creating like a bowerbird

by | Nov 15, 2021 | Artistic Endeavors, Creative Play, cross stitch patterns | 31 comments

This post may contain affiliate links.

Last year, I was introduced to the bowerbird through Sibella Court’s book The Life of a Bowerbird.   It’s a gorgeous book about creating beautiful interiors with collected items.  As someone who loves collecting, hunting, pecking, and curating, that book was right up my alley.  But, I recently did more research on the bowerbird and realized I have more in common with this bird than I knew.  The bowerbird goes beyond collection and creating, but collects and creates very specifically.  The satin bowerbird collects and decorates only with things that are a specific shade of blue.  He’ll even go so far as to pick things out of his surrounding area that are colors he doesn’t like (reds and pinks specifically.)  If you’ve read my blog for a while, my de-redding things will have a familiar ring.

In my personal creative time (creative work that isn’t specifically for creating profit but is just to play for the benefit of my own heart), I have been taking a class called The Magpie’s Nest by Aimee Bishop on Jeanne Oliver’s site.  It’s not the kind of art course I would normally take, but I’ve learned that taking classes from people who create work that is very different from my own is a wonderful way to find new inspiration and push my work beyond its current boundaries.  I tend to be tidy and orderly in my creating and Aimee is sloshing tea and dripping wax all over papers and fabrics, just letting things develop.  I was half horrified and half intrigued!  She didn’t get me sloshing, but she did get me working with my hands in new ways and digging through my fabric scraps and paper drawers.

Her class is about creating a book inspired by the rebellious magpie.  As I was starting to gather my items to make my own book, the bowerbird kept coming to mind…collector of blue, creator of very specific sculptural shapes.  I think I’ll make a bowerbird book instead.

So, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sneaking away time here and there to create, collect, and curate.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

Just the process of rummaging through my own stash gets the wheels turning.  A few months ago, I put bags of fabric scraps in the garage to donate, but I found myself reluctant to take them to the thrift store or mail them out to friends who said they would put them to use.  I just had this feeling I wasn’t done with them yet and I would regret my enthusiasm to get rid of things in this case.  Instead, I sorted through them carefully, folded and organized them, and put them in a pretty basket to use when I was ready.  I am so glad I kept them because there were some pieces perfect to use for this project and others.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

I also rummaged through my paper drawer to pick out old pieces of ephemera…

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

Some of them I’ll use and some of them I’ll make copies of.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

Of course, the kitties have been incredibly involved in the process.  They’ve been making sure everything smells okay, testing out the texture, seeing if it might be good to commandeer to use as a cat toy…

calico cat "helping" in the studio | miss mustard seed

I cut the fabrics down to a few different sizes…ones that could be used as book “signatures”, ones that could be sewn onto a page, and then I cut the rest down into rag ribbons.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | vintage linen scraps | miss mustard seed

I ended up with a few neat piles, enough to make several bowerbird books if I wanted to.

Let me insert here that this kind of creating isn’t always easy for me.  I am someone who loves productivity and I don’t exactly see the point of spending time doing work that isn’t for any real purpose.  What will I do with a bowerbird book?  It’s not something to use as decor or to sell.  I have to keep reminding myself that it’s for my own creative growth.  It’s a kind of self-care that makes creating about the process, discovery, curiosity, learning, and not about simply producing something.  Yes, it feels a little pointless, but it also feels deeply worthwhile.  I’ll share some ways this has been helping me grow later in this post.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | fabric scraps | miss mustard seed

Once I had a nice collection, I started creating things.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

I made some “soda can dip pens” out of aluminum cans, duct tape, and old brush handles.  Let me say, this ended up being a favorite project from the online class.  I have some very nice dip pens, so I almost skipped making ones out of aluminum cans, but these make the most interesting marks!

soda can dip pens | miss mustard seed

And then I drew bowerbirds with a deep blue ink and my DIY dip pens.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

I mixed up my own dark blue gesso (instead of white or black) and gessoed some old papers and some canvas fabric…

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

And I did lino printing on fabric and paper…

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | lino printing on linen | miss mustard seed

(You can read more about my lino block cutting & printing HERE.)

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | lino printing on linen | miss mustard seed

I knitted up swatches while I was watching TV in the evening and then added some loose embroidery to them…

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | knit swatches | miss mustard seed

I even made a monogram with yarn on a piece of burlap mounted on paper…

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | needlepoint on burlap | miss mustard seed

I cut and collected, gathered and grouped…

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

I tea-stained new and old papers and baked them in the oven.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

I just played…working with my hands and I’m still unsure of how it will all come together.  But, I know the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

I’m excited about starting to put my pages together to see how my bowerbird book turns out.  With all of these beautiful items, it can’t be bad.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

While I think the book will be pretty and perhaps something I reference in the future, I think the real value is in the ripple of ideas that have come from dropping this “pointless” pebble into the creative waters.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

I love the little knit and crochet swatches I made.  How can those become products?

I am in love with the lino prints on linen.  Can I produce some of my own fabric patterns using this method?  Maybe prints, clothing, or papers?

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

And those soda can dip pen creations…I need to play with drawing more shapes and explore what that tool can do in my hands.

creating like a bowerbird | blue and white | ephemera | miss mustard seed

The ripples are seemingly endless and I find myself excited to see how far they will go.

As a little gift to those who might be inspired by this project or even aspects of this project, I scanned the little antique pocket book with cross-stitch monogram patterns to share.  This is a little book that was sent to me by my friend Julia of Ponder & Purchase.

Feel free to download these, print them, and use them for your own projects…

antique pocket cross stitch book & monogram patterns | miss mustard seed


antique pocket cross stitch book & monogram patterns | miss mustard seed

antique pocket cross stitch book & monogram patterns | miss mustard seed

antique pocket cross stitch book & monogram patterns | miss mustard seed

antique pocket cross stitch book & monogram patterns | miss mustard seed

antique pocket cross stitch book & monogram patterns | miss mustard seed


  1. Jennifer W

    Wow! I just love your stash let alone what use you put it to! I see how just playing sure can make some beautiful things! I love your monogram on burlap! The main thing-you are enjoying creative fun time!

  2. Rita

    Looks like a lot of fun. Your distinct color and designs are easy to spot. As a sewer and crafter, I have all kinds of bits and pieces that are hard to part with – antique lace and trims, buttons, emphera, keys, etc. I’ve made a couple of little books myself as part of scrapbooking. Junk journals, tag books, or whatever you want to call them don’t have to have a purpose. It’s the joy of creating them and showcasing all those little bits.

  3. Linda Sharp

    Thank you! Your continued efforts to expand and grow–not just for a profit, but also for yourself–is so inspiring!

  4. Karen Harrison

    I think it will be a beautiful decorative piece so it does have another purpose. What fun!

  5. Janet Tluchak

    I guess I keep coming back to “create from scratch”. I, too. Love to be productive. I so understand “is this pointless.” I am going to strive to see what comes out of compiling all my creative items and be inspired by what comes out.

  6. judith

    I loved reading this. None of it seems pointless to me in the least. I was so inspired seeing the pictures and reading your account of your thought process. What you are doing is soul-fulfilling. Thank you for sharing that with us, Marian.

  7. Ronda

    What a truly wonderful post of self love and creative growth. Thank you for sharing of yourself.

  8. Kidron

    Thanks for the monogram patterns. Now I have something new to try!

  9. Jo

    Pointless, not at all! Just to hold and turn the pages of something beautiful is a gift of relaxing time well spent. The hunting and gathering sounds like an awesome creative journey. Thank you for sharing your cross-stitch monogram patterns.

  10. Teddee Grace

    Very interesting. This bowerbird would be “de-blueing” everything! I really cannot take blue in my environment or, generally, in my clothes unless it has a lot of some other color, brown or green, in it. I feel very comfortable with a soft Palomino yellow and most greens except emerald. It is interesting why we have these visceral feelings about color. This looks like a fun creative process however and I’ll look forward to seeing what you create.

  11. Julie

    Thanks for all the inspiration, Marion! Love all your beautiful “scraps.”❤️

  12. Patricia Kasparian

    I’ll enjoy seeing your book when it’s finished. Perhaps it could be a side- or coffee-table book in your home.

  13. Celia

    What a fun idea! I love it! Like finding simple treasures & keeping them in a special place! Thanks for the ideas!!

  14. Carol

    I am a creature of inspiration, I am so intrigued by this class. It seems to be pulling me into the unknown, but so freeing to my creativity, thank you so much for sharing, not only the class but the downloads also. Let the fun begin!!

  15. Addie

    Can’t wait to see the finished book!!! Pointless??? No way!!! I think it will speak volumes about you. Your grandchildren and great grands will treasure it, just as you treasure all the things from your Opa’s home. It is stirring your creative juices and opening the idea of the ordinary to be seen a different ways. Have fun!!!!
    Oh!!! and maybe it will stop you from buying more furniture for the studio!!!!….haha

  16. Marilynn

    Love all that you do and am always impressed and inspired by your productivity. But am always relieved to remember a guilt freeing article I saw about two types of knitters…process knitters vs product knitters, may have even been on your blog. Let’s include all process creatives vs product creatives. The process can be discovery, therapy , education.I am surrounded by WIP’s abandoned in the excitement of the next projects process. Relax and enjoy it’s ok.

  17. Sally

    I loved this post. Visually it was so pleasing to the soul. I am looking forward to seeing your book completed. Thank you so much for antique cross stitch booklet! I have it printed and can’t wait to cross stitch my monogram onto a vintage tea towel.
    You always inspire all of us!

  18. Kristin

    This is so lovely and inspiring! We did this type of creative play in art school all of the time, and I miss it. I’m definitely putting the lino kit on my Christmas list. 🙂

  19. Sally

    Also, what is the color number and name of the embroidery floss you used? So beautiful, I may have to copy!

  20. Cynthia Johnson

    I’ll call it Free Play and it’s the journey that will take you to the end point of letting go and letting your hands and heart guide you… it’s creating without constraints ~ Beautiful!

  21. Cheri

    I’m like you in that I always feel I have to create with a purpose/product. All these textures though are so inspiring’

  22. Betsy

    The lino printing on linen is lovely. I made a similar project for a gift. I cut out different size muslin and formed a book, zig zagging it together and then went to town…..old fabric scraps, ribbon, beautiful paper pieces, buttons and more. I also rubber stamped garden quotes with waterproof ink. The recipient was overjoyed.

  23. Valeri Johnson

    I saw that course advertised and thought it was a waste of good resources but then you turned it into something beautiful and meaningful. I love how everything you do is so purposeful and exquisitely executed, even making your own pens.
    I started following your blog years ago and have immensely enjoyed watching your talents grow and grow pursuing excellence all the way.

    My daughter gave me your book for my birthday and I just finished reading it. I don’t usually actually “read” decorating books but rather look at the photos and read the captions but your book is so well written I enjoyed the text as much as the photos. I could sense your genuine desire to help others make a home. Well done!

  24. Marcie Lovett

    So much inspiration! I love the idea of capturing all the gathered stuff. My problem with “junk journals” is that I would never use them, I know I would just keep admiring the pages. Have to remind myself that Marian said I’m feeding my creative soul ? Thank you for the beautiful book download. I was admiring it from the first picture and wondering what it was.

  25. Krista

    So pretty and inspiring! Can’t wait to see your finished book! I also struggle to craft things that don’t have a purpose, but I’m also drawn to fabric, linen, buttons and paper bits and pieces. I’ve wanted to take that class on Jeanne Oliver’s site. Seeing your work has inspired me to sign up for it in the new year. I love to journal and it’s helped me through some very sad and challenging times in my life, but I often feel it’s a waste of time, figuring no one in the future will be interested in my words and thoughts, but maybe it’s really just about what it means to me and not to the family that will read them in the future.

  26. Sharon Maybaum

    This entire post is unbelievably lovely! Blue is my favorite color and you have put together a stunning collection. I love the idea of just playing with your stash and making itmes for the joy of creation. Following you makes me think more creatively, thank you!

  27. Wendy Christensen

    If your crochet swatches were made more rectangular, then add a loop and a button and it becomes a cozy wrap for a cup of coffee or hot cider. They could also be lined with simple fabric, stitched into a pouch and filled with dried lavender to be sachet. Thanks for your inspiration!

  28. Suzanne M Benner

    If you look up junk journals on Pinterest…you will be amazed.

  29. Max

    My friend had a bowerbird bower in his garden. One day he found one of the old blue $10 notes in it!

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, I love that! I’ve seen some videos of bowerbirds collecting things for their nest and it’s just fascinating!

  30. Dionne Street

    Oh what fun! Thank you for sharing. One of my favorite children’s authors and illustrators is Lois Ehlert. She has a book called The Scraps Book. Have you read it? I think you would love it!


Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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