Life lesson: Finding meaning vs. making meaning

simply, the active, daily practice of choosing with intention, where we place our attention and invest our time


Today I was listening to a talk (How to Create Fearlessly) by creativity coach Eric Maisel. He said something that really got my attention. He was talking about the difference between “searching for meaning” and “making meaning” in our lives.

The difference is that in the former, we are looking outside of ourselves for something that might bring a sense of intellectual understanding. The latter, puts the responsibility directly on us, to examine our daily choices, and actively choose things that provide meaning.

He suggests making a personal list (menu) of meaningful things upon which to draw from, to ensure that we’re creating the meaningful life we desire.

For each of us, our lists will look different. The idea is to become conscious of our daily choices and recognize that choosing to talk on the phone with a good friend might provide a more meaningful experience than scrolling through social media or clicking through headlines promising 100 ways to become thin, attractive and rich.

I plainly realized that all of my life I’ve been searching for meaning. Although I’ve encountered mountains of collective wisdom, none of that will make my life as meaningful as the simple daily practice of choosing with intention, where I place my attention and invest my time.

I love that we can learn from each other. By sharing stories like these, I hope that a ripple of goodness will extend from me to you and beyond.

"Igniting Flight" painting included in Art2Life Online Exhibit

I’m excited to share that one of my paintings was included in Nick Wilton’s, 1st annual Art2Life Academy online exhibition. It was a wonderful opportunity, as it was juried by Donna Seager of Seager Gray Gallery in Marin, California. 

Igniting Flight 24’x24” 2018 mixed media on wood panel

Igniting Flight 24’x24” 2018 mixed media on wood panel

This year I took Nicholas Wilton’s Art2Life 12 week intensive Creative Visionary Program, which moved me (and my work), forward in so many ways! Including…

- setting up a a productive studio environment,

- optimizing a positive, playful, exploratory mindset

- how to trouble shoot after getting stuck 

- learning to utilize the power of Value, Design + Color to make stronger work

- the opportunity to engage with an artistic community from around the world

- along with a multitude of other resources and tips for artists!!

To view the online exhibit, click here.

Handmade Brushes Using Natural Materials: connecting with my natural environment

Inspired by Australian artist Lorna Crane, I made some handmade brushes with materials I foraged from the forest.

This was such a fun project! It felt so free, where there were no rules and no way to get it wrong.

8 Reasons I wanted to try this

✔️ it disrupts habitual marks (introducing surprise)

✔️ it provides unique marks (not store bought)

✔️ it’s fun (and that’s good for the soul) 

✔️ it connects me to the land where I live (❤️Montana)

✔️ it links me to the artists/people who came Long before me (before brushes were manufactured)

✔️ its resourceful (and I like that)

✔️ it’s also like cross training for an athlete (exercising alternate muscles, enhances performance in their main sport)

✔️ it was a good way to practice some storytelling and learn how to create videos

Art Donation : Glacier Conservancy 2018 Backpacker's Ball Fundraiser

Supporting one of my favorite places - Glacier National Park.


The Backpacker’s Ball is an annual fundraiser for the Glacier Conservancy.  Its purpose is to raise needed funds for Glacier National Park. These funds are essential for conservation, and interpretation programs, ensuring that it can continue to preserve and share this precious place with nature lovers from around the world.

I've donated "Strata no.4"  11" x 14" collage on paper for the event auction.

©Heidi Marie Faessel - 2017  "Strata no.4"  11'14" collage on paper (paint, fabric, thread, graphite, and ink)

©Heidi Marie Faessel - 2017 "Strata no.4" 11'14" collage on paper (paint, fabric, thread, graphite, and ink)

©Heidi Marie Faessel  "Strata no.4"  Detail

©Heidi Marie Faessel "Strata no.4" Detail

Summer Studio Update: Re-adjusting my navigation system

Sometimes, getting a little new data from the outside world a can help to re-adjust your navigation system.

This Spring, I took a very beneficial course that set me on a fresh path. I now see my work is heading into new territory, and I’m thrilled.

The wonderful 12 week course is called the Art2Life Creative Visionary Program, with California artist Nicholas Wilton. It's a painting course that didn’t teach what, or how to paint. Instead, it focused on what makes strong work - the kind that will draw you across a large room in order to see it more closely. 

Mainly, it targeted the elements that prove to be powerful in art....value relationships, design- or the way your eye moves through a piece- and the importance of having differences. 

Prior to the course, I’d been working primarily in collage and fiber. Ultimately, I felt that without being comfortable with direct painting, I would be holding myself back somehow. 

As a lifelong learner, I firmly believe in the power of injecting new information into my environment and thinking. The program helped to push my work forward, adjusted my course, and established a new groove in my skill set.

Here are 6 new 12"x 12" pieces I just finished.

For me they are seeds, forecasting what’s to come.

Capturing the Energy of Spring: using an inspiration board as a studio tool.

Each Spring when the snow melts here in Northwest Montana, I feel unusually sensitive to the energy surging through our landscape. As an artist, this season is especially powerful for me. It always provides a rich source of inspiration, as everything seems to be in a frenzy of growth. This year, I created an inspiration board in an attempt to visually capture that life force energy.


The inspiration board rests in my studio space. Although I have not been working directly from the board, it has acted as a guide these past months while I’ve been painting. When the creative path leads me away on different tangents, I return to it, and I’m reminded of it’s original and powerful source of inspiration.

The elements on the board, although ordinary, act as visual reminders for me of how mysterious life really is. From the larger planetary forces at work to the tiniest cellular organisms, it’s the magic that keeps it all going, that I’m inspired by. It is this feeling of awe, that I am attempting to channel into my current work. 

What is the purpose of being an artist? I think it is to highlight things and ideas, that others might overlook, or re-frame things so that they can be experienced in a different way.

In this case, to see the ordinary, as extraordinary.

Using fabric in my abstract art: how fiber communicates meaning

fabric holds energy and fabric holds memory

I love working with fabric/fiber - the tactility, the fact that fabric holds memory,  and that it holds energy. Also, there’s a powerful association with our bodies - the fact that from our birth, until our death, fabric is the closest thing that touches us - It’s intimate; it speaks to our security, our comfort - sometimes, even our survival.  

Making art from fabric references can all these can be a powerful way to communicate.




Above/Below: Winter solo exhibit at North Valley Hospital

Contemporary art exploring the territory above and below the surface of life


I had the great pleasure of exhibiting a selection of my 2017 work at North Valley Hospital this Winter. 

The exhibit consisted of 6 collages (incorporating fabric, thread, paint, graphite, and ink) and 6 charcoal and gouache paintings on paper. 

The work explores the idea that we are made up of layers of experience that drive our beliefs and actions.

Similar to the strata of the Earth, I believe we are made up of layers. Although they exist below the surface they influence how we view the world, ourselves and each other. This work explores the idea that our emotional, physical, and psychological experiences shape us and that they unite us in being human.
— Heidi Marie Faessel

I loved having the opportunity to share my work in a healing environment, such as the hospital. It seems that each of us could benefit from some healing. Just being human, we suffer - navigating life with a myriad of feelings, emotions, and perceptions.

Our local paper, the Whitefish Pilot, ran an article about the exhibit. 

Designing a Printed Textile Collection: Start to Finish

This fabric collection is available for purchase by the yard.

Today, I thought I would share the process I went through to design my 2016 original textile collection called "Mountain Meadow".  Since there are usually many ways to accomplish the same goal, I thought it might be informative, and perhaps, helpful to show my approach. 


This is the final collection called " Mountain Meadow", including before and after pillow mock ups.


I started by creating a Pinterest board with natural elements that I found inspiring.

photo credits: top row - Dan Lum Photography, Kardelen Linens, Nicolette Johnson Photography  bottom row - Lifestyle Delight, Lucyina Moodie Photography (middle + last)

photo credits: top row - Dan Lum Photography, Kardelen Linens, Nicolette Johnson Photography

bottom row - Lifestyle Delight, Lucyina Moodie Photography (middle + last)

Next, I found some rooms/environments that set the mood for the collection. 


I collected some drawings from my sketch books and designed a color palette.

After drafting a bunch of ideas, I picked the best ones for the final collection.


After selecting the final designs, I crafted them into repeating patterns.


Lastly, I made pillow and wallpaper mock-ups to illustrate how the patterns would look on products.

Digitally printed swatches

Digitally printed swatches

How to: creating digital designs from hand painted papers

Here is an example combining hand painted paper and digital technology to create a series of colorful, organic pattern rich designs.

hand painted papers

hand painted papers

hand painted papers

hand painted papers

hand painted papers

hand painted papers

thumbnail sketches

thumbnail sketches

Using photoshop, I reconfigured the elements on the hand painted papers into new designs.

Final digital collages. Organic, colorful design using the magic of technology.


Fabric Collage Art - Modern storytelling with personal fabric

I keep a lot of things around that I should probably throw out. It's just that my brain immediately asks, "can you use repurpose this into something else?" Perhaps it comes from all the time that I spent with my Grandmother growing up. She lived through the Depression and was very clever about finding uses for things that would normally end up in the trash. 

This collection of modern, geometric collage art was born from bits and pieces of fabric that my family and I used at some point. Denim from jeans, cotton sheeting and felt from old craft projects.