Posts in gratitude
2018 -- a Year in Review

Reviewing a whole year is a hard thing. Once you sit down to do it you realize how slippery the days can be. How difficult to contain with words or even photos.

I had my fair share of failures, mistakes and frustrations in 2018, but I don’t want to focus on them here. We can learn from our mistakes and I’m certainly using those lessons as I plan for the new year, but my focus for today is celebrating the good stuff.

I am so grateful to be doing what I do. Making art. Writing this blog. Teaching. I’m grateful for you, whether you’re a customer, student or simply pause here on occasion to read my words.

Even though it can be tricky condense a year into a definable whole, I find it satisfying to look back and remember all I’ve accomplished. (You can see past posts on my old blog for 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011). Maybe you like to do it, too? If you feel as if you’re moving forward at a snail’s pace it can be helpful to look back and see how truly far you’ve come.

I chose PRESENT for my Word of the Year for 2018. I’m not sure how successful I was at remaining Present throughout the year, but it was a good reminder that I continued to turn to. I never did manage to make meditation a habit, but I wrote in my journal nearly every day. Mindfulness is something I’ll continue to carry with me into 2019.

I began 2018 with a Gentle Nudge Towards Creativity (and a typo, since fixed, in my image for it — pondering mistakes and missteps in the beginning of the year was good for me and my business, I think).

A Gentle Nudge Towards Creativity -- Crafting a More Creative Year

My intention was to be more creative throughout my days, to focus more on making all the time and to be able to wear me-mades as much as possible. It’s easy to let creative projects slip for lack of time or energy and I wanted to try to turn that on its head. Sewing and crochet were two things I wanted to tackle in part because I already had a lot of fabric and yarn stored away in my studio closet. This push didn’t really have anything to do with my business, but it had to do with me as a person, which in turn affects all areas of my life.

Some of the clothes and accessories I sewed, embellished and crocheted in 2018

Some of the clothes and accessories I sewed, embellished and crocheted in 2018

Looking back I did tackle (and finish) a lot of personal projects in 2018 and I want to do more in 2019. I’m still dreaming of a way to integrate art-making and crafting as part of my business. Fabric design is part of it, but I want to take it a step further. Stay tuned!

As for fabric design, I created a new a fabric collection in 2018.

Into which I added one of my absolute favorite designs, also created this year (and available in a larger scale than seen below).

I love how it turned out and so did lots of other people. It was voted a community favorite on Spoonflower and it’s sold very well. I updated my designs from past years with new dates and they’ve been popular, too.

Because I loved creating these tea towels I decided to share my process in a class on Skillshare.

In total I filmed and taught four new classes on Skillshare in 2018.

I began teaching in person this year, too. I taught three series of watercolor classes at the library in town (where I also work part time). I had no idea how teaching in person would go, but I ended up really enjoying it (and learning a lot from my students — many thanks to everyone who took classes with me this year!).

Through the month of February I had a little exhibit of my paintings at the local library.

Paintings by Anne Butera on Exhibit at the McIntosh Memorial Library in Viroqua, Wisconsin in February of 2018

I’ve had some paintings on display at Matthias’s shop in town this year, too.

Anne Butera's Art on Exhibit at Mac Help in Viroqua, Wisconsin

My art got some nice recognition further afield in 2018.

Anne Butera's Art Was Featured in Publications Around the World in 2018

My nasturtiums painting was on the cover of The Essential Herbal Magazine in September/October. One of my illustrations was included in Flow Magazine’s 2019 Tear off Calendar. I was a featured designer on the Pattern Observer Blog in November. And perhaps, most exciting to me, my 2019 desk calendar was featured in Cottages and Bungalows Magazine!

Printing last year’s calendar was so frustrating and I knew I needed a change in how I did things. This year I had my calendars professionally printed. It made things so much easier for me and allowed my 2019 calendars to be my most successful yet.

Something completely new for me this year was my first time on a podcast. I was interviewed by Angie Noll on The Not Starving Artist Podcast in May.

Sketchbooks continue to be an important part of my art practice, although my work in them often comes in ebbs and flows.

This year I started another collaborative sketchbook project with Dana Barbieri.

a page from the second collaborative sketchbook by Anne Butera and Dana Barbieri

We aren’t sharing our pages the way we did with the first project and that has made working in the sketchbook feel very free. In 2019 I hope to hang onto that free feeling and dive even deeper into my own sketchbooks.

One big change this year: I moved my blog from blogger to my website. In a lot of ways I wish I had done it earlier. It feels good to have everything in one place. I’m not entirely certain which direction I want to take with my blog in 2019. Any thoughts from a reader’s perspective?

The backbone of everything has been, of course, my watercolors.

Some of my watercolor paintings from 2018

Some of my watercolor paintings from 2018

Looking at all these paintings makes me look forward to 2019’s gardening season and having ample subjects for my watercolors.

2018 was a weird year in the garden, but I wish I had taken more photos. Even in their imperfection the photos I did take bring me so much joy (especially when everything out there is frozen solid).

A View in My Garden in 2018

The beauty about a garden is that each year we get a chance for a fresh start. It’s also the beauty of this time of year. When January rolls around we get a fresh start with our lives, a chance to think and plan and decide what’s most important for us in the new year.

I hope that you are looking to 2019 with excitement and hope. Here’s to a joy-filled, beautiful, creative year for us both! Thanks, again, for spending time on this journey with me. See you again in 2019!

On Dreaming Big

When I first started writing a blog and named it My Giant Strawberry one of the things that appealed to me about the name was how it spoke of my big dreams. Back then I had a lot of dreams, but I never imagined I would begin painting or that painting would become a main focus for me.

Since then a lot has happened and I’ve realized so many of my dreams.

I’m still dreaming.

I think it’s important to continue dreaming no matter where we are on our journeys and no matter how often we fail to reach those dreams.

Joy, Fortune Cookie Encouragement and Dream Jar Inspiring Me to Keep Dreaming Big

Dreaming big inspires us to keep going. It helps us to stretch and to grow. There IS always a higher mountain.

I have failed so many times.

That jar you see in the photo above? It’s my Dream Jar. I made it early last year (and wrote about it in the Joy Letter here and on my old blog here). On little slips of paper I wrote dreams, intentions and invitations for the year. The inspiration came bouncing around the internet to me. The idea is to write your dreams down and meditate on them daily. Keeping them in the forefront of your consciousness helps to focus your attention and bring about action (and success).

Dreams from My Dream Jar

Although I don’t meditate on my dreams daily, I do try to come back to them regularly. Quite a few of my dreams have come true this year. I did, to a degree, participate in Me Made May and my illustration was included in the Flow Calendar.

But plenty of the other dreams in my jar haven’t come true (yet).

A Failed Dream (so far) from My Dream Jar

As I shared on my old blog, I still haven’t won a Spoonflower contest (and in truth, my rankings in the contests I’ve entered have been less and less successful than the very first contest I participated in), but I’m not letting go of that dream. I hope someday the time will be right.

It’s ok to put our dreams aside for when we’re ready for them, or maybe for when they’re ready for us.

It’s also ok to let go of dreams if they aren’t the right fit. I’ve had a few of those this year and that’s ok. It’s a learning process. It’s part of finding our way and creating the path that’s right for us, not the path we think we should be taking.

Sometimes I feel down about my failures. It’s natural. Rejection is hard. Failure is hard. But I’ve found that when I’m feeling down about one failure another success comes along to reassure me that I’m headed in the right direction.

Yesterday when I was working at the library the new issue of Cottages and Bungalows arrived.

The February/March 2019 Issue of Cottages and Bungalows Magazine

I opened it up and saw that one of my BIG dreams had come true.

My 2019 Botanical Watercolor Calendar is Featured in the February/March 2019 Issue of Cottages and Bungalows Magazine

That’s my 2019 calendar in there pictured beside Vera Bradley, PaperSource and Rifle Paper Company! (One of the slips in my jar says: “Have my art featured in a major magazine”).

The 2019 Botanical Watercolor Calendar by Anne Butera of My Giant Strawberry

I’m still pinching myself.

As we head towards the end of the year I always like to look back and celebrate my successes. When I’m busy with the day to day it’s easy to forget just how much I’ve accomplished. Late in December I often share a year in review on my blog.

For me looking back is fun and it’s also helpful for planning the coming year, too.

I hope that you are dreaming big. I hope that you are celebrating your successes, both small and large. (I’d love to celebrate with you, so if you feel moved to share I hope you will).

Thank YOU for being here reading my words, encouraging me and cheering me on. You help me to keep dreaming.

The Answer to Slowing Down? Gratitude

How is possible that Thanksgiving has already come and gone? If you celebrated it, I hope it was peaceful, joyful and filled with love.

It seems I’m always pondering how fast time is flying by and how I’m not able to keep up with it. Am I the only one? Do you feel this way, too?

Dahlias from My Garden and Pumpkins from My Mom's Garden Before the Frost Ended the Gardening Season

These past few weeks I’ve been so busy and my attempts at slowing time down haven’t exactly been successful. I know through the end of the year things will continue to rush past, definitely at odds with nature’s pull urging me to s - l - o - w d - o - w - n.

And I think that’s the biggest problem for me with the transition from summer into autumn and the slide into winter. My connection with the flowers blooming in my garden makes me feel the need to slow down, too. Winter is a natural period of rest, and yet our society just keeps rushing along.

Sometimes I have to paint something just to paint it and the watercolor brings me joy

So what’s the answer? Rush along with it and exhaust myself? Fight it and end up uninspired and irritable? Find some sort of middle ground?

Liv Sulerud is an empath, healer and coach. I get her newsletter and recently these words arrived in my inbox “Seasonal shifts have always affected me deeply. And one of the most challenging things for me is the way the dominant culture pushes on as if nothing is different.” Yes! I thought. Exactly! She went on to say that “Mama Earth is slowing down and so can you.” Her words brought me hope and reminded me that I am the one in charge of how I navigate my days.

And so I am committing, again, to slowing down. To settling in to the natural rhythms that I’m feeling. To taking time for myself. To nurture and nourish. To rest.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the US. A day to give thanks for all of our blessings. I wish that instead of getting lost in the shuffle of commercialism and holiday sales we could linger with our gratitude.

In truth, there’s no reason that I can’t. That you can’t. That we can’t. Gratitude is the perfect way to slow our thoughts. It’s the perfect way to still the rushing and calm the overwhelm. Won’t you join me?