series

Tools & Talismans #78 — Maria Pace-Wynters

I use many different tools for mark making and papers for patterns and textures.

I have had my horse hair brush for over thirty years. I use it to brush away all the the grit, chalk dust, and paper scraps off my work place.  It is functional but I love how it looks and I love that I have had it for such a long time.  I use my dragon brush occasionally but it is less functional. Mostly, I just like to have it around to look at.  I love surrounding myself with beautiful things. I find such pleasure in that.

My cup and saucer were given to me by my mother decades ago. It is rare that any dish that I use daily would last that long so that in itself makes it special to me. The colours used to be bright, fruit on a green background, but they are now faded. I find that comforting somehow. My husband makes me a latte in a flask and I take my cup and flask to my studio every day. It’s the perfect size. I pour out small amounts from the flask so it stays hot. I often forget about my coffee when I get into a painting so this stretches it out longer and I am not left with a large cup of cold coffee.

My necklace is always around my neck. I love the large circle. It represents the circle of life to me. My mother in law gave it to me and it is handmade by a jeweller from Alberta.

My nib pen and black ink play a huge part in my mixed media paintings. I love the many mark making tools that I have but my favourite tool is my nib pen.

Maria Pace-Wynters is a mixed media artist.

Tools & Talismans #67 — Melanie Falick

My laptop is the tool I use most. I covered it with a swatch of peel-and-stick wrapping paper printed by Spoonflower and we used it for a photo in The Spoonflower Handbook, a book I edited. I like that the pretty sashiko-inspired paper gives the laptop some personality.  I really appreciate the power the laptop gives me to communicate, write, edit, and design both at my desk at home and wherever else I go to work, but I wish I didn’t spend so much time on it. Same goes for my phone. I use it all the time to communicate and to take photos, but when I spend too much time looking at screens, I feel lethargic and sometimes pessimistic.

I always have a little notebook or some sort of paper, plus a pencil and a pen (often a Sharpie) on my desk. I write down notes when I’m talking on the phone and when I need to remind myself to do something. I also have a To Do list on my computer but I often write down priorities from that list or things I’m afraid I’m going to forget on paper and put the paper in a really obvious place that I won’t miss (such as taped next to the trackpad on my laptop). When I’m editing printed book layouts, I always use a black pencil and an eraser.

Lately one of my jobs requires me to spend a lot of time picking yarn colors for knitting projects (thus the four mini skeins). I absolutely love working and playing with color and pattern!

I like to keep a hand-sewing or knitting project on or near my desk. I often stitch when I’m participating in phone meetings.

I included my yoga mat here because I find that I am happier with my work and myself when I go to yoga class and meditate regularly.

Melanie Falick is a writer, editor, and creative director.

Tools & Talismans #62 — Mary Anne Radmacher

Today is the last Tools & Talismans post of 2016, so I wanted to pause for a second or 3 and take in that I've painted 62 of these collection paintings, and each and everyone of them has taught me something about painting, about life, and about the “stuff” we save and treasure.

My biggest take-away so far is really understanding how most {or at least many} of us move through our days and weeks and years with a small collection of talismans that are touchstones to our hearts, to our centers, to our practices, but mostly they are elements that remind us of who we are, and that help us feel a sense of certainty in an ever changing world. The other interesting thing? Many of these talismans are also tools. Functional. Practical. Useful. There's something in that apparent dichotomy that fascinates me — lucky charm or amulet to utilitarian utensil. Something to ponder, right?

So today, is Tools & Talismans painting #62 with Mary Anne Radmacher, an old friend, collaborator and fellow artist. I talked to her a few days ago to let her know hers would be the last one posted this year, and she had some additional thoughts to share:

“Right now, in this period of time, my tools and my talismans have been my tether, my roots and my wings — both grounding and lifting me. My tools and talismans aren't decorative photo shoot props, they’re functioning elements of my everyday life as a working creative.

It's always a physical thing with my tools and talismans — the old ruler {pictured above} is always in my purse, and I reach for it in moments of anxiety or uncertainty to remind myself of who I am, what matters most to me and what my priorities are.”

So, on to Mary Anne’s Tools & Talismans, some stories and some thoughts:

I admit to phases of favorite tools. The tools here have been “in phase” for years, or even decades.

I’ve worn through or lost more multi-purpose knives than I can count: this one has had its home with me for 12 years.  

The magnifying glass is especially helpful in cleaning art up before taking a scan, helping me look closely at my lettering lines.

I founded a state-wide conference for secretaries and administrative assistants decades ago. In my search for materials to assist the attendees in their work, I contacted the 3M company. They agreed to provide a host of products to my guests as long as I agreed to test a product they were considering releasing. Of course I said yes — and post-it notes have been a key part of my papered life ever since!

Clips. Especially wee clips. I use them to hold art, to gather cords, to hold all kinds of disparate elements together. 

I’ve made my own travel watercolor set using bubble tea straws and an old small mint tin. It fits nicely and with my water brush helps me be creative in the most unlikely places.

My very creative husband asked me what I wanted him to make — I asked for a representation of my favorite brush form, enso. It’s now my favorite talisman as jewelry. 

The glass icon I painted to look like fireworks in the night sky. I carried it in my pocket every day for over a year and now it is always close — even though it’s not always in my pocket.

Can’t imagine a life without dogs. And, fortunately for me, I do not have to.

Japanese Masking Tape. How did I live without it? 

My father and tools. He was a journeyman mechanic. welder. Production Manager for a manufacturing plant. I come by my love of basic tools honestly. I am never far from the reach of a ruler and that very old folding ruler is my favorite.

Pens. Of all sorts, of course.  I will say that writing instruments manufactured in Japan turn out to win my pen competitions almost all of the time.

— Author, artist and professional speaker, Mary Anne Radmacher

Tools & Talismans #58 — Tina Essmaker

These objects are ones I use daily or ones that represent the work I do. Most of my work involves writing, editing, and a lot of email, which I use my MacBook Air for. But I also love to make physical to-do lists and brainstorm away from the screen in my Medium Things notebook, gifted to me by a friend. Nothing beats a paper and pen, or marker — and I love these ones from Sharpie. I do many of the interviews for The Great Discontent, and when they are done in person, I use my Olympus recorder, which does a great job whether the setting is a quiet café or a loud bar. When I’m walking around the city running errands or on my way to meetings, I like to listen to music. I recently picked up these ME05 earphones from Master & Dynamic, and they sound so good! The retro-looking rose gold Casio watch is also a recent find. It has an alarm, stopwatch, and timer — I’ve been using those functions often, and wearing a watch has kept me from pulling out my phone constantly to look at the time.

The last two items are The Elements of Style, which is a classic text that I recommend to any writer or editor, and a coyote-shaped metal brooch. The pin was made by a friend and given to me as a gift shortly after The Great Discontent launched. When my husband, Ryan, and I started the magazine, we were living in Michigan, and we often heard coyotes in the evenings as we worked. We adopted the coyote as our mark for The Great Discontent as it embodies the same restlessness and discontent that we often feel in our creative work. This pin is a reminder of that.

Tina Essmaker lives and works in New York City. She is a partner at Wayward Wild (W/W), a NYC-based creative studio and co-founder and Editor in Chief of The Great Discontent, a magazine featuring conversations with today’s artists, makers, and risk-takers.


Tools & Talismans is a personal painting project where I document {in watercolor} the tools and talismans of 100 different women — creators and healers, thinkers and makers, wordsmiths and visionaries. Join me for a year of Tools & Talismans — I'll be sharing a new painting with you every Wednesday.

I'd love to talk about creating illustrations for you! Do you have a project that needs some illustration? Think my work might be a good fit? Get in touch, I'd love to talk about your project with you!

Tools & Talismans #51 — Dawn Sokol

The journal: I always have a few that I'm working in. I like to use all kinds of paper and sometimes I'll even alter a children's board book into a journal. I like to have various surfaces to work on, depending on my mood. I'm making this one into my 2016 planner, and it's bound with book board and Fabriano Artistico 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper for the interior pages. This is my preferred paper for binding my own journals. All of these pages were pieces of Fabriano I had experimented on for past book projects, and most of them had some kind of paint on the surface.

Mickey figurine: I got this at Disneyland when I was in high school. I had been told since I was in second grade that I would be a writer, and this figurine spoke to me. He sits in my glass cabinet in my studio.

Paint scraper: I work with acrylics, and this paint scraper has recently become my best friend. I started using it when working on wood panels, but now I use it in my art journals as well. I love the size of it and use it along with my Catalyst blades to move paint around.

Micron pen: My primary tool in my journaling practice. Pen of my choice above all others.

Stabilo All pencil: I have several of these in my studio and my pen case. I use them to outline collage bits and then smear the line with my finger tip. They are water-soluble and oh-so-wonderful!

Tombow Mono Adhesive: My all-time favorite way to adhere bits to my pages. I learned about it when I started art journaling about nine years ago and have remained loyal since. I like it because it's not messy and travels with my tools well. I use gel medium for pieces that I know I will be painting over.

15-inch Apple MacBook Pro: Whether I'm in my studio or working outside on the patio, I usually have this with me. It's an important piece of the puzzle. I design all my own books and use Photoshop constantly. I scan in a lot of my art and manipulate it on this computer. I am continuously on social media promoting my artwork and my books, so it's a must. The only alternatives are my iPad or iPhone.

Dawn DeVries Sokol —  Author. Artist. Art Journaler. Essentially, I create.