Rebirthing my (brand) identity

Ever since I left my desk job when pregnant, I have not had a socially-acceptable answer to “What do you do?”

Being a homemaker or “just” being a mom was not in the same league as being an engineer. After all, I was no longer contributing to putting a roof over our heads or food on our table.

A year after our daughter was born, I started being asked “When are you going back to work?” or “What’s next?” or “So, do you have any plans to do something now?” — all of those questions insinuated that raising a child was not worthy enough. That I needed to be more, do more.

And because she was a girl, there was that extra pressure of role modeling: giving her a leg up in breaking the glass ceiling, empowering her to be a breadwinner, ensuring that she sees me as an equal to her dad.

I tried.

The first painting I created back in 2017 using fluid acrylics

MansiMakes was born in 2017 as a result of close friends wanting to buy my functional art. They told me to build a website, share my creations on social media … surely others would want to place orders, too?

My marketing background came in handy, but I found myself deriving more satisfaction from the fundraisers I did for my kiddo’s preschool than the actual sales of custom products. Don’t get me wrong — it was validating that strangers wanted to spend their hard-earned money on my creations.

I made peanuts, though, compared to the six-figure salary I raked in pre-motherhood. One year my earnings didn’t even cover my materials expenses. Far from it. But I raised over $3,000 to support various organizations in need.

My daughter was seeing me put in the hours…she was helping me set up craft booths, assisting with staging of products, making labels, manning the cash register and participating in my entrepreneurial endeavor.

But every time we gave away magnets for free to passers by at a pop-up, or placed free art across town for locals — our hearts sang and our faces beamed. She felt the same joy I did in just sharing my creations instead of selling them.

I felt the same way when I created online courses last year, charging a nominal fee that basically allows me to pay for hosting services until 2022. I priced them to be accessible because, for me, making a profit was not important. What was paramount was enabling others to experience the joy that comes with creating uninhibitedly.

I’m, no doubt, in a privileged position where I don’t have to earn my keep. But I do want to feel validated as a contributing member of society — is having a steady paycheck the only way to feel like I belong? Am I a worthy role model for my daughter only if I do something that brings in some money but no joy? Should I continue to “try to make it” even when my heart says otherwise?

It feels disingenuous. It feels inauthentic. It feels wrong.

Maybe I don’t belong? Maybe I never have.

I’ve pondered over this for almost a year now. My self-worth has been tied for so long to “being a writer,” ” being a marketing professional,” “being a communications lead.” But I am not just those titles and roles. I am so much more.

I’d rather BE kind, BE gracious, BE caring, BE inclusive. I’d rather beam with pride when I say “I’m raising a well-rounded human being.” I’d rather respond to social pressures with a “No. Not for me!

I’ve been chasing a mirage. My self-worth doesn’t come from external sources, it comes from deep inside me. Social conditioning makes it hard to let go of preconceived notions and roles.

But I am trying again. This time from a place of self-trust and acceptance.

MansiMakes will now be a portal for sharing. For the most part I will share free tutorials, videos, how-tos and quick tips. There will be some premium content in the form of detailed videos, live sessions and 1:1 art retreats ONLY so I can continue paying for hosting services.

If I sell anything, it will be to support a cause. My goal is to have a zero net return.

It will be a year of enabling and empowering the artist within, regardless of age or (in)experience.

And I know it will feel good. It will feel satisfying. It will feel right.

Looking forward to a tremendous year of creative collaborations, meaningful art-ing, and gratifying returns.

Create with Your Heart and Your Hands will Follow

MansiMakes started in 2017 in response to friends and strangers asking I make custom pieces of joy. From scarves, to functional art pieces, to jewelry, many of you saw me use a variety of media to handcraft unique items.

Some of you also enjoyed in-person classes in my backyard one summer and many online offerings last year. Many of you shared what YOU made as a result of those classes with your family and friends, multiplying the joy manifold. 

It helped me realize what truly brings me joy: sharing techniques, tools and ideas that empower people to let their inner artist out.

To that end, I will not be hustling any products or doing any craft fairs. My focus will be on sharing my knowledge and passion on social media, through my blog and via live and recorded videos. There will be plenty of watercoloringmixed media initiativescolored pencil art, iPad sketching, stamp carving and gel plate printing but at a slower, more purposeful, pace. 

What would you like to see more of? What would you like to learn? Let me know so I can incorporate your feedback into my plans. 

My motto has always been “create with your heart first and your hands will follow.”

In 2021, I hope to live this motto out with more intention, frequent sharing and constant encouragement that allows YOU to be uninhibited in your creative explorations. 

Whether you’ve bought something from me in the past or taken a class or cheered me on various social media outlets, please know that I am grateful for ALL your support. And I want to continue bringing joyful moments into your life through art. 

May this year mark the beginning of some beautiful creative meanderings.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy New Year!
Mansi.

Shine Your Light: Art Journal

As is the case with all my art journals, I started this spread with nary a plan. Using my distress crayons and Stabilo woody pencils, I just scribbled some colors to create an under-layer. I then grabbed some stencils and color shift acrylics. Usually I write some words in my art journal as my colors and patterns start coming together but for some reason, none came to mind.

There’s a lot of chaos around me right now with our impending move, school closing down for the holidays and us not having a “normal” Christmas. We are under orders to stay at home, the ever-growing numbers of deaths and shortage of hospital beds is alarming, and the stress of having a house remodeled under these circumstances has been getting to me. And what do I reach for when I am feeling like everything is falling apart? My art journal.

My art journal is much like a visit to the therapist. There’s a lot of inner conflict, drama, dialogue and angst that comes out initially — you will see the stress I’m feeling in the busy-ness of the spread — but there’s also always some amount of closure and definitely a whole lot of joy at the end of it. It’s a process. And it’s a journey one has to allow oneself to embark on.

When I started sketching out my signature tribe of women and blocking out the space around them, I felt a sense of calm descend over me. It started feeling almost soothing. And that is when the vision appeared and I changed course. I hadn’t considered anything but a white background until this point. You’ll even see me trying to emulate white on white snowflakes for a washed out winter scene (subconsciously prompted by the recent storms on the East Coast, I think). I knew I still wanted snow, but I also wanted these ladies to be the only focal point radiating light.

As this page started coming together with the background, I could focus on giving each of them a distinct personality with my knife. I love scraping the top layers to reveal the colors and patterns under. There is something so therapeutic about the act. Also, it makes them so “real” — like us, with many complex layers of experience thrown together to make us who we are today.

My creative philosophy

You all know that I say “create with your heart first and your hands will follow.” It couldn’t be more true on this page. When I reached for the color-shift paints to work with my stencils, little did I realize that it would end up signifying perspective in the final spread. Tilting the journal in light, you can see the color-shift paint change the look of the entire image. It can be purple with a shiny yellow and black-gold (in your face) look or it can be a beautifully vibrant, yet deep and dark, confident aura.

We always see things through our own lens, colored by our own experience, peppered by our own opinion. But sometimes, if we allow for some space, we may be able to see things differently. Or, at the very least, acknowledge that there could be more than one way of thinking about something. Sometimes instead of disagreeing vocally, we can simply listen quietly.

So, what is this page ultimately about?

For me, it’s about shining our light amidst the chaos around us, staying calm and open to different perspectives, and knowing that we can be true to ourselves while still holding space for others. With Covid-19, things haven’t gone the way they “should” have. We have been out of our home for more than the six months we were supposed to be. We have a string “Christmas Tree” taped to our wall in lieu of the real one we have every year. But we also have so much to be grateful for. A perspective shift is so helpful in a year where everything feels wrong and I feel cheated. We still have a roof over our heads. I still have my art to find solace in. We are all healthy.

So, keep your light shining bright. It may be dark around you, but you can always lean in and dig deep for that ray of optimism and positivity. It’s there. I promise you.

But I’m curious: what does this page say to you? What do you see in the imagery and the colors? Let me know in the comments.

Supplies

Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

Fluid Art Greeting Cards

Sure you’ve all seen amazing fluid acrylic paintings and functional items, but have you tried your hand at fluid acrylic greeting cards?

After I shared a couple of quick Tik Tok videos on this really easy and fun fluid-acrylic cardmaking technique, I was inundated by private messages asking for a more detailed video. So, for those of you patient ones who like more information than can be delivered in a quick 15-second crafty bite, here’s my process.

The fluid acrylic greeting cards are easy to make and don’t require any special paper: just your regular cardstock! You also won’t need a whole lot of paint and if you use a baking tray then all the spills stay contained. The results are gorgeous and can you imagine the delight of the recipients? Mini-unique paintings that they can frame! I think it’s gift-giving at its best.

My paint recipe
  • 1 part high flow fluid acrylics (I’m partial to Golden Paints)
  • 2 parts PVS glue or glossy ModPodge (you can also use Liquitex pouring medium)
  • Distilled or cold water as needed to achieve melted ice cream consistency
  • 1-2 drops per color of treadmill lubricant, silicone oil, coconut oil or isopropyl alcohol to create cells (don’t overdo this)

I hope you have fun watching and trying out this technique. I’ve taken a hiatus from fluid acrylic pours (I used to make large triptychs and canvases that hang at local restaurants) but this is a more contained version and a refreshing new way of making really unique greeting cards.

Let me know if you try it. I’d love to know how it went.

Bonus tip

I seal the paint with polyurethane spray, but you can also mix just a bit of liquid varnish into the paint to avoid that last step. Just make sure you let the cards dry flat for at least 12 hours.

Supplies

Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

Creating with a Prompt: Art Journal

When my six-year-old asked if we could journal together, I wasn’t surprised. But when she said “I have a prompt for you!” I did a double take. She had a paper doll that she had already colored and wanted me to incorporate it in my journal. She had another one for her own journal.

We worked side by side for an hour in almost complete silence…she at her workstation and I at mine. She would intermittently come and take a colored pencil or pick up a stencil but for the most part we stayed in our own zones.

My only instruction to her always is: follow your heart…choose colors and words that speak to you in the moment. When she showed me her journal spread, she said, “this girl is letting go of everything everyone tells her to be…she is choosing to believe in herself!”

As a mother, I can’t tell you what I experienced in that moment. For her to create something so powerful at this young age … I’m honestly gobsmacked.

My journal page pales in comparison…but the message is one of living your life with love and hope. I incorporated parts of a magazine and used a selection of stencils along with color shift acrylics, fluid acrylics, acrylic inks and white gesso.

If you have little ones…invite them to play with colors and imagery…encourage them to incorporate words and textures…try not to give them any directions and see where their journey leads them. You’ll be amazed at the beauty they create.

My Process and Advice

Since it was an impromptu session and because I rarely plan what my end goal will be with journal pages, you’ll see me make decisions and change them…I’m not afraid of covering any layers…and that is the biggest piece of advice I can give those that are starting out: Go with the flow.

Follow your heart and try not to have an agenda…try immersing yourself in the process and enjoy the journey. You will subconsciously express what you’re feeling — good or bad — as you explore. Reach for a bright burst of color or an odd shape if that’s what speaks to you in the moment.

Write whatever comes to mind…don’t overthink it…don’t pause…stop when you feel you can add no more…let the process be your guide 🙂

Trusting your gut is an important exercise to discovering yourself as an artist. I don’t have formal training so I speck from experience. When I try to emulate someone else’s style I feel constrained … I’m trying to follow a color palette too closely or make marks that are supposed to look random but feel precisely placed … it feels pretentious almost.

When I am being humbly myself, not caring about the destination or the rules, I feel at peace. This may not be my best work but it was one I enjoyed making…and that’s my takeaway for you. Not everyone makes everything amazing all the time. It’s all part of an odyssey of exploration — cherish it, enjoy it.

Supplies

Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

Letting Go of Fear: Creative Art Journaling

Alcohol ink paintings have always held a charm for me: simple drops of inks over non porous surface that blend, move, dance and present hues of themselves you didn’t expect. I love the pink undertones in the purple and the variations of blue-grey.

As the inks get diluted by the alcohol, it’s mesmerizing to just slow down and watch the colors. They get pushed out, they merge, they coalesce and form new shapes. It’s mesmerizing.

I got pretty philosophical just watching the inks do their thing: shifting boundaries, adapting, being malleable. As they discover new paths, some areas holding tight and remaining impervious to dilution, it made me think of the crazy year this has been. Does the process of creating art sometimes speak to you in this way? 

I made this alcohol ink painting after almost a year long hiatus, and then I did what most people would call “unthinkable.” I cut it up! 

Yes, an hour and a half of art therapy cut into circles, separated from the ethos of the whole to create something new. Why did I do that? Because I’ve never attempted it before. I wanted to experience the emotions that came with “destroying” something I created and give it a new life…a new avatar. 

Destroying the existing to create something new

I didn’t know if I would feel grief or confusion or despair or regret or joy or excitement or a rush of adrenaline from doing something so “wrong” that felt so right…or if I would feel ALL of those emotions or just be numb!

Well, I’m here to report that the fear of destroying something beautiful lasted a whole five seconds. After that first snip, it was a beautiful journey into the unknown.

There is something to be said about being unafraid and letting go when working in your art journal. You won’t find specific techniques in this video…instead you’ll get encouragement and freedom to tune in to your intuition and play with wild abandon. What could go wrong? It’s just paint and paper!

There are so many inks and stamps and stencils and colors to explore…so much to have fun with! Looking forward to hearing what you think and I hope this encourages you to just let go and do what brings you joy.

Have you ever cut up a painting you love without scanning it first? Have you made something different with it? How did it make you feel? 

Supplies

Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

Freehand Watercoloring Snow People with Distress Ink Reinkers

I have never had the courage to just start creating freehand with a brush…the fear to fail was so strong. But I think I am at the part in my art journey where curiosity trumps fear and I may have also internalized the “just one life” truism. Inspired by @sandyallnock, I started playing with my distress ink reinkers this morning in my watercolor journal. These freehand watercolor snow people are what resulted.

Family of Snowpeople created with Distress Ink Reinkers

“I wonder what it would look like if I could make snow people in spring or summer…” said my six-year-old while drinking her hot cocoa. “Let’s make a painting and find out,” I replied.  So what you see next is what ensued.

@sandyallnock’s snowman video may have just been the creative jumpstart I needed to indulge in this kind of free play! These snow people are so easy to create that I thought I’d share my quick watercoloring process with you. Trust me — it’s easy! I had never painted anything freehand, without it sketching it before, prior to this exercise. If I can do it, surely you can, too!

These freehand watercolor snow people are far from “perfect” but they bring me joy. I hope you like this whimsical style of watercoloring just as much as I do and will give it a try.

Supplies

Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

Creative Art Journaling: Sisterhood

This final image is not something I set out to make when I first drew some lines and circles in my Dyan Reavely art journal with Stabilo pencils.

I leaned into my curiosity and let courage drive my hands. I have not made faces or people before and I have also not switched course so many times. Nor have I ever created an art journal page that was spread out over five days of intermittent tinkering. But then, as they say, there’s a first time for everything.

What you see here are a lot of different layers that have coalesced into these beings. Much like each one of us, complex, unique and with personal histories that are shaped by circumstance and choice.

These layers were also a result of my external influences (going through my kiddo’s books and seeing a lot of flowers) and my choices (letting go of the fear of “ruining” something in the process of creating something new).

I have great admiration and respect for the women in the world of arts and crafts. Your inspirational shares, your creative wisdom, your encouraging support … and most of all your desire to create a welcoming, nurturing community where EVERYONE is welcome is to be applauded and celebrated.

May we continue to be guided by our passion and our kindness. May our hearts lead the way and our hands not be afraid to follow. Happy to answer any questions you may have about the process, the challenges, the tools or supplies used.

Supplies

Curious about the products I use? I have listed them below.

(These are compensated affiliate links at no cost to you. Thank you for your support! Affiliate and product disclosure can be found here. As always, I was not paid to do this post and I only use products from companies I love.)

DIY Gift Boxes with Alcohol Inks

This may seem like a factory shot. It isn’t. I painted each of these gift boxes from Michaels Stores with Tim Holtz / Ranger Ink (and some with Jacquard Products) alcohol inks as part of a gifting organization’s entrepreneurial venture. And this isn’t all of it either.

Hand painted unique custom gift boxes being varnished in my garage

I got so burned out creating and executing designs, ensuring each box had its own unique personality that I took a break from alcohol inks for a whole year! Once the paintings were done, each box underwent three rounds of varnishing so no accidental chipping would happen. And then there were gift tags and customized thank you notes to make…

Of course the recipients were tickled pink but I don’t think anyone realized just how much work is involved in “mass producing” handcrafted items like these.

The rainbow striped boxes, though, were so fun and easy to make and each one turned out completely different because of the technique I used.

Colors used:
Purple twilight
Indigo
Citrus
Sunshine Yellow
Sunset Orange
Red Pepper

I used scratch cards to create the rainbow-themed gratitude tag to top off the boxes 😍

Final gift box complete with ribbon and tag

I have seen up, close and personal the amount of care, effort and time crafters put into each of their creations … and especially the quantities of exquisite items that are produced during the holiday season. It’s a LOT of work! And I applaud your talent, your patience and your drive!

I think 2021 will see the return of alcohol inks in my life 🙂 But this time it will be solely for the joy of creating.

I hope you try this out! It’s a really fun technique and you can customize your color combinations to suit the occasion ❤️ Happy Holidays!

Accordion Gratitude Journal

Hello everyone,

First off let me thank you for the love you showered on my previous blog post detailing a complex botanical print technique inside your journal. Since you loved it so much, I thought I’d share another journal technique I use often to get more detailed, albeit single-layer, prints. 

Gelli Arts® has partnered with Hahnemühle and I think it’s a match made in heaven. I used their ZigZag book with18 pages of the finest watercolour paper folded in accordion style. We are all used to working with acrylics on the gel plate but I am a watercolor artist, so I wanted to make this accordion-fold book really shine as a watercolor journal.

By using water-reactive inks in my journal, I was able to carry it with me on the road and use a water brush to “paint” them in later. You’ll see in the side-by-side comparisons, how I was able to retain a lot of the original print while still giving it a painterly effect. I did forget to photograph the “before” photos for a couple of the journal pages but if you watch the video you’ll see all the “untouched” pages right after I was done with the gel plate printing. 

It was a blessing to have this journal with me while traveling…it gave me the opportunity to slow down and just enjoy the process.

This was a multi-week project and one that I really, truly enjoyed. Journaling is such a therapeutic creative outlet and as I enter a change of seasons, both metaphorically and figuratively, this journal with its Nature images led me down a path of grateful murmurings.

I used some color pencils and a travel watercolor paint set to turn this into a gratitude journal, with positive affirmations and quotes from some of my favorite poets, authors and philosophers. There’s an entire spread dedicated to Rumi, a Persian poet whose words are inspirational and so very meaningful to me. 

I also cut three circles from the copy paper I had used to wipe off the excess inks and used two of those to adorn my journal cover and one inside where I accidentally messed up the painting. 

This accordion journal will always be special to me as it holds memories from the backyard of our rental house, the place we’ve called home most of this Covid-19 year. It’s such a simple way of preserving memories, be it from a trip or a special time in your life. I hope you enjoyed watching the process and the final journal. 

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season!