Need inspiration? Need ideas for a party or craft? Look no further. This woman is overflowing with them! Non-stop.
Alison Sherwood is a journalist turned stay-at-home-mom to three kids (Corban, 6, Mara, 4, and Haddon, 3). For nine years, she was a writer, videographer, blogger, and digital jack-of-all-trades for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, most recently covering food and lifestyle. She loves just about any right-brained activity.
I’m sure not a day goes by without seeing the fruit of that right-brained energy.
Not only does she create fond memories at bridal and baby showers and making art with her kids, she finds ways to capture and encapsulate those moments into beautiful gifts, scrapbooks, and website pages.
What do you love to create?
Alison: I probably have too many creative interests for my own good, and I’m always excited to try new things. I’m most fond of creating with paper—writing in my journal, filling out baby books for my kids, writing letters, making greeting cards, addressing envelopes.
Physically creating something is so satisfying. I also enjoy the mental satisfaction and precision of creating with digital design, like using Photoshop to design invitations and paper products for parties. Some are featured on Etsy.
I’ve been shooting and editing videos since high school. I started with a camcorder and VHS tapes 15+ years ago, then moved on to professional equipment as a multimedia journalist, and now mostly use my iPhone.
Crafting with words has been a driving passion throughout my life. I also love to put my creative side to work hosting parties—creating the menu, baking and decorating cakes, making decorations, and coming up with themes and games.
Before kids, cooking was a creative outlet for me. Now I feel more utilitarian about it, but even cooking a simple dinner can feel like a creative accomplishment. If I have the time to bake cookies, make jam, or try something new in the kitchen, it’s always a high for me.
I also love making handmade gifts. For weddings, I often give a personalized recipe book and/or a decorative shadowbox to display the couple’s wedding invitation. Both of those were gifts we received for our wedding. I loved them so much I wanted to give others the same thing. I wrote about recipe books for the Journal Sentinel.
Where do you get your ideas?
Alison: Everywhere! At Target I saw a macrame wall hanging that was out of my budget, but a lightbulb went off–that’s what should be hanging on a blank wall in our living room. So I took a picture of it and on the spot Googled “how to make macrame wall hanging.”
I get ideas from reading a handful of blogs and newsletters, wondering how to solve a problem, and seeing something a friend has done on Instagram.
When I was working on staff as a journalist and covering creative trends and local makers, I often jumped on board with the topic I’d just written about, whether it was adult coloring books or calligraphy. I see something and think, “I want to do that!”
For parties, inspiration comes from the everyday joys in our lives.
Showers often start with a color.
Dinner party menus take off from whatever
I’m craving or a recipe I spotted.
From there, I search the Internet. I also find bouncing ideas off friends to be the most underrated and fruitful way to expand and improve ideas.
How do you create? Say something about your creative process.
Alison: It often starts with a need. I usually have a purpose in creating, whether it’s to keep my kids entertained, document memories, or celebrate an event.
When it comes to writing or storytelling with video or photos,
my process involves loads of self-editing.
I think of it like a puzzle and I just need to figure out
the best way to piece the story together.
There’s a lot of cutting and pasting. With any sort of crafting, with or without kids, it’s often on the fly. I have collected lots of craft supplies over the years so I use what I have (or risk getting hopelessly sidetracked at Michael’s) and do it when the mood strikes. Otherwise it’s never going to happen. I find that deadlines are the best motivation.
How do you bring creativity into your daily life?
Alison: I keep a paper planner rather than digital because I get such joy from the physical act of writing. It feels like a small act of creativity each time I use it. I switched to a bullet journal style this past year (a blank grid-lined notebook). I draw in the lines of the days and weeks and get to have some fun with colors and lettering (although mine is not at all fancy like the ones you see on Instagram).
I’ve always been one to carry my camera in my purse (before smartphones made it ultra-convenient) and enjoy documenting everyday moments. If there’s time to think about composition or lighting, I try to do that. Social media is a fun place to share beautiful moments captured in a beautiful way. I’ve also been known to Snapchat a how-to process on a whim, just because. I consider that a raw form of journalism.
Any tips for others who want to create?
You just need to do it or you’re never going to do it.
So start right now, or schedule it into your coming week.
If you’re doing it just for personal enjoyment,
then just have fun without worrying about how good it is.
I think this way about painting—it’s fun and I enjoy the process but I am not hoping to hang it on my walls so I don’t worry about the fact that I’m inexperienced and not very skilled.
If you want to hone your skills, though,
start by immersing yourself in the craft.
For example, if you want to write, read a lot of really good writing.
But also practice, and solicit feedback from someone who’s good at it.
Take every opportunity to learn,
whether it’s a class or an article online.
Experience is the only way to improve,
but studying can speed up that improvement.
At the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Alison wrote about food, drinks, DIY crafts, parties, and home decor. Find some of her work here.
A sampling of what you’ll find:
9 summer DIY projects for kids
Five-ingredient fixes for mealtime
Dress your summer salads with simple, homemade dressings
16 kitchen skills I learned in my 20s
How to collect art for your home
Floral arrangement recipes help create feasts for the eyes
Storing food in freezer is both art and science
Writing with a flourish: Calligraphy and hand lettering making a comeback
For more ideas, plus glimpses of family life, check out Alison’s website and blog: alisherwood.com.
Inspired? Tell me how!
P.S. Next time: Alison Sherwood, Part 2–She says YES to the Mess & Mayhem, and engages her kids in the PROCESS . . .
12 thoughts on “Alison Sherwood, Part 1: Memory Maker, Memory Finder, & Memory Keeper”
Yes, paper planners are the BEST!
Alison seems like a great resource for inspiration–and school PTA groups will adore her 😉
Reading about your passion helps to develop and improve it, for sure. I love cooking/baking, and I adore cookbooks. A good cookbook inspires you to practice techniques, develop deep and rich flavors, try new ingredients… and pictures in cookbooks are so important, as they tantalize you with the beauty of food. This then encourages you to open your table to others, to share your creations. Our passions in life are meant to be shared with others! Thanks, Alison, for sharing yours with us!
You’re spot on: “Our passions in life are meant to be shared with others!” And I’m so grateful for people like you who have the passion for cookbooks, cooking, and sharing food!
The best part of creativity is when I see how people enjoy the creator’s work, whether that be a painting (thank you dear brother-in-law for your painting of President Obama), cooking new dishes (particularly when I try a new Cuban recipe on my Cuban wife), or the beautiful greeting cards I receive for birthdays and Christmas time (thank you Mom, sister Nancy, and sister-in-law Carmen). And of course, the creativity of this blog and those who respond to it is awesome, or should I say, admirable!!!
How fun to have so many creative people in your life sharing the fruit of their labors–and that you enjoy experimenting with new Cuban recipes!
I love the positive attitude of Alison, and believe that there is a direct correlation between those who live to create and happiness levels. I think creation is an inalienable trait of humankind, and gives sound evidence to the claim that we are created in the image of God, who is, among everything, a Creator.
I find that cooking, especially, relieves stress, and turns a rough day into an exciting and fulfilling one. The best part about this art form is that you get to eat it!
Someone, somewhere has probably done a graduate study on the correlation of happiness and utilizing one’s creativity–to prove this very point! I believe you’re right. We are meant to imagine and create, and to enjoy the beauty of it. That starts with reveling in God’s magnificent creation and extends to our own endeavors–which includes eating, in some cases!
“I find that deadlines are the best motivation.”
What lovely things Alison has made, and executed so beautifully!
Artists really make the world a more beautiful place.