Charlotte Mini Maker Faire

Charlotte Mini Maker Faire at Discovery Place Science was amazing. Working together, we created art with over 10,000 stickers!


typewriter-promptThe McColl Center is having an Open Studio Saturday party to celebrate the opening of prompt, an exhibition of new installations by Alumni Artists-in-Residence Quisqueya Henríquez, Susan Lee-Chun, and Willie Little. The artists were challenged to create an installation within a period of four weeks, sparked by three prompts. It’s going to be an amazing exhibition.

They’’ll also have a food truck, cash bar, hands-on creative activities (hint hint) for all ages, and live music by It’s Snakes and Patabamba.

It all happens on Saturday, June 11 from 12-9 PM. Here’s a full rundown of the day’s happenings.

Okay, so, we all know the McColl Center is awesome, but you may be wondering why I’m sharing this with you. Or you may have already guessed — correctly — that I’m going to be part of the day’s happenings! Yes indeed. Come find me in the 2nd floor gallery where we’ll be making things with good ole typewriters, paper, and thumb tacks. It’s gonna be awesome.

Can’t wait to see you!

Monthly Challenge: September


Welcome to a new monthly challenge, friends! Kids are back to school, work is back in full swing, apples are being picked.

September’s first cool mornings are so sudden. Seemingly overnight, the radiating heat of summer gives way to crisp and brisk. Immediately, there’s a shift in our perception of the colors that surround us. Summer is all burning yellows, cyans, and glowing oranges — heat personified. Autumn is decidedly different.

Personally, I find autumn to be the most reflective month. While spring is full of hope and promise, summer is all about action, and winter is about nestling in, fall is the time to cast a critical eye on how the year has gone. Have I accomplished all that was hoped for in spring? Did I take advantage of all of summer’s opportunities? Have I earned a winter hibernation?

Autumn is quieter, more muted, but not silent. Autumn is thoughtful.

Your challenge this month is to create something out of autumn’s different colors. What are they? Who are they? What do they make you think of? What do they communicate? What do they inspire you to do?

Pull out your favorite comfy sweatshirt, put your screens away, take a deep breath of that new, cool air, and go create something! Share your work with us on Facebook, or post a photo on instagram with the hashtag #stepawayfromthescreen. We’re excited to see what you make!

Monthly Challenge: August


Someone said to me recently, “Screens keep me from being able to do the things that make me happy.” Do you find that statement to be painfully true? I know I did.

So here we are in August. Summer’s last chapter is upon us — school has even already started for some people — which means it’s time to make the most of the days we have left. Here’s your monthly challenge: put your screen down RIGHT NOW and go do something that makes you happy. It can be anything, not just making something. Play 18 holes of golf; drive to the mountains for the weekend; call a friend and take a walk together; read a book you’ve been meaning to get to; send a real birthday card to someone; get an adult coloring book and color page one.

Whatever it is, just go do something that makes you happy. Then share it with us on Facebook, or Instagram using #stepawayfromthescreen.

monthly challenge - freedom

Monthly Challenge: July

monthly challenge - freedom

Photo from flickr by The unnamed.

Welcome to July, friends! It’s the month of independence. Canada Day, Independence DayBastille Day (France), and Fiestas Patrias (Peru) are all celebrated this month. And we’re always up for a celebration, right? Heck right!

But here in the USA, over the past few weeks, rights, privileges, and liberties are being discussed in complex and serious ways. The Supreme Court decided same-sex marriage was legal just one week after a gunman killed nine people in a predominantly black church in South Carolina. And both of those events, along with their ripple effects, have consumed us, regardless of which side of the story your beliefs land on. And that is the reason that I have chosen FREEDOM as our monthly challenge for July.

What does freedom mean to you? Have you been impacted — directly or indirectly — by the recent events I mention above? Are there other issues of freedom that are dominating your attention right now? Are you just looking forward to watermelon, bbq, and fireworks on 4th of July? Or is it some complex, human combination of all of those?

Regardless, spend some time thinking about freedom and what it is for you, and use those thoughts to inspire you to step away from the screen and make something this month.

Then share it with us on Instagram by tagging it #SAFTSchallenge, or by posting it in our Facebook group.

Can’t wait to see what you create!

Having trouble coming up with ideas?
As the month goes on, if you’re having trouble coming up with something to make for your monthly challenge, visit our MOTIVATE page where we’ll be providing prompts to get your creativity flowing. And don’t worry. Once you start flexing this muscle more often, it will become easier and easier to come up with something to make. I promise 🙂

Final Wall - Alt Summer

Alt Summit: Art Installation


Every year I go to a conference in Salt Lake City called Alt Summit. There’s Alt Winter in January, and Alt Summer in June. I’ve been to every Alt Summit (which began in 2009), but this year was different. This year I attended as Step Away from the Screen, and I got to participate in a new and super exciting way: they asked me to create an art installation for the conference.

Exciting, yes. But intimidating too. Creating a piece of art for this insanely creative gathering of people? How on earth? Not to mention, since I was representing Step Away… I knew I wanted the art to be participatory — something everyone could help create. So not only did it have to be good art, but it also had to be appealing enough that attendees would want to participate in creating it. Simple without being simplistic, creative without being complex, innovative without being overwhelming. No big deal, right?

So I started by focusing on the words Step Away from the Screen and wondered if I could find a literal interpretation of that objective. Suddenly I got it: Pointillism! Lots of dots of different colors which, when viewed from a distance (i.e., you have to step away from the canvas), blend together to form a picture. My idea was that I would create the base art and overlay letters that corresponded to round stickers of different colors. B = blue. R = red. G = green. Etc. People would place stickers on the letters and by the time Alt was over, we will have created a picture. A giant, pointillist paint-by-number sticker-by-letter picture.

Alt Summit - Design

With my concept nailed down, it was time to get started creating a base design. I wanted something that looked cool, but would also represent the message of Step Away… It also had to be simple enough that it could be rendered in 1” dots (which would give it an almost pixelated look). I decided that at the root of the Make Something message was the implication that you are making something with your hands, so my design was focused on hands. That and lots of color!


Then I had to figure out how many stickers to order. Which required math. And math is hard, y’all. And it’s summer, so I won’t make you do any. But I will tell you that I ordered almost 30,000 stickers.


Last but not least, I had to figure out how to overlay the letters in such a way that you couldn’t tell what the base art was. This was the most complicated part. But since I’m a graphic designer I had lots of tools at my disposal. If you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of how I did this, leave a comment and I’ll share. In the meantime, I won’t bore you with those technical details 🙂

Alt Summit - Blank Wall

The amazing folks at Cornerstone printed it out on 4’ x 8’ vinyl sheets and mounted the vinyl to 4’ x 8’ wood panels. The final art ended up being 8’ high by 12’ wide. A giant white wall, with tiny black letters.

Alt Summit - Busy Room

The wall was in the lounge where the attendees spent their breaks between sessions. So it was alternately PACKED FULL OF PEOPLE, or quiet and mellow with just a few folks here and there. This gave me time to chat with one of my favorite people, Alma Loveland from Woven Pear. They set up a cozy bedroom and encouraged you to put on their awesome socks and jump on the bed. Other great sponsors were in there too: Macy’s, Easy Closets, and TagSpire, each with their own cool presentations and installations. Suffice to say, it was a fun room.

Alt Summit - Phone Basket

My table was full of stickers of course (although 30,000 stickers isn’t as large a pile as you might expect it to be), and also a basket where you were instructed to leave your phone before you started sticking stickers. I didn’t want you to be up there stickering and receive a text and stop stickering to answer it. No no no!

Once you put your phone in the basket, you were encouraged to grab a roll of stickers and start sticking!

Alt Summit - Different Designs

At first folks seemed to be inspired by the wide-openness of the wall, and created designs and words with the stickers.

Some people would stop by throughout the day just to see how we were progressing, and to see if they could figure out what the picture was.

Alt Summit - Friends  Alt Summit - Red Zone

All in all, I was blown away by the response. I had no idea, going in, how the whole thing would play. But it really seemed to be something people enjoyed. Whether it was to take a break from the crazy Alt Energy, or just to recharge and be creative for a few minutes, I really think people had a good time sticking stickers. More than a few times I saw two people reach over and shake hands, and then keep talking while they stuck stickers. Other folks reported therapeutic effects from stickering, and hung out til they felt better. And still others (myself included) found that the wall fed their OCD tendencies. (MUST FINISH THIS SECTION!) Even Guy Kawasaki and his daughter got in on the action!

It was really exciting watching it all come together. And by the end of day one, you could really see what was taking shape.


As great as all that stickering was, I also really loved getting to hang out in one place the whole conference and getting to talk to so many people. I got to hear their stories, and what they did, and why they were at Alt, and everything. It was perfect for someone as severely extroverted as I am. I think I got to talk about creativity with just about every person who attended Alt Summer!

Alt Summit - Josh & Kelly

Day two, there was almost a renewed vigor among some people who just wanted to get it finished! And it was a lot of fun watching that happen. People would take on a whole color section and just park themselves there til that section was finished. Total dedication!


When we finally stuck the last sticker on, at around 2pm, the whole room burst into applause!

It was quite a journey, and I enjoyed every single minute of it. Thanks Alt for being made of magic. And thank you to everyone who helped me step away from the screen and make this come to life.


All photos by me or by Brooke Dennis and Justin Hackworth — from the Alt Summit Flickr Stream.

Step Away from the Phone…

So it was time for a new iPhone case. You might guess I’m fairly picky about what I wrap around my phone, and you’d be right. So I designed my own by repurposing some of my favorite Step Away art.

Then I went to GelaSkins because they have the sturdiest hard cases I’ve ever felt. A few minutes later, my new case was in production, and it arrived today. I love the way it came out, and the irony of putting the “Step Away…” command on a smartphone makes me very happy.

Would you be interested in your own Step Away from the Screen iPhone case? Let me know in the comments.

Time and time again

So, once upon a time I had babies. Little baby babies. Who had teddy bears, and rocking horses, and all the baby trappings of babydom. Before these babies were born, someone gave me a clock. The clock below. A very baby nursery clock, which we put in the babies’ nursery. Since that’s where the baby things went.

Over the years, weirdly, the babies have been growing up. And now there’s pretty much nothing left in our house that resembles anything that this clock represents. Not even in their room (they actually asked me to take this clock out of their room. So I hung it in the kitchen). Which means it’s probably time for it to go. Except I had gotten used to having a large, not-digital clock in the kitchen. So I decided, rather than get rid of it, I’d fix it and make it match our house better.

Step one: Design design design design.

This was no small task. I’m nothing if not compulsive. And having the whole world of possibilities to choose from is about as overwhelming as it can possibly get for me. So I designed clocks for about 3 months. Maybe longer. Because apparently that’s how long it takes to design ALL THE CLOCKS.

Eventually, I found myself veering toward certain looks and started refining the design and colors. I originally thought I’d be working mostly with red, as you can see above. Our kitchen has dark brown walls and I typically choose red stuff whenever I have to buy or make something for that room. So, red kettle, red dish drain, red Soda Stream, red silicone whisk, etc. But when I cut these designs out and put them on the wall, the red was too much. So I shifted to other colors that I like with brown.

Lo and behold, I actually chose a design!

But then I had to figure out how to make it happen. I was worried about the circles since it’s hard to make a perfect circle, let alone 13. And if they weren’t perfect, the clock would drive me crazy. Which meant trying to paint circles would probably put me on the fast track to crazy. While mired in puzzling this out, I decided to start prepping the clock itself. I figured if nothing else, that would motivate me to work through the puzzle as quickly as possible.

Step two: Primer

I wanted to be sure to cover all the old art completely so priming was important to enable a fresh start. I blew through this step, so I only have the tiniest portion photographed. Whoops. Needless to say, I completely covered the clock face with primer. I think I did two coats.

Step three: Paint

This was the fun part. I like mixing my own colors, so I started with a basic set of acrylic paints in blue, yellow, red, white, and black. The first blue I created was a little too dark, so I ended up painting about 4 coats. The hands of the clock are a little ornate — and brass — but I decided to stick with them and just painted them white. Also! The clock also had a pendulum. With an insert that continued the design of the clock. I ended up keeping the pendulum — painted it white — but got rid of the insert. So now it’s just an open circle, white, with the dark brown wall behind it.

Step four: Circles

I ended up buying a Fiskars Circle Cutter which worked like a charm for creating the circles. For the large, white center circle, I just took a piece of heavyweight bright white paper (I love Epson Matte Presentation paper) and cut the circle out of the center. It was a little challenging to get the green number circles perfectly centered, but I eventually figured out a method that worked. I used the typeface ITC Blair which has great, clean, retro feeling numbers.

Step five: Mod Podge

I applied all the circles with Mod Podge (on the backs and the fronts) and then, when it was all dry, I Mod Podged the whole clock face. Twice.

And voila! Our new kitchen clock! With a pendulum!

In keeping with my original challenge to myself — stepping away from the screen and making something: one thing per month — I stopped here and counted. And at the end of September, I’m pleased to report that I have actually made TEN THINGS! I’ve got some more to share with you soon, so stay tuned. Until then, YOU step away from the screen and go make something. And share it with us over here on Facebook.

House Rules

Hey kids! I thought it might be time for another story about something I stepped away from the screen and made. Yeah? Okay! This story has a few “parts” to it, so I thought I’d break it down into bite size pieces.

Act 1 —

Scene 1:
About a year and a half ago, I started writing our family’s “house rules.” I had seen a few of these lists floating around the Internet and really liked what they were all about. Especially in a house with kids. So I started working. Not diligently, but whenever something occurred to me, I would add it to the list. I kept the list on Evernote so it would be with me wherever I was.

Scene 2:
One night I was sitting on my couch looking around the living room. The staircase is a dominant feature of that room because it is right smack in the middle of it. All our walls are painted different colors, but the stairs are white wood. It occurred to me that I needed to do something creative with the stairs. I mean, here it was, a giant canvas right in the middle of the living room and it was just plain white. So I added that to my ever-present, ever-growing list of “things to think about and do someday.”

Act 2 —

Scene 1:
The house rules were coming along nicely, but there was a problem: Where was I going to put it once it was finished? We don’t have a ton of walls in our house (years ago previous owners knocked down most of the walls turning a boxy, compartmentalized, 1930’s era bungalow into an open, airy, modern feeling home. We love it, but we don’t have as many places to hang things as we might like.), and most of those walls were already exhibiting art, as we’d lived in the house for 6 years.

Scene 2:
One daydreamy afternoon, I’m thinking about our stairs, and what fun thing I could create for them, when suddenly it all comes together for me. The house rules! On the stairs! One rule per step. I counted the steps (13) and opened the house rules document. I had 9 rules. Surely I could come up with 4 more.

Act 3 —

Scene 1:
The stairs were, upon close inspection, pretty banged up. 6 years of a family of 4 on white stairs? Yeah. Might need a little paint. So that was the first part of the project. meanwhile, I was trying to figure out the best way to get the words on the stairs. I considered freehand painting, sharpie, and stencil painting, but I’m a fairly compulsive person (understatement), and I know that any imperfections would drive me crazy. Finally I decided on vinyl. Choosing the typeface and, more importantly, the color took a while — the stairs are surrounded by yellow, sage green, red, and brown walls. What color would work with all of those? We ultimately decided on a steely blue grey. And practical, clean DIN for the font. I designed the words and had them printed at my favorite sign company for about $40.

Scene 2:
Got the vinyl back as one big sheet. While I cut the lines apart, I also stressed about how to apply them so they’d be straight and also spaced the same distance from the wall (remember — compulsive). I decided left-aligned would work better than centered, and would also look more modern.

Act 4 —

They came out about a million times better than I even hoped they would. And the kids love them. And I love them. And we have even invented a game around them. We frequently find our cat, Mark, hanging out in the middle of the stairs. So we decided he would choose our rule of the day. Any time someone walks by the steps and sees Mark there, they yell out the rule he’s sitting on: “Mark says WORK HARD!!” Or “Mark says, SHARE!”

Here’s the complete list of our house rules. I strongly encourage you to think about what yours would be, even if you don’t turn them into something on display. It’s pretty interesting to consider which behaviors are important enough to you and your family that you would classify them as “rules.”

Be Kind.
Laugh. A lot.
Work Hard.
Play Fair.
Tell the Truth.
Offer to Help.
Ask Nicely.
Hug and Kiss.
Say Thank You.
Respect Others.

Yard Art Day 2013

Follow the rainbow brick road.

Remember Yard Art Day? Well happy happy, we did it again this year!

This time around we wanted to create something that had fewer steps, and required fewer power tools, but would hopefully make an equally large impact. I’ve been drawn to great street art lately, so we decided to take our inspiration from that.

We knew we didn’t want to create something permanent since it would be in front of our house, so instead of using paint we pulverized dozens of sticks of chalk in the blender, added water, and created chalk paint.

A couple of hours later, we had a gorgeous, rainbow sidewalk!

And a couple of hours after that, we had a gorgeous, tie dyed sidewalk thanks to an unfortunately timed rainstorm.

Aaaaaaand, scene.

But it didn’t matter one bit. We had so much fun creating it that it was almost sweet to watch it melt away.

Long live Yard Art Day!