“Living Artfully” by Sandra Magsamen

Her story is compelling: she was an art therapist, and when her daughter Hannah was born, she filled the nursery with little clay plaques with inspiring messages – life lessons for her daughter and gentle reminders for herself, like “Believe in yourself” and “Let your dreams take flight.” Her four sisters loved the plaques, and asked to give them to their friends as gifts. Soon their friends wanted to buy more plaques to give away to their friends, and a basement art business was born that led to art fairs, gift shops, and a thriving business in a converted barn in Maryland.

“Living Artfully: A Heart-full Guide of Ideas and Inspirations That Celebrate Life, Love, and Moments That Matter” (2006) by artist and author Sandra Magsamen inspires us, gives us tips to express our creativity, and reminds us to play. Her writing is relentlessly cheerful, positive, optimistic, and encouraging. She is definitely writing for a female audience in America, with cultural assumption about shared experiences and traditions.

“To live artfully is to live life fully, with meaning and a purpose – to bring beauty into being” (page 4), Magsamen says passionately.

The book is divided into seven chapters full of personal stories, colorful graphics, handwritten notes, and artful ideas, starting with each of us, and spreading outward in a widening circle of family, friends, neighbors, and community.

1. Messages from the heart: making connections. Art expresses who we are, adds meaning to our lives, and gives us an opportunity to play.

2. Imagine the possibilities: rediscovering your creative power. Give yourself permission to be you, think of yourself as creative, be innovative, play, use your imagination, and make friends.

3. Everyday art: creating moments that matter. “It is the little things in life that make living so grand” (page 70), Magsamen reminds us. Take time to write special notes, create brag books, congratulate others, and just have fun.

4. Home is where the heart is: making your home a reflection of you. Surround yourself with the things you value and love and that comfort you. Everyone needs a room or space for quiet and rest.

5. Celebrate life: artful ways for special days. The best gifts are “the people and experiences in our lives” (page 134). Create new reasons to celebrate!

6. Happy holidays: new ways for the big days. Simplify celebrations, share the cooking, decorate together, create gifts with meaning, and focus on spending time with the people you love.

7. You make the world a better place: making your mark on the world. Kindness is contagious; and simple acts of kindness require little effort.

Just reading the first chapter inspired me: instead of buying holiday decorations last year, I made my own cardboard cut-outs of Santa, a reindeer, a gingerbread man, and a surfing menehune (elf) using pens, paints, and a utility knife. This spring I even signed up for a ceramics class at a community park. And I enjoyed it!

Find out more about Living Artfully on her website, www.sandramagsamen.com.

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