Beth Markel

Word Herding

Posted on January 7, 2014 by Beth Markel

Last year I spent time every single day looking for inspiration…and FINDING it!  I was often shocked at the number of small, ordinary objects which could inspire me – for their color, the line of the bottle they were in, the shape and visual texture which was eye candy/produce in the local markets.  There are so many inspirational things around us every day, if we would only look!  I would encourage you to LOOK this year, and begin documenting what inspires you.

Next I want to introduce an idea that took root a couple of months ago, which I did not act upon until this New Year began.  If you are not familiar with ‘word herding’ let me enlighten you.  We’ve all been in situations which were tedious (read: poly-science class) or uncomfortable (read: Christmas work party where people really shouldn’t drink to excess) and we’ve just sort of tuned out.  This happened quite a few times while Christmas shopping last month – the crowds were boisterous but cranky, young children were whiney, teens by the droves just walking in groups but all texting instead of talking.  Weird.  Anyway, you begin to just listen to words that jump out at you, and jot them down.  There doesn’t have to be a rhyme or reason to what tickles your ear, just quickly write down what jumps out at you.  At the end of the day, or class, or shopping excursion, start to put those words into a notebook, folder, or word document.  There are people who simply write poetry with those words, like haiku, or begin to transfer those words onto fabric.  I’ve done both, now, and begun incorporating these word patterns into my art journal.  With no agenda, and no goal, freedom to express yourself just skyrockets!

The next idea I want to encourage you to try is small quilts or journal pages using these words.  Quilt with fabric, lace, silk-screening, 100% cotton, papyrus paper, greeting cards, etc., and USE whatever inspires you.  Start small, explore your surroundings, get creative.

So here’s where I’m starting this year:

Arrival of an  “egg” box:


An unassuming, little box!

An unassuming, little box!

Filled with wonderment and color:

Cherrywood ChéFAB           Love them!

Cherrywood ChéFAB
Love them!

Yes, I do love those ChéFAB from Cherrywood Fabrics:

Now adding some of the words I have herded Week 1, 2014 – this week:

Desire                        Caring                        Praise                         Celebration

Create                        Solutions                   Devotion                   Engineering

Connection              Surprise                    Problem                      Planning

Success                      Devastation             Crying                         Chill

Homeless                  Death                        Miracle                       Courage


OK, not really certain yet what I’m going to do with all the words, but in reading over the list, I think eventually themes will start to emerge.  Perhaps if my children were not yet grown, the list would be quite different – as the case would also be if I were still a full-time student, or not yet married, or even just on vacation.

I feel a little like the old, old beginning reader:  Stop!  Look!  Listen!

Be inspired – a New Year often means New Beginning,




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