Friday, January 05, 2024

2023 in review!

It's a tradition on my blog to look back at the end of the year and pick out a few creative highlights! This year was hard, and I struggled to pull this together but I'm glad I did. Hope you enjoy! 

January held several new beginnings! I became a Bead Bag Stitcher for Beads of Courage and over the course of the year was able to make 50 drawstring bags for some courageous kids to store the beads they earned on their medical journeys. I learned about this organization through a stamping friend whose son was encouraged through their mission while he was being treated for leukemia. I'm so happy to be able to support them in this small way!

I also put new knowledge to work and opened a Spoonflower shop with some Winnie the Pooh designs - they can be printed on a number of different fabrics for sewing projects, decor, and more - or you can order premade items for your home! They have some beautiful things.

I spent most of January working on a project for myself - this quilt was made from pieces of batik clothing I had stored since we moved back to the States. It is deeply sentimental to me, and I'm so happy I took the time to design, cut and piece it all - it was a very healing process.


This was my 11th year designing  for Impression Obsession - here was a stencil from February's release of Easter products!


Again on the fabric front, I partnered with a small family business to have some of my own artwork printed on fabric! While the fabrics at Spoonflower are available for purchase worldwide, these panels are for my use on bags and other sewn items! Here are some of the designs I ordered, and a finished bag. 

These have been so much fun to make - I really enjoy the process of picking out fabrics to match each piece, and every bag is unique!  This bag pattern can be tweaked in many different ways. It would be a fun one to make with memory items, like the clothes of a loved one. I'd love to try one of those!


A business goal for this year was to be able to participate in outdoor vendor shows. Here's the setup I came up with - this was shot in the back yard for a preview photo needed for show applications.


In preparation for June's ArtsFest I spent most of May working on this show piece!  If you have followed me for a while you know that I had a drawing of a Bel Air stolen from the Missouri State fairgrounds in 2021 - it took me some time to recover mentally from that loss, so this piece is a triumph in many ways. Ironically, it would look amazing hung next to the stolen piece. This one has several reflections of me in the chrome, which was a fun play into the title, "Self Reflection".

Several years ago I helped to birth an annual arts event in our county... in past years we have partnered with a local nonprofit that does a wine stroll as a fundraiser event, but this year we decided to do a standalone event, Benton County ArtsFest. It was a success with lots of room for growth, and I was so proud to have my name on it. My drawing did well too, which was very affirming!

I mainly spent July recovering from June and preparing for August! I did debut a new collection of Christmas products at Impression Obsession - here's a paper pack that I designed, which has some original art in it! I hope you love creating with it - it coordinates with stencils and stamps in the same release. 

In August I had the honor of being an artist in residence at the Missouri State Fair! I had a station set up in the Fine Art building where I could demo, sell my work, and talk about art to people passing through. It was a lot of fun! I don't have any pictures of me working, but here was my view for the week: 

...and here are some details of the piece I worked on while I was there! I will need to start working to finish it up soon, for this year's show circuit!

In my creative journey, August was also the month I was informed that my position would no longer be needed at Splitcoaststampers. I confess I was feeling pretty burned out, as it was getting difficult to retain and find guest artists for weekly tutorials... but I dearly loved being a part of the admin team and leading the Splitcoaststampers community.  The routine of weekly deadlines also kept me pulling forward when other things in life felt out of control.

You can imagine the loss of that position has left me bewildered. Changes in the crafting industry due to theft of intellectual property and the introduction of AI have been so discouraging that I haven't felt led to look for more work within the industry. I'm really still trying to find a routine with my own business and I'm looking for part time work locally that will allow me to serve my community in some way. 


I spent quite a bit of September traveling with my mom and visiting extended family, but I did schedule in one vendor show locally - here was the debut of a new banner that I'll use for shows where I'm selling mostly upcycled items. I love this branding and it makes more sense to people who don't know what a "Dina Kowal Creative" is!


October was spent creating new art for paper packs, stencils, dies, and stamps! You'll see the first of those on January 15th - I have been playing with them and I'm really pleased with how they all came out! I also worked on a pair of portraits - I slowed down on these in 2023 but will be trying to keep a more steady pace going forward.

My Self Reflections drawing was selected for publication in one of Ann Kullberg's books! She does an annual colored pencil collection that has limited selections with artists' profiles, and this book is the overflow from those entries. If you look closely you can see my drawing on the cover, just under the first E in Treasures!

I added some new artwork for Christmas - I enjoyed watercoloring this guy so much! I definitely need to watercolor more.


I have typically had more custom orders for Christmas gifts, but this year there weren't very many. I was able to squeeze in a couple of portraits that were given as gifts, and did one charm bracelet and 3 pairs of earrings for special Christmas orders. I do have items for sale at Asbury House Gifts in Higginsville, MO - maybe wholesaling to local businesses will be a better angle for 2024!

Here was my final portrait order for 2023: 

What's next? I truly am curious too. I purchased a drawing tablet with my birthday money and I'm looking forward to using that to aid in creating and editing designs where scanning was not working well. I have more fabric designs in the works, and it's actually time to start working on Fall/Winter papers, stamps, dies, and stencils. I am due for a huge purge of craft supplies that are not being used, and need to update my Etsy store. I would like to partner with local businesses and see my products being sold locally. We are beginning planning for this year's ArtsFest, which has potential for so much growth. There will be more vendor shows to apply for. There will hopefully be the opportunity to balance an outside job with my own business, and that will mean more decisions to make. 

As usual, I hope my creative efforts have brought a little comfort and inspiration into your world - I know that I have appreciated your visits and kind words here in this little space of mine, though I haven't been as faithful to blog as in years past! All the best to you in 2024. Thank you for looking back with me!

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  1. have been so productive in 2023! I am so proud of you! All the best for more success and bigger and better things in 2024! Hugs Margot

  2. That really has been a busy year, with your art taking you in different directions.
    There are so many 'thefts' of creative images, and it's so sad to see people using the pirated products... I make a point of not doing that.

  3. What a wonderful review of your creative year!! Wishing you all the best in 2024!