june books by lettergirl After our discussion last week, I briefly considered reading only non-fiction this summer (because I have so many on my list: When Breath Becomes Air, Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me, Grit by Angela Duckworth of this TED Talk, to name a few). Of course, I had that idea after I'd already started Wives & Daughters, and it's slow going—it may even take me the rest of the summer to finish, but I'm sticking with it. (I love how Elizabeth Gaskell wrote over 150 years ago and yet she writes things that are just as applicable in our modern world. Like this quote from North and South.) On our family road trips this summer, we're going back to our favorite family read alouds before Miss Juliet heads off to college in the fall. First up is the Mysterious Benedict Society. (Personally, I'm most looking forward to rereading some Edward Eager.) Forest and I are still reading together (can you see the smile on my face?) and we've started the Newbery Honor book, Heart of a Samurai. I think I'm enjoying it more than he is. We've read books intended for an older audience as well as a younger audience, so I don't think that's the issue. Twice we've gotten at least 3/4 of the way through a book and then mutually decided not to finish. Learning at an early age that it's a-ok to move on! Thanks to your suggestions last week, I discovered David Nicholls' One Day and I took a weekend break from my Gaskell to speed through it. (It's that kind of book.) Where was I when this book was all the rage? I've been asking myself that more and more lately, realizing that the toll of running a business and having school-age kids make for a pretty good excuse. (And did I mention my 110-year old house?) Ah, so that's where I was. And my stack is rounded out with a couple of visual treats: Well-Read Women by Samantha Hahn (whom I discovered via this interview) and Katie Daisy's How to Be a Wildflower. I picked up Wildflower at the library, since I've seen so much of Katie's instantly recognizable style online. What a delight it was! Such a lovely combination of things to do/things to make/things to ponder. What's on your nightstand this month?
word cloud sale by gina sekelsky studio Summer is the best time for custom work. My etsy shop slows down a bit, the frenzy of back-to-school and holiday prep is a distant blip on the radar, and I indulge in a relaxing long weekend just about every weekend. All of which gives me time and mental space for creative work when I'm here in the studio. And you know that collaborating is my favorite creative work. I've been creating custom word clouds to commemorate anniversaries, birthdays, and graduations for quite a few years now, but I never thought to have a "sale" until this very week. So bring it on! Gifts don't get more personalized than this, friends. Or you could treat yourself, like Rebecca did for her 40th birthday in the lower right of this photo: word clouds by gina sekelsky studio Prices start at $60 for a simple rectangle with about a dozen phrases (like the Kiki example, above) and average $125-225 for a custom shape. Give me a shout to discuss your project or learn a little more.
srp logo blog size As I've mentioned every year during the Summer Reading Program, I am a painfully slow reader. I linger, I consider, I imagine every detail. So I am always intrigued by those who read as part of their work; just how do they read so much? Kerri Miller of MPR's The Thread recently cleared it up—by succinctly and self-deprecatingly acknowledging that she's "boring." You know what that means: if any of us want to pick up the pace, we can. We simply have to choose reading. To that end, I'm trying to avoid finishing one book without having another waiting in the wings. Does that ever happen to you? For someone with a mile-long Goodreads To-Read list (not to be confused with my To-Read-Again list), I find myself without "the next book" more often than I'd like. (Maybe it's that slow reader thing again. It's not like I know I'm going to finish a book every week.) And like Phyllis Rose in The Shelf, I want to dig deep and get past the "it" books. Here are my top five ways of making sure I don't have to endure a dry spell:
  1. Ask friends. One year I read almost exclusively books that were personally recommended to me, and it was one of my best reading years ever, full of authors I'd never heard of and topics I wouldn't have gotten around to otherwise. And bonus: recommendations are one more thing to jot in my little red moleskin notebook (while practicing my handwriting, of course).
  2. Subscribe to podcasts or newsletters that sync with your interests. Two of my favorites are The Thread and the New York Times Book Review. (Like a well-written restaurant review, a book review can also lead you astray even when you trust the source. Though, come to think of it. friends can do that too.) Listen to this segment from MPR if you're looking for a book to challenge you this summer.
  3. Librarian (and bookstore) referrals. Our local university library offers a referral service that allows you to type in three books you loved, a few genres that appeal to you, and a note about what you're looking for, then a real live librarian suggests three books you might like. I tried it last year with great success (and if I could find the link, I would try it again!).
  4. Book blogs. I would love your suggestions here, as I'm not a consistent reader of any book blogs. I like to see what's going on over at the Nerdy Book Club and I check in from time to time with Book Riot, but I haven't found a book blog that really resonates with me yet. (I know it's out there!)
  5. A reading theme. As in other parts of my life, a good label can reign me in and keep me moving forward. A summer of kid lit? Count me in. Biographies only? Check. It's been a few years since I read with a theme, but just writing this list (see number one, above) makes me want to get back to it. Hmmmmm....
srp worksheet by gina sekelsky studio P.S. I was at the library earlier this week and noticed the librarian giving a child a copy of their summer reading worksheet. Bing! Now you can have one too! Download my SRP Worksheet by Gina Sekelsky Studio and get started recording your reading in style.
srp logo blog size Welcome to the second week of my 5th Annual Summer Reading Program for Grown-ups! See last week's post for a peek at this year's prize & details on how you can join in. reading quote by lettergirl on etsy 01 In getting ready for this year's program, I jotted down a few quotations about books & reading that resonated with me. (I was inspired by the passage a reader asked me to write out in 2015.) One "reason" I read is to feel not quite so alone in the world, and I think a good quote can do that too, especially when the words are right in front of me. Here's one from essayist Logan Pearsall Smith that I've written up all pretty—for me and for you. 5 x 7 prints are in the shop now! Next week: a worksheet for you to download and keep track of the books you're reading this summer (if, like me, you never get around to Goodreads, despite your best intentions). Happy reading, friends!
2016 srp prize by gina sekelsky studio Welcome back! I'm excited to kick off summer with my 5th annual Summer Reading Program. Join me by reading five books (or more!) this summer to earn a prize. (The photo above is a peek at this year's prize: a set of two reading-themed temporary tattoos.) Read anything you like: fiction, non-fiction, even cookbooks count. Keep track and let me know about your summer of reading at the end of August. Include the title & author of five books, a mini review for each (a sentence or two will do it), and your mailing address.  (Please note, I accept book lists August 15-31 only. So be patient and wait till then to send your list!)  Stop by the blog Tuesdays all summer to see what I'm reading. (I've got a few tricks up my sleeve too.) Want to stay in the loop? Leave a comment on this post & check the box to receive follow-up posts by email. Or sign up for my newsletter here and you'll get a reminder in August. My favorite part? Collecting all the lists at the end of the summer and choosing what I'd like to read for fall.  I've added some favorites to my bookshelf thanks to your recommendations. Since this is my fifth summer celebrating reading for grown-ups, I'm hoping it will be the biggest year yet! srp logo blog size
Hello, friends. Remember a few weeks ago when I posed the question, How can I focus on my handwriting art and share all the other things I do and not get muddled in the process? (Thinking on it now, that's how I got here in the first place. By loving so many things, and not being able to choose just one, as I wrote about in the Finding My Voice chapter of Studio Yearbook One.) Yesterday morning I left my too-messy studio and all the  items on my over-long list, and sat in the auditorium at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts listening to artist Lisa Congdon. Afterwards, several of us were able to have lunch with Lisa and pepper her with questions. You know how you read someone's blog and you feel like this person would be your best friend if only they lived next door? I have followed Lisa's blog for years and more than a few of her posts have resonated with me, so I am happy to tell you that she is every bit as delightful and down to earth in person. She spoke briefly about how one of the benefits of being an artist today is that you don't have to choose just one route to creative fulfillment. You really can do lots of things! (And she gave an example, but truly I had tuned out for that because I was so pleased with being given permission to be who I am.) Meanwhile, I met another helpful soul during the break between the talk and the lunch: Jennifer Thompson of Deviant Thinking. Without even being prompted (although it's possible the look on my face was: Help me!), she said how much she admired a certain business leader because he had his finger in so many different pies. (Okay, she didn't say exactly that.) I am seeing this theme of creative-living-renaissance-style only this morning, because yesterday I was focused on other insights and epiphanies. But today I was thinking that I really must post on my blog, and how I haven't felt particularly motivated to do that in the last couple of weeks, so those relevant parts of the day rose to the surface.  I'm officially announcing a blog break for the rest of May as I have other things I want and need to focus on in the coming weeks (a family wedding! my daughter's graduation! lots of company!). I'll be back in early June with the details of this year's Summer Reading Program. In the meantime, I hope you'll follow me on Instagram. I'm still posting photos of my 100 Day Project (wearing handmade every day from April 19-July something), though not every day (since my goal is not to have 100 different things to wear, but simply to wear something made by hand every day). Here are a few posts from the first quarter of the project: 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 07 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 06 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 05 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 04 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 03 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 02 100 days by gina sekelsky studio 01
This week's {random} winner is Catherine: My daughter makes loads of rubber band bracelets and other jewelry for me. I buy lots of handknits from Etsy and have several pairs of beautiful mittens–everything made with so much love. I admire all of the hand sewing you do. Let me know which stamp you prefer (Love You or Better Late Than Never)! And thank you all for your comments about my blog and my creative life and how it all intersects. Yes, I love a lot of things, and yes, I want to share them. This past month I started preparing for my 5th annual Summer Reading Program (coming in June). And I'll continue to let you know about new handwritten goods as they're released, as well as what I'm stitching/wearing, making/eating, and dwelling on/planning for. That's me! chicago texts by gina sekelsky studio And this is me too: my 2016 Daily Journal. I'm recording a remembrance from each day in 2016--usually scribbled, often written several days later. (No rules!) For our recent trip to Chicago, I've got several pages that I think will tell our story even better than a description would: a page of texts, a page of all the ways we traveled, a page of landmarks. (Those last two are still in pencil.) I will also admit that I started National Letter-Writing Month with good intentions, but that I didn't get very far. I knew at the outset I had a lot on my plate personally in April (and more was added on top). On the upside, I wrote more letters than I would have if I hadn't tried at all. And I got to be featured in this video about #write_on. So it's all good! This week's giveaway: Even though I copped out, you can still celebrate National Letter-Writing Month with a set of my Handwritten Quotation Stickers: quote stickers by lettergirl on etsy I'll send one lucky winner a set of twenty handwritten stickers. Just leave a comment on this post anytime before Tuesday, May 3rd, telling me about the last time you used your handwriting. (Grocery list? Birthday card? Presidential primary?) I'll choose a winner at random & announce in my Wednesday blog post. Best of luck to all of you!
reverse applique cuff by gina sekelsky studio A few months ago, I met up with a colleague and the advice she shared that day is still (still!) ringing in my ears. She questioned why my blog had sewing on it. And books. And recipes. On the one hand, I understood her point perfectly: I'm a handwriting artist, after all. So I've been dutifully trying to focus on that here on the blog over the last few months. For me, it seems to have ended up as a litany of Look what I've made now! (And frankly, that feels a bit boring.) I'm still finding my legs with this new focus (because I do see her point). But at the same time, I love stitching. I love reading. And my blog has always been a home for those pursuits. So I hope you'll bear with me as I figure out the context of sharing those passions while trying to reinforce that what I really am is a handwriting artist. Meanwhile, I keep stitching. I remade an old skirt into a new skirt on the plane to Massachusetts last week. I wear something handmade almost every day. So what if I took that one step farther? What if I returned to the intention I had years ago, and committed to wearing something handmade every single day? I'm starting today (with the cuff above). Maybe I'll dig some things out of my closet I've forgotten about. Maybe I'll cut things up and make them into new things. Follow me on Instagram to find out! #the100dayproject  #wearhandmadeeveryday better than never stamp by lettergirl on etsy In honor of National Letter Writing Month, I invite you to enter this week's giveaway! Enter to win one of my new snail mail stamps: your choice of the Better Late Than Never stamp or the Love You stamp. love you stamp by lettergirl on etsy Personally, I'd choose the red rubber option because I like the flexibility to change ink colors. But I'd happily make one of them for you in self-inking if that's what you prefer! To enter, comment on this post & tell me the last thing you wore that was handmade. Did you make it or did someone make it for you? Was it yesterday or the winter you turned 12?  This week's giveaway runs through Tuesday, April 26th, with the winner announced in next Wednesday's post. Don't want to miss the announcement? Be sure to check the box when you comment. Good luck!
Friends, I am traveling for a few days (a bit unexpectedly) so I need to forego a giveaway this week. Instead I bring you early news of a sale I was g0ing to run this weekend. (But for you...it starts today!) flash sale If you follow me regularly, you know I occasionally offer free shipping but only rarely offer larger discounts. Through Monday, I invite you to take 20% off anything in my shop with coupon code FLASH16.  Perhaps some of my new birthday cards? birthday set by lettergirl on etsy   Or the new Mother's Day Edition of my Quote of the Month Club? (8 quotes instead of 12) qm mothers day edition Or maybe a new stamp? snail mail addressing stamp by lettergirl on etsy 02 (See this one in action on Instagram!) I'll be back next week with a new giveaway. And I promise it will be worth the wait!