Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Giveaway Winner Announcement

Thanks to all who entered the Footprints on the Ceiling book giveaway contest. I enjoyed reading your life advice and recipes.

This morning, I typed your names on strips of paper and drew a winner. The winner is ... Tabitha!

Tabitha gave this piece of advice:
Advice is always hard when you don't know the person. My mom told me that at work you get to know the secretary/receptionist and the custodian...these people have a huge impact on your environment. I have found this to be true. I don't know where you are staying at college (9 hours away from home!) but you probably have a custodian of sorts at the very least and a house monitor or roommates so it applies... As a parent I liked the comment to call your parents regularly.
Tabitha, I'll be sending an email your way. Please respond within 48 hours.

Thanks again to all who entered! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

'Footprints on the Ceiling,' by Dorcas Smucker: Review and Giveaway

My parents encourage me to search for goodness nestled in common spaces and people — complex masonry work on storefronts, the first red tomato in July, purple-orange sunsets falling on bean fields, and acts of kindness from strangers. "Everyone has their own strengths," Mom often says, eager to find the best in even the "toughest" souls. "Attitude is a choice. Be thankful," Dad reminds when I'm having a rough day. 

Now that I'm attending college nine hours from home, I miss hearing my parents' advice and outlook on life. Last week, when I was feeling particularly homesick, I enjoyed reading Footprints on the Ceiling, a collection of essays about day-to-day adventures. The author, Dorcas Smucker, shares a similar attentiveness to goodness, calling readers to observe life closely, soak up wisdom from others, and adopt a grateful attitude.

From the get-go, Smucker explains that she hopes her essays "will make you think of all the paths your life has taken and all the stories you have to tell" (14). Indeed, whether you're a mom, teenager, farmer, or illustrator, there's a relatable story for everyone in Footprints on the Ceiling. The 35 adventures in Smucker's book span from traveling in Thailand to picking blackberries in Oregon to maneuvering dorm life in Arkansas.

As a college student experiencing significant life changes, several essays resonated with me. "The Final Pigtail" engaged me with its description of Jenny's, the youngest Smucker daughter, transition to womanhood, subtly marked by the last pigtail she asked her mom to style. Smucker writes, "We should have had a party for 'The Last Pigtail,' called the rest of the family in, invited a few friends, and made a proper ceremony out of braiding Jenny's long, red hair for the first time and fastening it with the little balls-on-elastic pigtail holder... But I didn't... And, of course, I had no idea it was the last one" (35). Smucker goes on to explain how she watched her daughter grow more independent, worried a bit, and ultimately found comfort in her calling to "stay and pray... celebrating the vivid woman" her child was becoming. Her words beautifully capture the challenges and joys of growing up and watching others make life transitions.

Other essays, such as "Seeing the Invisible," "The Story Goes On," and "A Day in Prison," inspired me to look beyond current circumstances, love others generously, and appreciate the freedoms I have. They provide bits of wisdom that directly relate to my season of life, yet, are applicable to any individual.

Out of all the books Smucker has written so far, Footprints on the Ceiling is my favorite. Smucker has succeeded at delivering powerful essays about finding goodness in the ordinary and meaning in every life story. Her honest words stuck with me long after I finished reading and I hope they'll do the same for you.

Need a meaningful Christmas gift or simply want to indulge in some good reading? Footprints on the Ceiling is available for $15 per book, postage included.  You can mail a check to Dorcas Smucker, 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446.  US addresses only.  To send a copy to Canada or overseas, email Dorcas at

To stay up-to-date with Dorcas Smucker's writing, visit
To enter to win a copy of the book, please leave a comment below with your best piece of life advice for a twenty-something. If you would like an additional entry, please leave a second comment with your favorite family recipe.

I'll announce the winner on my blog this Wednesday evening (Nov. 19). 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Meet Acacia Rachel

Hi, friends! I hope that you are having a lovely Saturday. I know I am. Last night there was quite a bit of rain, thunder, and lightning, so I'm celebrating the "calm after the storm" by drinking a cup of tea and going to a parade with my family this morning. 

Today I am also very excited to introduce you to my new friend, Acacia Rachel, who is a photographer, artist, and writer. I had a wonderful time getting to hear her story as we "chatted" via email. Without further ado, here's our conversation... 

Acacia, thank you so much for being willing to talk to me this morning. Would you be willing to share five fun facts about you? 
I can do the splits!  I’ve moved eleven times in my seventeen-year-old life. I’ve lived in America, Canada, England, and Australia.  I hope to study classical music at a music conservatoire.  And lastly? I smell books obsessively.   

How did you first become interested in art?
Art — and creativity in particular — is most often something innate; in short, I didn’t choose art, it chose me.  However, when I was 7 or 8 I used to get fidgety and restless during math lessons (I’m sure we all do at some point); my mum let me take breaks in between and colour, draw, or paint, which boosted my energy and replenished my study skills.  I guess you could say at that point did I realise that art was something worth investing in and that I was interested in it.  

What life experiences impacted your art?
Moving.  Because I’ve moved around a lot and have had to leave so many friends behind, art has been something I’ve gone to when I’m feeling lonely.  I can connect with colour, images, and thrust myself into a world of beauty regardless of where I am situated.  

What is your favorite type of art to create why?
*Sigh* I’m an eclectic artist; I like so many different types of art for different reasons.   But one of my favourite ‘types’ of art has to be painting and using watercolour in particular.  Watercolour can be delicate and light or vibrant and bold — there is this wonderful sense of tangibility and euphoria in the leaking, water-based colours.  

If you could describe your artistic style in three words, what would you say?  
Eclectic, honest, emotion.  

What/who inspires you?
Amy Borrel, Inslee, people who say they love my art, God, my parents, and of course — pinterest (a must for every artist! ;).   As for what inspires me — coffee shops, lazy summer days, good food, honest friends, photo-shoots, warm, cosy places, and most of all — travelling. 

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an artist? What did you learn from it? 
The biggest challenge I have faced — and continue to face — is keeping to a schedule and creating consistently, without 2 month hiatuses!   (Drastically) putting off doing art in daily life and spending time on Facebook or blogger is, I believe, harmful as an artist.  However, from that challenge (namely procrastinating) I’ve learnt to keep life in perspective and find beauty in the everyday— beautiful washes of colour on the wall, the smell of good food, the crunch of autumn leaves.  I’ve learnt not to get caught up in the lives of others (heeelo, Facebook and blogger) and look for beauty in the seemingly mundane, which ultimately inspires me to create.  One afternoon I decided to switch off my internet, close my computer, and take a brisk walk around the block with my camera in hand.   And hey presto!  I created.  I took some beautiful photographs!   

If you don’t mind, I’ll throw in my advice to get out of the trap of being locked into technology and create…

  • Ask someone to hold your phone and computer captive (now you really won’t get distracted by them!)
  • Get outside — garden, pull weeds, walk around the block, do 50 jumping jacks, climb a tree, slide down the slide, kick a ball, do a cartwheel! 
  • Plan a movie or spa night with a friend or two (or your mum/sisters).
  • Sip tea (or coffee) and read Cold Tangerines.  
  • Go shopping or browsing — buy some paints if you don’t already have any and then paint away (not sure what to do?  Use Pinterest for inspiration!).  
As a Christian, how do you feel like the Church is doing a good job of using/ministering to artist OR how do you think the Church could do a better job of that?
Great question! At the moment, our church openly encourages artists to create, which I find extremely inspiring!  Every Easter and Christmas the artists and technicians in the church plan and set up a display for the public — this involves paintings, voice overs, projectors, carvings, and more.  Our church has also encouraged youth (who love art) to create creative banners and signs for the church and for help out with VBS crafts.  I believe these things not only minister to us as artists but also to the church family and the public.  

What are some of your dreams for the future?
Run a successful photography business, blog professionally, travel the world (just a little more!), and — who knows?? — become a wife/mama. 

In closing, if you could offer one piece of advice to a younger artist, what would you say?
Don’t let other artists’ work keep you from creating — in simpler terms, don’t compare yourself to others.  Do your absolute best where you’re at now and keep it up and you’ll be surprised at the progress you’ve made! 

Thank you again, Acacia, for sharing your beautiful heart through words. You've inspired me! 

Readers, if you'd like to learn more about Acacia and follow her artistic journey, please check out her blog Acacia Rachel. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Meet Artist Chloe Conner

Meet Chloe! Chloe is a senior in high school. She is looking forward to being a freshman at the University of Tennessee this Fall. She has graciously offered to share about her art journey here at Project Paperie and hopes to inspire you with her story.

How did your journey as an artist begin?
My mom actually just decided to teach me to crochet one day back when I was in the 7th grade. When I watched TV or something, I would work on scarves.
What inspired you along the way?
Honestly, I didn't have a specific influence on my work. Looking at all of the creations and art of others made me want to be a part of something like that, too.
If you could use only three words, how would you describe your style?
Contemporary, Stylish, Indie

What is the biggest challenge you've had to overcome as an artist?
Organizing the abundance of new ideas and schemes that are constantly streaming through my head and also following through with my plans is definitely my biggest obstacle to overcome. 

What is it like being a high school student AND an artist? How do you balance the roles?
Luckily, crocheting in class helps me focus so it's easy to try out new patterns and get prototypes made while at school and studying. I do wish I had more time to focus on my business, though. Senior year is not a good time to try to start a business!

How long ago did you create your Etsy shop? What made you decide to start a business?
I created my Etsy shop (here) about one year ago, but I'm just now adding things onto it. Most of my orders are in person.

What lessons have you learned about being an entrepreneur so far?
I learned that there is a lot more that goes into a business than just crocheting scarves. Planning, financing, making, etc...

If you could offer one piece of advice to a younger artist, what would you say? 
Focus on the game plan! It's so easy to get scatter-brained with a creative business. 

Who/what inspires you? Why?
Seeing successful small business owners really inspires me, because their job is to literally do what they want for a living. Being my own boss has always been a dream of mine. 

Thanks again, Chloe, for being willing to share about your journey. Best wishes as you pursue your entrepreneurial dreams and transition into college. You've got an exciting future ahead! 

Readers, do you have any questions or words of encouragement for Chloe? Leave them below in the comment section! 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Meet Artist Andrea Levendusky!

Today, Andrea Levendusky is visiting Project Paperie to share about her journey as an artist, person of faith, and human. She has a beautiful story and I encourage you to check more of it out at her website.  

Without further ado, here's our conversation. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hey! I'm Andrea and I'm a graphic designer and writer and coffee drinker and mom and so on and so on. For my day job, I design websites, work on handlettering projects and help startups brand their businesses. On the side, I'm writing a book, playing in a folk and Irish band, and leading worship at my church. I live in the Finger Lakes area of upstate New York and we are just thawing out of winter so HIIII.

How did your journey as an artist begin?
I've been doing creative and artistic things since I was a kid. Poetry was my medium when I was young. Music has always been a part of my life. In high school, I started painting and sometime in my twenties, graphic design found me. For a few years, I worked on paintings and did some commissioned work, but I found that as soon as my paintings were made to order, I lost the muse to paint. I decided that I would only paint for pleasure, and making my living from design and writing. So far, so good. I also write songs like crazy, play in a little folk band and this keeps me sane.

Who/what experiences and elements inspired you along the way?
This may sound super cliche, but I feel that life is one big inspiration, and one long tragedy. Life is both beautifully magical and devastatingly painful. These things inspire me. The things my friends say fireside. The way my daughter turns her head down when she's disappointed. The way the stars seem to shine brighter on summer nights, how love is palpable in the middle of June, and how the earth aches in November. The world is full of inspiration. As far as who? Madeleine L'Engle, Yeats, Mary Oliver, Rilke, C.S. Lewis. These are who I turn to when my well seems to be cracked and dry.

Does your faith affect your art? Or, does your art affect the way you encounter God?
Yes! Absolutely. My faith affects everything. I don't see how it couldn't. I once had a friend who was a ballet dancer. I remember her saying once, "When I dance, I feel like God understands me." I think this applies to most art. I really believe that God gives us the capacity to see Him and experience Him and know Him in different ways. For me, writing, art, design, music — these are all ways that seem to tie my soul to another world. And I really believe that world is His Kingdom — it's the place where all is right, the struggle has explanation, the beauty is complete. Also, when I consider that everything in this world has the capacity to help us see Jesus, or steal us away from him, it makes me feel like everything is so much more alive. I'm not a believer in animism, but I do think that God is infused in all creation. We don't marvel at this world, and stories, and people with the intention of ending worship there. All of that wonder, and beauty; desire and ache should lead us to a longing for Jesus.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced as an artist? How did you conquer it?
My biggest challenge would have to be the feeling of "losing inspiration." Call it the muse, writer's block, the Resistance, whatever. That thing that makes me feel like I cannot create, no matter how hard I try. I once heard a quote that said only amateurs wait for the muse. Professionals just work. I hated it when I first read it but have since seen this to be true in my life. When I'm only waiting for inspiration, it rarely comes. Of course, when it does, I feel like a wild-haired gypsy, chasing her down with pen, ink and words. But mostly, the discipline creates space for the muse. It creates that area for me to say "This is where I will work until it comes." And usually it does. Or sometimes I just need sleep. That usually helps too.

If you could describe your artistic style in three words, what would you say?
Yikes. I'm the worst at this. Three words.
Whimsical. Raw. Rambling.

What does your art space/studio look like? Or, where is the most productive place for you to work?
I have worked in all sorts of random studio spaces. Garages, attics, churches. These days, my creative space is my office. One desk. A window that overlooks our backyard and the tree swing where my daughter plays. Sometimes I take my work elsewhere, but most of it happens there these days.

What is one of your favorite pieces that you’ve created? What elements make it special to you?
It depends on what medium. Painting — it's a painting I did for a worship night at a church in Texas. I did a live-painting during a worship service with Kari Jobe at Gateway Church, and I was able to keep one of the paintings. That one is still my favorite. It's of Jesus and it says "You, My Redemption." I also write lots of songs and I write a lot of words. my favorites of those change all of the time. The things that make my art the most special to me are the stories around them. If I can remember the "why" behind why I wrote something or painted something, it makes the whole piece even more complete to me. If I just created it on a whim, or if it has little connection to a story in my life, it usually disappears into my attic (house or memory!)

If you could give one piece of advice to a young artist, what would you say?
Do what you do best. There are so many ways to pursue creative endeavors, but I really think there are things we "do" best as artists. As much as I know what I can do, in my career I've learned the hard way and now have a good long list of the things I am not good at. Can I do them? Sure. I can hack them. Will they be my best work? No way. I always want to learn, but for the greatest joy, I continue to do the things I love and KNOW I can do best.

Do you have any ideas about how the Church could better embrace, love, and use artists?
I think the whole moniker of "Christian art" needs to disappear. I think as a whole, the idea of separating "secular art" from "Christian art" has really damaged our standards. I highly recommend Madeleine L'Engle's book "Walking on Water". Basically if I could put this book here and say "all of the above" to what she says, I could. She was asked to write a book on Christian art and she talks about the struggle. She talks about all good art is worship. It's really beautiful actually. Everyone should just read it. I think the church is growing in this area, and maybe heading into a season over the next few years and on where we'll see less and less fear toward the arts. I hope. It's not a weird "other" thing.

Andrea, thank you again for bravely sharing your thoughts in this space. Your beautiful words encouraged and inspired me. 

Readers, we'd love to hear from you! If you have something to say to Andrea, questions, etc., please comment below. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review: Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt

Have you ever been drawn to a person, because you were captivated by his or her lifestyle, confidence, and dreams? Have you ever had to peel yourself away from an adventure documentary on TV? Have you ever tried a strange food (like teriyaki pizza in a college cafeteria), just because you "had" to know what it tasted like?

I have! You see, I love adventure. I savor the thought of moving to a new place, meeting new people, etc. Yet, there are often fears, commitments, and lack of resources that hold me back from fully embracing change and adventure.

In her new book "Packing Light," Allison Vesterfelt shares about her journey to move through life with less baggage. She addresses many of the fears and circumstances that paralyze individuals, illustrating them with essay-style snippets of her travels across the United States.

Allison begins by laying out her background, focusing on her life in Portland, Oregon and her experience as a Christian. She explains what it was like to grapple with disparities between the culture of the city she loved and the conversations of religion within her church.

Because of the clash, Allison often wondered why she had to choose a side. This inner conflict became part of the baggage she picked up in life. Acknowledging that every reader's story is unique, Allison states, "It [baggage] might look different than mine, but it weighs you down just the same. I hope it will encourage you to go on a trip" (17).

After explaining some of her background, Allison dives into her decision to take a trip to all fifty states. She shares about her friend Sharaya, describing her as "the type of girl who would disappear and show up a few days later, saying she couldn't help but take a quick trip to Los Angeles or Australia" (24). Because of Sharaya's persistent encouragement, Allison chased her dreams, rather than living with numerous "what ifs?"

With a good mix of humor, serious reflection, and honesty, Allison describes their journey, pulling out numerous snippets of advice and encouragement for others desiring to achieve their goals. Though I don't want to spoil the many surprises of the adventures in Allison's story, I will say that every paper in this book holds fiery words, the type of sentences that make you want sell everything you have, pack your bags, and do something crazy. If you're looking some dangerous reading material, check this book out! 

*This book was given to me by Moody Collective in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Meet Artist Emily German

Photo courtesy of Wyn Wiley Photography
Hey, guys! I am so excited to introduce you to Miss Emily German, a lovely artist from my home state Nebraska. She does amazing work and has a great heart for God and people. Five fun facts about Emily are that she grew up on a pig farm near a town of 800, she drove a minivan named "Janice" all throughout high school, she loves puns, pick up lines, and cheesy jokes, her favorite type of music is folk music, and she is a full-time Catholic campus missionary at Arizona State University with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

Emily, how did your art journey begin?

Ever since I was a child, I've always been drawing. As I would watch television cartoons or read
newspaper comics, I'd be carefully drawing my favorite characters. It wasn't until 4th grade when my school began offering art courses. This is when my ability to create was truly revealed. My art teacher, Mr. Dean, was incredibly talented, and it was really through him that I learned everything that I know. By the time I graduated from Humphrey St. Francis School (my school was K-12), I had taken ten art courses with Mr. Dean. With his encouragement and guidance, I grew to be confident in this gift.     

When did you first realize that you were an artist?

I began considering myself an artist when people started to approach me with interest in my work. It was no longer "I just like to draw," but, "Wow, other people enjoy my work, and would like to actually take it home with them." 

Who/what inspired you to continue pursuing your dreams?

Art is a part of me; it makes me come alive; it is how I glorify God. When beginning my college career, I sought out other career interests, but eventually realized that I couldn't pursue a field that didn't provide opportunities for me to grow creatively--it was suffocating. Through much prayer and counsel, I discovered that there are so many ways within a career that I can use my God-given gifts. I've always been very philanthropic-oriented, and have discovered that I can "do good" for this world through my ability to design.

I've had internships with Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish foundation, and using art to draw success within these areas was empowering. I've recognized that as I have entrusted my talents to the Lord, He makes use of them in beautiful ways. By nothing but God's will, I got a job with a bridal magazine in college. This opportunity surrounded me with inspiring women with hearts for our Lord. I learned so much from working under our talented creative director, Megan, who really challenged me to stretch my artistic limits in new ways and to continue in pursuit of creating. 

If you could describe your art in one sentence, what would you say?

Lately, my artistic style has been composed of very free and quick typographic illustrations, but I fully come alive in recreating reality, especially memories or people that are very close to my heart.

How do you hope to impact the world through your art?  

I love the words of Pope Benedict XVI: "Art is like a door opened to the infinite, opened to a beauty and a truth beyond the every day. And a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and heart, urging us upward." I create because it is how I love, and I truly believe that art is part of the vocation that Christ is calling me to in order to glorify Him and to share His love. It is my hope that in sharing a part of myself through my art that others will be drawn to the divine Creator. 

What is your favorite piece of art that you've created so far?

I'll always have a fond place in my heart for a drawing I created in high school of my grandfather and I. My grandfather passed away several years ago, but when I was a little girl I loved curling up on his lap. He was man of muscles, but his touch was so gentle and his scent of the outdoors and hard work mixed with a little bit of cologne and popcorn was such a comfort to me. Creating this image allowed me to be "Grandpa's girl" once again. 

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your art journey? How did you overcome it?
As an artist surrounded by other incredibly talented artists it can be difficult not to get caught up in comparing your own work to others. Eventually I just realized that my style and work is different, and that is what makes it beautiful. It's a reflection of the Creator within my unique self. 

What advice might you offer to young artists?
Don't ever stop creating. Continue to try new things and stretch your limits. And don't be afraid to share your art with the world, allow others to enjoy your God-given gift!

How do your does your faith affect your art?
I love what Blessed Pope John Paul II says in his Letter to Artists: "With loving regard, the divine Artist passes on to the human artist a spark of his own surpassing wisdom, calling him to share in his creative power...That is why artists, the more conscious they are of their “gift”, are led all the more to see themselves and the whole of creation with eyes able to contemplate and give thanks, and to raise to God a hymn of praise. This is the only way for them to come to a full understanding of themselves, their vocation and their mission."

Faith affects everything within me, and permeates through my art. Creating is how I contemplate and show gratitude to God. It is how I seek full understanding of who I have been created to be and how I seek to invite others to understand their own purpose. My art is an opportunity for me to join in Blessed John Paul II's call for the New Evangelization. I love creating representations of holy people to point hearts back to the Holy of Holies. 

Thanks again, Emily! You're words have been so inspiring to me. Friends, if you would like to learn more about Emily and the work that she is doing, please visit:
Personal Website:
Facebook Page: Art by Emily German