if it doesn’t work, revisit the motivation behind the goal and try something else.

3. Set a check-in schedule

Once you know what you’re trying to do, set aside time regularly to check in with your goals. Write up what’s worked, what hasn’t, and how you feel about your resolutions. Alter your goals as needed.

4. Make a plan

Now that you know what you’re going to try to do, make a plan for each of your goals. Brainstorm what you think you’ll need to do in order to accomplish these goals. Plot out when you want to reach certain milestones by. Keep these on hand for when you check in with your goals.

5. Enjoy your failures.

If you are assessing it honestly, failure is great. It shows you the flaws in your plans, and where mistakes are being made. It is also proof that you’re actually trying.

Collect enough failures, and you’ll figure out what you’re doing.

 

Good luck, and Happy New Year, from Owen and Tod at The Storydragon!

Bumblepost: Types of puppets

Owen here! Today I want to talk to you about puppets!

Puppets are great fun to make because they can be made out of pretty much anything. Rocks and some string? PUPPET! Googly eyes on a milk jug? PUPPET! I think this is one of those few art forms where you are only limited by your imagination, rather than your budget.

If you want to try your hand at making some, here are a few styles to consider:

Practical Arm:
This is a puppet with an arm you control with your own. Our big dragon puppets are practical arm puppets. This puppet can be controlled by one or more puppeteers.

Rod Puppet:
You control the mouth of the puppet with your hand, and the arms with sticks attached to the hands. These are more portable than practical arm puppets. This type of puppet is for one puppeteer.

Marionette:
A puppet controlled by strings. If you know the story of Pinocchio, you’re already familiar with marionettes. These can be elaborately carved and painted, and are often very beautiful. Marionettes are capable of very complex movements – which means there is a big learning curve to using them.

Shadow puppets:
These are flat puppets used to cast a shadow against a curtain. They can be rod or marionette style.

Hand shadow puppets:
Your hands are puppets! The art of hand shadows is very popular when the electricity is out, or when a projector is handy nearby. This is purely skills based. Here is a set of tutorials on doing shadow puppets with your own hands.

Ventriloquist puppets/dummies:
A puppet with a moving mouth controlled by a ventriloquist’s hand. Ventriloquists often learn to control their mouth movements to give the illusion that their puppets are talking.

Sock puppets:
A decorated sock you put on your hand and control. This sounds simple, but they can actually be very detailed. Shari Lewis’ characters (Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy) are all sock puppets.

Bunraku (Japan):
Bunraku is a term that comes from a specific puppeteering company in the 1800s. Previously, this puppetry was known as Ayatsuri Joruri Shibai, or Ningyo Joruri. Each puppet requires three puppeteers – One for the head and right hand, one for the left hand, and one for the feet.

Water puppets (Vietnam):
Water puppets originated in Vietnam’s Red River Delta in the 11th century, as a way for people to entertain each other with the readily available rice paddies. Wooden puppets are lacquered to be waterproof – because this form of puppetry happens in the water (hence it’s name!). The puppets are controlled with bamboo rods and strings.

 

Bumblepost: My second favorite tree

Hi! Owen here! Today I’d like to tell you about another tree. (If you haven’t read it, here is my previous favorite tree post.)

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have a lot of Black Cottonwood trees. A special thing about these trees is that there are stars at the center of their branches – like the cross-section of an apple, but much smaller. Before you get jealous, here’s another special thing about them: Cottonwood trees create white fluff that goes everywhere once a year, bringing much suffering to anyone who has any hint of an allergy. Beautiful but brutal stuff.

My favorite cottonwood tree stood behind an apartment complex I used to live in. A path was being cut into a small cottonwood forest to provide a nature trail and allow for improvements in local habitat. There was a small stream that used to be a larger river. Local groups were trying to spruce it up in the hopes that salmon would one day be able to travel there to spawn. Salmon stocks have been dwindling year after year, so this is very important and much appreciated work.

Compared to all the other trees in the area, this one was gargantuan. Since these trees mature at 60 years old and can live to be 200, it was most likely over a half century old. With all the logging this area is known for and the other changes that have happened, it was amazing to see a long-lived tree like that.

Unfortunately, this tree sat right at the entrance of the soon to be created path. There was no reason to rehome it, since there is no shortage of cottonwood trees here. Plus, that would likely have cost a great deal, and it certainly wouldn’t have been easy to transport. Instead they cut it down.

The trunk was very wide, so climbing up on it was difficult, especially since it had just rained. (It has almost always ‘just rained’ here.) I had planned to walk the whole length of it, but changed my mind when I looked in front of me. The top disappeared into the forest, and I couldn’t tell what kind of hazards might be there. I also didn’t want to slip and break an ankle.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen this tree be eaten by plants and wildlife alike. So while I think it is a shame to have lost such a tree, I keep in mind that it was only able to grow so large because other forest inhabitants had added their nutrients to the soil.

Bumblepost: Composition books

Owen here! Today I’d like to talk to you about how I use composition books for notes, ideas, planning, and more!

I have a difficult time with notebooks, because I’ll pick a topic for one and then start filling it in with other stuff as I discover I need a new notebook. This defeats my purpose of trying to organize, because then all my thoughts and notes get jumbled together. Can’t find anything!

To solve this problem, I use composition books. They are inexpensive enough that picking up a few isn’t a hardship. (Especially during back to school sales!) And having used them all through school, I feel comfortable with them.

To start, I choose a subject for my book and begin using it. Then as the need for a new notebook arises, I put a second label on it, and then begin with that section on the back page. I could start in the very middle of the book, but this way feels more like starting a new book. The benefit of using composition books this way is that I only have to deal with half as many notebooks, and it’s easy to switch between two related subjects if I keep them in the same book.

Generally I either do subjects/projects that are related, or I pair time sensitive subjects with ones I’ll be working on long-term. For instance, I had to study for my driver’s test, and wanted to take a lot of hand-written notes to lock it firmly in my mind. I’ve also been learning a lot about business, so I decided to put that in the back of the same book. If I got distracted studying by a business related thought, I could just flip through to the back and get it out of my head. And now that I’m done making driving notes, I can continue filling the book up with business notes until it’s full.

Another of my composition books has the front half dedicated to writing, and the second half dedicated to blog posts. Both are for writing, but one is for fiction and the other for non-fiction with a specific purpose. I often work on both kinds of writing in similar times and places, so it’s good to not have to worry about which one to take with me.

Bumblepost: What if…

Owen here! Today I’d like to talk to you about re-imagining the world.

It’s easy to bogged down in how depressing the world is when you only focus on the negative. Even (or especially!) for those of us who want to keep up with everything and boost signals from people who need help.

If you are feeling down about the state of the world, I invite you to take a moment and imagine.

What if…?

Start with something small.

What if my favorite pizza place decided everyone wanted pineapple by default?

Go bigger…

What if my mail carrier has a land-dwelling octopus living in the back of their delivery truck?

And bigger…

What if bears invented space travel hundreds of years ago, and they just don’t want us to know?

Keep going as big as you want. Let your brain ramble on just to see what’s in there.