Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Artist Interview: Jan Avellana

Name: Jan Avellana
Name of Business: Jan Avellana | Art + Words
Creative Influences:
Preferred Medium of Creativity: Mixed-media       

Brief Bio:
I am a mixed media artist with a passion for all things vintage, books, deep conversations, and seaside adventures with my three favorite men (ages 4, 7 and 41). With both a bachelors of fine art in graphic design and a master’s of education in teaching, I spent the better part of my adult life trying very hard to be a grown-up with a traditional job. After the birth of my two sons, my newfound-mama-love released me to follow my heart, reclaiming the artist that I have always been. In 2007, I created a line of silver hand stamped jewelry under the hazelnut cottage brand. Today, I revel in mixed media messes, making heartfelt connections with others through art and words.

{New Etsy Shop}
{New Website}
{HazelnutCottage Etsy Shop}


  1. What is one of your earliest creative memories?
Gosh, that was a loooong time ago! Leseee…I remember drawing field mice standing under large mushrooms! As a youngster, I also loved to write—short stories, poetry, you name it! I was even in a creative writing class when I was in elementary school and got one of my poems published in some kind of international children’s magazine.

  1. How did you find your creative voice?
Wow, these questions are hard, lol! I am really only now discovering my creative voice. Like an adolescent, my voice is shaky; it cracks at times and can’t seem to “settle” itself on one pitch! Still, I suppose I have found my way, by doing the work. By showing up in the studio regardless of my mood and by doing my best to choose the path of joy and love. Whenever I get to the point of confusion or insecurity about my artwork, I have been trying to listen to my gut, learning how to bravely allow myself to be led by God, to follow His leading which usually means allowing myself to boldy let myself love what I love.

  1. Did your creative habits make a smooth transition into your adult life?  What did the evolution look like?
Gosh, no! I could be the poster child for “Non-Linear Meandering Artist”! As I shared previously, as a child, my first creative love was writing. Then in college, I fell into a string of studio art classes and chose to get my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. I practiced in this field for a good number of years before leaving to pursue what I thought would be more soul-quenching work; teaching. After getting my Master’s Degree of Education in Teaching and teaching in the classroom for a few years, I left on maternity leave for the next 7 years. During this time, I became a mom to 2 exuberant and wonderful boys and through the transformation of motherhood, re-discovered my pure artistic passions.

  1. If you had a creative hiatus, what event/circumstance brought you back to your creative lifestyle?

There was a time—nearly a decade—when I let go of all artmaking, and it has been a slow trip back to my creative roots and passions. Many things happened at once; the farther away I wandered from a life of creativity, my depression worsened. A dear friend gave me a book entitled, “Let Your Life Speak” by Parker Palmer. Right around this same time, I met a man who would become my mentor and Pastor. At the same time, desperation at the thought of having to go back into the classroom full-time motivated me to find something I could do from home to earn an income! From this chaos came hope. I discovered the indie artist community and eventually, Etsy. Soon afterwards, I created a line of handstamped silver jewelry and Hazelnut Cottage was born.

  1. How has GOD been a part of your creative process/lifestyle?

It has taken me a long time to embrace and run with my creative gifts, trusting that God will determine how to best use me and my artwork to accomplish His will in the world. There is a quote from Elizabeth O’Conner’s “The Eighth Day of Creation” that says it best:

“The charismatic person is who, by her very being, will be God’s instrument in calling forth gifts. The person who is having the time of her life doing what she is doing has a way of calling forth the deeps of another. Such a person is herself Good News. She is the embodiment of freedom of the new humanity. Verbal proclamation of the Good News becomes believable. The person who exercises her own gift in freedom can allow the Holy Spirit to do in others what He wants to do.”

I pray that I may be that person.

Click here to find other creatives...

CLICK HERE to purchase the e-book of this Interview series for $4.99

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Like Breathing

I came across the Sharon Montrose's work a few weeks back via this mini segment on Etsy podcasts.  Man oh man does this girl exude passion!  The segment is approximately 5 minutes and worth EVERY moment.  CLICK HERE TO VIEW

Friday, November 25, 2011


I choose to rise up out of that storm and see that in moments of desperation, fear, and helplessness, each of us can be a rainbow of hope, doing what we can to extend ourselves in kindness and grace to one another. And I know for sure that there is no them – there’s only us.
Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Taking in the Ordinary

Here is another etsy insight into a fabulous shop Skinny LaMinx.  A view of her home alone is worth the 3+ minutes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence
of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion:
The potential for greatness lives within each of us.
Wilma Rudolph

Monday, November 21, 2011

Remembering where you began...

Even before you arrive...or perhaps you already have arrived... either way, always note the milestones and remember the dues paid and reach a hand back to help...

Friday, November 18, 2011


They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.
-          Edgar Allan Poe –

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Keep Creating

Thanks to Jamie Ridler for sharing this piece of encouragement a few months ago.  I am a huge fan of NPR and This American Life hosted by Ira Glass.  After you check this out, check out This American Life the BEST storytelling show on the planet.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tapestry of Life

Thanks so much to Donna Wynn for sharing this artist with me.  Elizabeth St. Hillaire Nelson has taken opportunities and tragedies and created a tapestry of a life as beautiful as her work. What this video to learn more:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Peace Within

Maybe you have seen this video before. I know I have. But it was nice to watch it again. And remind myself.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Artist Interview: Erin Leigh

Name: Erin Leigh
Name of Business: Art by Erin Leigh
Creative Influences: Michelle Allen, Carla Sonheim, Teesha Moore, Pam Garrison, Sarah Ahearn, Kelly Rae

Preferred Medium of Creativity: Mixed Media: paper, paint, charcoal, pastels

My name is Erin Leigh and I'm a mixed media collage artist, which means I use paper, paint, pastels, markers, and anything I can find to create. I combine rich texture and color with quotes and scripture that encourage me daily. My hope it that my work will do the same for you and your family.

I believe that we are all born with a gift that is meant to be used and given away. It is pure joy to have discovered this gift and to trust that God will use it for his glory. In being able to create, and provide for my family, I am living a dream for which I am unspeakably grateful. I create all of my work in my little room at home, while chasing around my 2 year old, teaching kindergarten part time, and figuring out cheap and healthy meals to cook for my family, among other things.

What is one of your earliest creative memories?

Spending countless hours in 4th and 5th grade  perfecting my “bubble letters” and doodling endlessly.

Did your creative habits make a smooth transition into your adult life?  What did the evolution look like?

I have spent my life putting off creating art, knowing that it was a part of me, but not making time or space for it in my life.

In high school I took foreign languages and AP classes instead of the art I wanted to take, in order to get into the college I wanted to get into.

In college, I wanted to major in art in but I was steered towards something more practical, something I could “make a living” doing. Little did I know that thousands of people make their living in art related careers every day! But I am really thankful that I took the path I did. I would have loved to go into full time ministry, be on Young Life staff, but the thought of raising my own support overwhelmed me. So I did the next best thing: I became an elementary school teacher, a career, passion, and a calling that I could not be more grateful for.

For 10 years after college I was focused on being the best teacher I could be, traveling all over the world, and Young Life Ministry as a volunteer leader. My life was full and, while I felt the pangs and callings of art, I still never made the time and space for it in my life.

Ironically, it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son, 3 years ago, that I picked up some canvases and paint and started creating things for my son’s room. I finally had time (a whole summer off) and space (our house had a whole room for me to play). My studio is still my dream come true.

When I was finished creating everything I possibly could for my baby boys’s room, I didn’t want to stop, so I didn’t. I just continued to paint and paint and paint. Then I stumbled across Somerset Studio magazine in Barnes & Noble and I knew that I had found my calling: mixed media collage. I started playing and never stopped. 

The most important lesson I’ve learned is to keep moving forward in baby steps. The whole art thing can be very overwhelming. If you only look at how far you have to go, or if you start comparing yourself with other artists, you will always fall short. The key for me has been simply the next baby step. What is the small thing I need to do next? First I painted, played, and experimented with a bunch of collages. Then I approached several coffee shops and got them up. I was shocked when some of them sold, for much too little, but what a thrill! I really couldn’t believe it. I entered several more local art shows.  

Then I set up an etsy shop. It took 3 months for me to sell my first piece.  I forgot that I even had a shop! With lots of trial and error and research through google, I started to make and sell more. Against my will, at the advice of other artists, I created a blog and connected with other artists, which has been pure joy. Eventually I submitted pieces and articles to Somerset magazine. Having them published has been a dream come true. Truly, more than I ever thought possible. Attending Artfest, an art retreat, changed my art life more than anything. I realized that these people that I had been idolizing over the internet, were simply people. That’s it. They just made a decision to make art. And it wasn’t until then that I knew, I really knew that I could live this artful, creative life too.

Even today, I get really overwhelmed by things I could do, or want to do, and by how far I have to go. But I always go back to my baby steps: what is my next doable step? 

How has GOD been a part of your creative process/lifestyle?

This creative life has been a pure gift to me from God. It has breathed new life in me and introduced me to a part of myself that I have never known. Not just the artist self, but the start-your-own-business self, as well. Who knew I had it in me? Only God.

At first I clutched it tightly, afraid that He would take it away. And little by little I’m learning to surrender my art to God and allow him into the process, to lead me and guide me. The book  Finding Divine Inspiration by J. Scott McElroy helped me to let go of my art. To give it back to him and to let him in. It takes effort and practice to invite God into the process, but I am learning that it is much more gratifying and peace-bringing with God in charge instead of me. To be on this creative journey with Him, being led by him, knowing that he knows the way, is a thrill and a joy.

CLICK HERE to purchase the e-book of this Interview series for $4.99

Friday, November 11, 2011


"happiness is a sunbeam which may pass through a thousand bosoms
without losing a particle of its original ray; nay, when it strikes on a
kindred heart, like the converged light on a mirror, it reflects itself with
redoubled brightness. it is not perfected till it is shared."
                                                                                   - Jane Porter

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Spirit of Play

I love seeing pictures drawn by children. The whimsy and the freedom with color and free form remind me that a child's every instinct revolves around play. Here is a link to Made by Joel, a guy who is helping to keep play alive:   CLICK HERE

Monday, November 7, 2011


photo credit

The moment somebody says to me, “This is very risky,”
is the moment it becomes attractive to me.
- Kate Capshaw

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Beauty in the Eyes of...

Mama, 43 and my girly, 5

Thanks to Jamie Ridler for introducing me to Helen Tansey.

Helen put together a project called Sundari Photography.  In her words, 

The word Sundari (in Sanskrit) means beautiful and the photos ... are intended to celebrate woman who are 40 and older.
It is a celebration of woman's inner and outer beauty, their spirit, wrinkles,
lines and grey hair.
Check out her portfolio of the project:  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beautiful Paper

I really love to watch what can be done with origami. A beauty art form with the most basic ingredient: paper.