Steady Burn: At Teahouse Studio

Good things: everyone enjoyed seeing our good things in person, and being the first to see what's coming soon!

It was so good to be at Teahouse Studios with Stef and all the new friends who came out to join us. Everyone was open and generous, sharing stories and laughter.

Jolie Guillebeau, my unofficial business manager, relaxing before the workshop begins.

Me: Oh my gosh, Liz--those pillows look like you painted them!

Liz: I did.

(Of course.)

The irreplaceable Phyllis Mathis.

Weekend bonus: getting to be face-to-face with some of my most beloved friends.

Somehow, every time I take a picture of Caren Gazley, she's sipping a warm drink.

Color, color everywhere.

Being at Teahouse Studio is like being wrapped inside an artist's pallette. So many colors and textures delight and inspire, everywhere you look.

These two are always so happy to be together.

We enjoyed some of the yummiest meals EVER.

Handmade pottery by Phyllis, and a sneak peek at the cover art for Beauty Everywhere: A Portable Gallery by Jolie Guillebeau.

We savored Caren's special touches, like her tealight candles and her essential oil tips and treatments.

I loved seeing Liz, my partner-in-crime, in person. She always makes me smile.

Steady Burn was the most nourishing, filling, feeding-of-body-and-soul event we've ever done. If you'd like to experience some of this creative wellness wisdom for yourself, order your copy of Caren's brand-new book: Ritual and Rhythm: A Guide to Creative Self Care. (Coming soon!) We took the opportunity to celebrate this new project while we were together, ooh-ing and aah-ing over Liz's design and Hula's photography, reveling in the exquisite feel of the paper and the joy of seeing Caren's words and wisdom come to life.

Many thanks to all whose presence and contributions made this weekend so special.

Yearning for some time together? Join me at Squam Art Workshops in September.

In Progress

A lovely home that my friend Ramona and I walked by in Vancouver, BC.I am in the throes of an Apartment Love Obsession. It's been going on for weeks or months now, I'm not sure. My days are punctuated by small bursts to epic projects as I purge unnecessary things, curate and tend all of our spaces. Before my parents came to visit, I actually broke a toothbrush in half while cleaning the bathroom. The spice cupboard and junk drawer testify to no space being too small to escape attention, and the days we spent on the hall closet while my mom and dad were here prove that no project is too daunting.

My soul work these days grapples with a public and private existence, so perhaps my obsession with home is fitting, as sinking into my physical, private world grounds me and counterbalances the work I am doing online and onstage. I am simply along for the ride on both journeys, letting them run parallel and teach me as I go.

There are few things as satisfying as home makeovers, really, the pinacle being the Before and After Pictures. I keep kicking myself for not taking more Before Pictures so that I can have that satisfaction--that proof of progress--at the end when you get to step back and say, "Look: once a mess, then transformation, now beauty." But the Before and After Pictures are not the whole story, because minutes or hours later toys and blankets have made their way from their assigned homes onto stray surfaces or floors. One room sparkles while another is neglected.

This is the whole picture: A Life in Progress. Minor victories and major defeats, and sometimes the other way around.

When we share what we learn, it can have a similar effect--a Before and After Picture of the Soul, if you will. "Look: once a mess, then tranformation, now beauty." And it's not that it's untrue--it is quite true. The mess is real. The transformation is real. The beauty is real.

But this is the whole picture: A Soul in Progress. Minor victories and major defeats, and sometimes the other way around.

We clean what is dirty, we mend what is broken. All that is finished is temporary, and all that is yet undone reaches to the horizon like an ocean before us.

Say Something True

Caren and friends at a gathering of kindreds earlier this year

Caren was here this time last week. "Are you taking care of yourself?" she said.

"I'm trying," I said, meaning, Not as well as you would take care of me if you were here. Caren takes care like no one else I've ever known. She's been gone for days now, and I keep finding pieces of her care and keeping that she left behind. Clementines on the baker's rack. Mexican chocolate waiting to be melted into cocoa next to the stove. Big stashes of British tea by the kettle and a jar of organic raw honey we used on last night's biscuits. Organic persimon that made the trip all the way from California to be sliced into a salad. Do you see what I mean?

I told her how the work we're doing is like an ever-present plumb line. We can't come to Berkeley and facillitate a weekend called Steady Burn with any integrity if we haven't been practicing that wisdom through all our times and seasons. So I've been doing my best to believe these things even when it's hard: the care of yourself can come first. It only helps the work. You really can step out for that walk, go buy those salad greens, go to sleep before the children.

One of my newer practices when I feel like the wheels are coming off my wagon is to say something true. It kind of un-hooks any energy that might be tied up in Looking Good and frees it up for other things. I think that's why I woke up with an inexplicable desire to post today--to say something true and find a little more freedom.

So here are a few pieces for you: I'm really operating at my edges these days. It's been awhile since I drove a car, but I remember this needle on the dashboard that measured RPMs and when it hit the red zone, you were going too fast in the given gear. My physical health and wellness is like that RPM gauge, and I keep pushing that red zone and my body pushes back. It's humbling every time, like, Okay I guess I can only edit eight pages right now (even though that makes me feel weak or lame). Okay I guess I have to take off the headphones now and lie down. Okay I guess I can't host weekend guests and have any social reserves left for the week.

There are so many things I wish I had deeper wells for, like being with people. I love it when we are together. I wish I wasn't such a hermit, and that we were having after school playdates and that I was teaching everywhere all the time. I wish I could be interested in work and food at the same time and that I was rocking crazy delicious balanced meals every day of the week instead of forgetting to buy fruits and vegetables for days at a time.

If Peter didn't keep coaxing me into shows, I'd probably be deep underground right now and never leave the six block radius around my apartment. But when you have someone creating the framework for you and holding the safety net while you work out stuff in your soul, it's hard to turn down. Even so, I had to change my story for the upcoming show when my body was tweaking out over the one I originally had planned. I wish some things didn't hurt for as long as they do, but I think it's good for me to wait until that one heals a bit more before I give that story away.

I'm feeling pretty humbled these days by my limits, by my humanity. But the more I welcome my limits, the more I listen to my body and back off when I need to, the more I feel freed up from this idea that I have to do it all or be good at everything. It's a crazy-making, unattainable idea. I'm NOT good at everything. (Quick Top Ten List of Things I'm Not Good At: parties, small talk, acting cool in bars, crowds aka groups of more than four, calendar/clock, rowdy play, rest, daily showers, balanced meals, meeting new people). And I don't do it all. You won't find me at a PTA meeting or very many places at all, really, outside of our six little Brooklyn blocks and the--very--occasional storytelling show.

So try it--say something true today about your limits, your humanity. You'll find it creates space for your tired parts, your hurting parts, your parts that feel ashamed that they're not as (fill in the blank) as everyone else appears to be. In that space, your breaths can come a little deeper and just a little more kindness can make its way in.

The Care and Keeping of Lisa Hofmann

Photo by Lisa Hofmann, 



"I am a creative being fashioning for myself and for my family a life filled with wonderment and possibility."





We're wrapping up our Week of Care and Keeping, and I want to thank everyone for their contributions and comments. This conversation is a vital one for our creative community, and I can't think of a better way to complete our celebration than to share these words by a Finding Your Voice Community favorite, Lisa Hofmann.

As the holiday weekend approaches, I inform my husband “I have a lot of work to do.” This statement baffles him as he knows I'm not referring to the work of my salaried job, but activities that recently have been engaging me: painting watercolor portraits of goats, donkeys and our dog; knitting multicolored winterwear; and my “book project” – an activity that involves delving into our computer’s back up drives, seeking ancient photo and word document files with the accompanying moans and groans such work entails.

Here is my situation: I live a Walter Mitty meets Amélie kind of existence. My creative llfe - writing, painting, photography, and general crafting - does not pay the bills (in fact, it generates its fair share of them) but it is more essential to my well being than any 9 to 5 job. That I think of it as work stems from a Montessori-for-adults approach to confer dignity and importance to what others might consider “hobbies.” The fact is I choose not to burden my art with the need to support me financially (at least, at this time); rather, I am committed to supporting my creativity.

I am neither a dabbler nor am I a working artist. I am a creative being fashioning for myself and for my family a life filled with wonderment and possibility. I am either creating a Brave New World where I am a thriving artist supporting herself spiritually and emotionally, or I am in a very elaborate adult play world with real rather than pretend brushes, journals, and cameras. Either way, I am busy retrieving and resurrecting the unlived life of my childhood dreams. It is daunting but essential work.

Jen Lee and her Care and Keeping of Creative Souls: A Manual have been vital support systems for me on this journey. Her writing and teaching honors the bravery necessary on this path while emphasizing the need to care for our tender selves. She shares practical but wise advice on how to find balance within the natural cycles of creating: filling and emptying, being seen and being hidden, vulnerability and strength, inward reflection and outward expression, surviving and thriving. I think of the practices she offers in her manual as necessary rest stops on the creative journey.

When I catch myself feeling impatient, frustrated, doubt-filled or lonely I know it is time to for some essential self care. I know I need to rest and refresh my perspective. One of my favorite practices is something Jen shared with us at Squam: taking time to be outside in nature, grounded in the immediate world and asking the question “What do I need to hear right now?” Then allowing myself the space and time to listen and receive the counsel from the wise self that dwells deep within my own heart.

Often that advice is to be kind to myself. And Jen offers a number of ways to go about this. My favorites include fixing myself a hearty meal, baking her chocolate chip cookies or engaging in what she explains is an “Ultimate Indulgence.”

Another practice that immediately anchors me is to strengthen connection with the people who support and inspire me. I love to send out what I call “real mail” - art cards, handwritten letters, small trinkets that call to be passed into new hands. It is my version of Jen's “Giving the Gift of Seeing.” Magically, what I send out seems to equal mail received (but from different people!) and so I receive a much need dose of love and reassurance.

What Jen has taught me--and continues to inspire within me--is the understanding that my creative work is the act by which I come to know myself and that this is my offering to the world. I care for myself so that I may serve creativity. In turn, that creativity invites others to join in the fun, to add to the splendor and magic of living. In this way we each bear witness to our lives, honoring and celebrating the stories that make life such an adventure.


Lisa Hofmann is the maker of yummy homemade soups, the singer of spontaneous songs and a joy warrior. She is becoming more and more each day a drought resistant creative, living a quietly inspired life as a retro-Fauve surrounded by a herd of multicolored farmyard animals and friends.

Isn't it time to give yourself the one thing you most need?

The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls: A Manual

Now Available!

When I think about creative work, I often remember the story about the hen who laid the golden eggs. We are so product and results driven in our culture that we want to ignore the hen and just get to the gold already.

You are the hen that lays the golden eggs.

It’s time to feed and nurture yourself, to revive yourself, body and soul. Enough of surviving it all.

Nurture. Thrive. Flourish.

Paperback, full-color, 24 pages
US $22, ships free worldwide.



Video: Jen Lee on The Care and Keeping of Ourselves

What People Are Saying About "The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls":

"I need to tattoo the entire content of the book up and down my arms."

--Pixie Campbell, SouLodge

"I had my hands clutching the manual you wrote and gave me Saturday morning when I left to the point where TSA had to remind me I had to let it go to go through security. I listened to the sign. I opened it up and read it on the flight home. How you knew I needed to hear your voice and read your words at that exact moment is mind blowing. But you saw it. The worry of the re-entry, the worry of the work week ahead and like a gentle friend you placed your hand on my shoulder and gave me the tool I needed to take care of myself so I would be able to take care of and nurture the creativity inside. The manual is beautiful Jen. Bravo."

--Helene Dujardin, Tartelette

"Two years ago I left my job in finance and became a photographic artist and I give a huge amount of credit to Jen Lee in giving me the tools to be able to hear my heart's desire when it was so far away from where I was. She is truly one of those rare people who can draw out of you the things your heart whispers softly, the secret wishes that often go unacknowledged. The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls Manual is like a guidebook to bring you back to yourself when you've got lost in the stress and busyness of modern life. Jen's gentle words and nourishing practices have helped me on numerous occasions when the habit of self criticism has kicked in. When I speak to myself in harsh words and judgments and I can't find my way. She reminds me to stand still, to take care of myself first and the answers will come. And, believe me, they come. "

--Nicola Taylor, photographer

 The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls

Paperback, full-color, 24 pages
US $22, ships free worldwide.

Collaboration Closeup: Liz Kalloch

Top of the Rock by Liz Kalloch, from "Telling Your Story" (also current website banner)

If I were really telling the truth about this story, I would tell you how alone I felt back then. How I'd started thinking that the kind of partnerships I dreamed of were just that--pipe dreams. I would tell you that I did the Finding Your Voice course largely on my own, even though I can't stand working that way, because it was getting me through a hard winter. And it took half a dozen friends to hold me together.

Liz draws me for "Telling Your Story"

I thought about people who felt soothing to my soul, and Liz Kalloch was one of the first people to come to mind. I was trying to figure out a way to see her and spend more time with her, (we met at Squam and she lives on the other coast) and she said, "It would be really fun to create a project together".

It was like when you've had a really bad fall on the sidewalk, and you're sitting there staring at your bloody knees, too sore and dazed to try standing, and someone stops and reaches out her hand.

It was just like that.

I remember talking to Jen Gray back then, telling her how I received Liz like a gift from the gods. She said, "Liz Kalloch is an earth angel," and I said, "Oh my god, YES. That is EXACTLY what she is."

Plenty of people are talented, but not everyone is kind. Plenty of people can do the work, but not everyone can do the work in love.

And for me, the kindness and love are everything.

I wanted Telling Your Story to have as much visual beauty packed into it as possible, so we came up with this idea for Liz to do line art based on the photographs that were going into the project. The simplicity of her pieces, along with the subtle repetition, really infused the whole curriculum with visual interest without making it feel too busy. We even added her work to the "blank" pages in the back that can be inserted throughout the 3-ring binder wherever they are needed. She was my design consultant for the project as I put together the layout, working the cover with me and doing the entirety of the Telling Your Story Sound Studio design this fall.

The other idea we cooked up all those many many months ago was a new print edition of The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls manual I'd written and taught from last fall. It would feature Liz's original line art drawings, my full-color photos and some new writing. The final result is so exquisite to hold in your hands that people literally go speechless for a moment when I hand it to them.

 Front Cover: The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls

A peek inside of "The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls: A Manual", line art and design by Liz Kalloch


Back cover: The Care and Keeping of Creative SoulBy now we have so many good things cooking, I can hardly stand it. Liz is my vision catcher, my collaborator, my magic-maker and dear friend who talks me down from the tree. I couldn't be more honored to be on this journey with her, hand-in-hand, or more thrilled to share her and her work with you.



Liz Kalloch has been dancing to her own beat from an early age, when she thought the Brownie badges were ugly and made her own. (So clever, and yet so unappreciated by her troop leaders.) Her creativity bursts forth through more mediums than we can name here, but her greatest work is what she creates out of love, friendship, beauty and an adventurous heart.