Why Liberate Your Art?

We are getting close to swap day! Woohoo! With about a week and a half left for envelopes to arrive, we have 140 artists participating so far in the Liberate Your Art postcard swap this year. It will be interesting to see how many come in over the next nine days.

People ask me why I do this big swap, which takes quite a bit of my time and energy. My first answer is that I get to connect with all of YOU, which is awesome. But more importantly is to encourage people make, liberate and connect with art. You may not realize, but this simple step of sending your art out in the world can be life changing. Here are a few quotes in notes I’ve received this year with postcards:

I’ve never shared my art before and it is liberating!

I’ve never done anything like this before. I agonized over what to do, how to do it — all this time! Now I am sending these babies out in the world and so looking forward to mail! Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.

I have never printed copies of my art, but now that I have, I think it is kinda fun.

I struggled a bit thinking myself a fraud for joining an “artists” project. Grade school judgements stick in the brain. Ultimately, the idea of just sharing anything was ok. Also, my 12 year old harshly said, “Oh, get over it!”

Thank you so much for reconnecting me to the artist within, the uninhibited free expression of who I am without self-consciousness. I wouldn’t consider anything I’ve created “perfect” or “masterful” but I’m having fun and sharing expressions of my inner and outer world.

Because of [this swap], I have friends that will be friends for the rest of our lives. That means the world.

Um, yeah. Those words, those feelings, those connections are more than worth the hours I put in to making this swap come together. T-9 days. I can’t wait to liberate!

Here are some of the wonderful envelopes I received in the last week. They are coming fast and furious now, and I’m not able to photograph and share every decorated envelope I receive. Forgive me if yours doesn’t get featured!

Charm sent this lovely doodled envelope from Australia.

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Carroll in Vermont sent this wish for better weather through the mail. It says, “Doesn’t Jack Front know he’s worn out his welcome?! Besides, he really looks like he needs a vacation!”

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On the back, she is clearly “anticipating spring.”

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Linda sent this gorgeous envelope from California. I swear, some of these envelopes are worthy of framing. I might just do that after the swap.

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I recognized Natasha‘s designs from a mile away! She does Henna art in California and has participated multiple years. Natasha, someday I’m going to wear some of your henna art…

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Isn’t it amazing what you can do with a plain white envelope? Sheila in California sent this beauty. (What is it with all of the California people? Are you guys just extra creative?)

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Jan from Michigan sent this message. Yes Jan, I agree! It’s almost time!

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Deanie’s envelope from Arizona caught my eye. There is just something about vintage cameras…

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The front of this envelope from April in Florida was artfully done…

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…but it was the back which blew me away. Isn’t that a gorgeous piece of collage art? And on an envelope, no less…

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Lisa is clearly dreaming of spring in Massachusetts. Keep dreaming! It will come!

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This beauty came to me from Bonnie in Pennsylvania. Tea, anyone?

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For all of the covered envelopes, a few here and there remind me that less can be more. Isn’t this a wonderful composition and use of the kraft envelope as part of the art? This is from Janet in California.

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And finally, every so often I get something in the mail that is not art but is exciting nonetheless! Kris sent this lovely taste of Texas to me. The swap day volunteers and I will enjoy these! Thanks Kris!!

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I can’t wait to LIBERATE! We are almost there…

Where does art come from?

Is there a place you feel most like yourself? Where you shed the trappings of everyday life and the expectations of others? I have a place like that. Or places, I should say. It’s wherever I find a dirt trail winding among the trees. Wherever I can be surrounded by the forest – tall trees, filtered light, greenery. Just the sounds of the breeze, the birds, and my breath.

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It’s in the forest that I most feel like me. I’m not Kat the artist, or Katrina the engineer, or Trina the daughter, sister and wife. I’m just me, the core of me that doesn’t need a name. The forest reminds me there is this constant, consistent existence inside all of the outer trappings. This essential “me” that is the same no matter what direction I am facing in life, which name and role I’m taking on. I get to be that essential me, get in touch with that core, when I am in the forest. What a beautiful thing!

This lovely realization came through a couple of hikes I managed to squeeze in recently. It’s nice to know that regardless of how busy my life is or how many items on the “to do” list, there is a constant source of peace I can tap into. This realization has also led to an “aha” about my art.

Sometimes, looking at my work in the last couple of years, I’ve wondered how someone who is so busy can create art that is so peaceful and contemplative. I mean really, look at the work I create. It might make you think I live life in some zen way, full of meditation and awareness. Yet I am usually going a hundred miles an hour, filling most of my time with commitments and projects and goals. I have a full time corporate job, I create and sell art, I write and teach, I’m a wife and mother. Doesn’t sound very zen to me.

At times, I’ve wondered: Is the art I create a yearning for something else? Some simplicity that I can’t seem to achieve? But even though I’ve asked myself those questions, it’s never really felt this way. It doesn’t feel like the art comes from a place of emptiness or wanting. It feels like the art is just there. And I reach in and pull it out.

And that’s the “aha”… My art is there. It comes from that constant core, the “me” that’s me regardless of the name I’m using, the role I’m playing. The same self I get in touch with in the forest is the same self that I’m tapping in to when I create my art. It’s always there, always ready to be accessed. It just takes me finding a moment, finding ways to connect with it. Isn’t that brilliant? My art is from a place of abundance, not a place of lack. Because what I have, what I always have, no matter what else is happening in my life, is me.

I’ve always thought that connections brought through art are special. That when someone creates with honesty, you can see the true person through their art. I’m getting a deeper, more personal understanding of that. People who connect with my art are people who see me. The real me, under all of the window dressing of the different roles I play. It explains why I want to sell my art – because getting out there increases those connections. It explains why I love to teach about art – because it helps others find that connection to self too.

All of this has led to me rewriting what I think of as a “welcome” message, for the About me page on my website. Trying to capture who I am and what I do in just a few sentences is a difficult thing, but here’s my first draft…

My art is an expression of who I am, beyond the trappings of a modern, busy life as a mother, wife, engineer, teacher, and artist. There is a place of stillness, peace, and beauty that exists deep within me which comes out in the imagery I create. If my work resonates with you, then you have this special place within you too. I am honored to have made a connection with you. Nothing makes me happier than sending a piece of my art home with you to grace your space, or showing you how to create that kind of connection for yourself.

Welcome to Kat Eye Studio, my online creative space. Get comfortable, grab a cup of tea and make yourself at home here. Let’s connect through art.

What do you think? Does that capture it? Does it let you see a little bit of that real me, invite you to join me? I’d love to get your reactions to this new understanding, these new words.

A Big Stack of Mail

I picked up the mail on Monday and there were a stack of 30 new envelopes to check in for the Liberate Your Art postcard swap! With just over two weeks until the swap deadline, the envelopes will be arriving fast and furious from this point on. I’ll pick them up again tomorrow and early next week, to stay on top of check in!

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What do I mean by “check in”? For each envelope that arrives, I open it up and make sure that it has the right number of postcards with a message written on the back, along with stamps and labels. For international participants, I match their envelope up with Paypal payment. I unpackage all items and remove any extra things the envelope – like extra postcards (not required, but accepted with thanks!), bags, paper clips, pieces of paper with email addresses, etc. If there is a problem something, I set the envelope aside to follow up with the sender if I can. For the rest, I put the stamps, labels and postcards back in the envelopes and store them until swap day. It takes some extra time along the way, but this way I know everything is ready to go and there won’t be any problems or surprises when it’s time to swap on March 15!

So what wonderful envelopes have I received this week? Let’s take a look…

We have a new country this year! Woohoo! Cathy from Singapore sent this envelope with a little regional flair:

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And a lovely collage on the back!

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Julia sent this painted mail art from Washington. I loved the subtle little detail of “mail art” written in some of the circles.

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This gorgeous sea-themed envelope arrived from Eric in France. (Hint: He is one of the answers in the Treasure Hunt! Are you participating this year? You have a couple of days left to send in your entry.)

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Hearts arrived from JarieLyn in Nevada. Made me smile!

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These cute arty ladies adorned the front and back of the envelope from Janice in California…

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Patty in Virginia expressed a sentiment that went straight to my heart. Me too, Patty!

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I’ve got mail from Patricia in Washington! I liked how she printed an altered photograph right on the envelope, and I think that’s her, smiling out at me from the stamp!

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Sarah sent me on a beautiful walk in the Georgia woods with her envelope. I loved the imperative on the back, “Liberate your art, people!!!”

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And finally, here are a few postcards that were sent to me as well. It’s always nice to find a few personal notes mixed in with the stack of envelopes. I thought I’d share these as a little preview. Who knows, you might get one of these too, come swap day.

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Not long now, just over two weeks away!

How Silent the Trees

How silent the trees, their poetry being of themselves only. ~ Mary Oliver



I’ve been on a renewed Mary Oliver kick the last week or so, getting back into her poems after reading a couple of great articles on Brain Pickings. One of the articles included a fabulous interview with Krista Tippett from On Being

So instead of a lot of words from me, how about you listen to the wisdom and beauty of the words of Mary Oliver today? Grab a cup of tea and settle in. It’s worth your time.

Mail Art Extravaganza!

Wow, I think this is the best year for mail art ever! I have been receiving some amazing decorated envelopes for the Liberate Your Art postcard swap this year. To date, 65 envelopes have arrived. We are now in the lull… the early birds are done and the bulk of the participants will mail in the next two weeks. It happens every year!

I got behind on photographing envelopes last week, so this week’s update on the mail art is HUGE. Enjoy the Mail Art Extravaganza!

My address has never looked so good! Kate from Illinois does amazing lettering, which you might expect from someone who’s blog is named KateLetterplay. Don’t you think it’s cool how well her lettering complements the Marsden Hartley art on the stamp?

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Charlotte from Maryland highlights the “Date to Liberate” as March 15 — SWAP DAY!! (By the way, for anyone who lives in Oregon, you are invited to come over and help me stick address labels and stamps on postcards on Swap Day! Contact me if you are interested.)

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Jewels from Michigan has a question on the front of her envelope…

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…and the best answer ever on the back! Yes! This one just makes me smile.

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Patricia from Oregon has a message for you. I agree!

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Laurie from Florida created this gorgeously painted envelope. Can you see the texture? It’s feels lovely to handle! The last few years I’ve been seeing these gorgeous butterfly stamps gracing your envelopes. They always seem like such a beautiful complement to your art! I got curious and did a little bit of research on them. The artist who created all of these butterfly images is Tom Engeman, and you can learn more about him here.

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“The other Kat,” as she identifies herself to me, sent a lovely collage from Virginia. I love the message she added, “Art to be liberated waiting inside.” Soon Kat, soon! (And see, another beautiful butterfly!)

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This envelope from Jan in California is artfully done. I love how the swirls just lead me across the envelope. Such beauty and grace to find in the mail!

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Carol from Washington goes classic, with some ink and stamps. Simple. Effective. Beautiful.

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Speaking of simple, a few swooshes of ink and a hand cancellation make this envelope artful! From Sherry in Alaska, who wrote this great quote on the back of her envelope: Art is intelligence at play! – Albert Einstein.

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Bethany from Florida used washi tape to spell out my favorite initials – “LYA” for “Liberate Your Art.” That’s the abbreviation I personally use in all of my notes and reminders about the postcard swap! Who wants to write out “Liberate Your Art” all the time? LYA, all the way!

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This gorgeous mixed media piece is from Dee in California. Do you guys know how hard it is for me to open some of these envelopes? They are too pretty.

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I opened an envelope from Texas, and was surprised to find it was really from Luis in Mexico! Luis included a letter within the envelope, which explains all of the personal symbolism of the images he chose for the piece. Beautiful!

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And then there was the inside. More mail art waiting to be discovered, along with this postcards. Thanks Luis! Your envelope was an amazing treat.

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Here was something new… Have you ever opened an “envelope” with a seam ripper? I hadn’t, until this one from Donna in New Mexico. It’s a decorated piece of fabric, sewn shut. What a fantastic idea!!

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Do you see what I mean about some of these being too pretty to open? Here was the back of the “envelope.” Or should I call it a pouch?

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I have a thing for stamps, especially ones from abroad, and so Debbie‘s envelope, from the UK, threw me for a loop. At first I thought that “Mailmaker” stamp was a cool arty stamp, but it’s actually the name of her blog. I don’t think it’s a real stamp at all!

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Catherine, another artist from the UK, sent me this one. I love it when I see “par avion” on the envelope, a sign that art has come a long, long way to be liberated.

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What a lovely tree from Mikki in Colorado! Mikki is a ceramics artist, but she reminds us that all you need is a pen and an envelope, and you can create some wonderful mail art.

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And last, but definitely not the least, are these fabulous characters helping Wendy liberate her art from Texas. It’s a bird! It’s a fish! It’s the mail!

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Whew! That’s a LOT of mail art, wouldn’t you say. And more on the way! I can’t wait to see what arrives next week.

Stick a Fork in Me…

…I’m done! My iPhone photography manuscript is complete, packaged and ready to send. It will be in the mail today, heading to Amherst Media and the next phase of production.

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Whew, what a project. 24034 words and 270 photo examples and diagrams. And that’s for a small book… It’s only planned to be 128 pages. I can now imagine the work that went into creating some of these larger photography tomes on my bookshelf. I’m glad my project was not that big!

I should feel excited, right? I guess I do. But what I mostly feel is relieved that I made the deadline with a week to spare, and a little bit empty. Every spare moment the last couple of months has been about finishing the book, so having all of that time and mental space freed up at once is somewhat unnerving.

I’ve been keeping a list of projects I need to do “when the book is done.” I guess that starts now.

But first, I think I’m going to go for a hike. The forest is calling me. We’ve had some beautiful weather, and I haven’t had the time to go out hiking until now.

Next, I’ll clean my studio. As you can see, it’s a bit of a mess. Some things just fall by the wayside when a deadline looms near.

And then? It’s like a blank page, waiting for me to fill. I think I might keep it that way, at least for a little while.