Last year's theme for Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque was CAP - Create, Amaze, Play.

Theme For a Year: Embrace the Question

Like many people, I review the year just completed and plan for the upcoming new one during December. I’ve experimented with all manner of goals, templates and worksheets to produce them. Initially, I wrote my goals in longhand, describing the next year in terms of acquisitions and achievements. Then, I began a series of vision boards on which collages represented ideals. Eventually I moved to themes, a word or phrase to encompass everything about the year ahead.

My first three dimensional theme celebrated my joy of beading. Instead of discussing the theme, I wrote about the luck of perfect timing

Shine, a mixed media project, was Mary Ellen Beads' theme for one year.
©2016, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Theme for a Year, Shine

Next, I got even more specific, and, in the writing of words, opened all kinds of possibilities:

Soul Self was the mixed media theme for a year for Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.
©2016, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Theme for a Year, Soul Self

In 2015 I went wild with both words and textures.

Last year's theme for Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque was CAP - Create, Amaze, Play.
©2016, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Theme for a Year, CAP-Create, Amaze, Play

To no one’s surprise, I developed an e-book to go with my theme and even considered guiding people in one creative project per month as a part of “Ceremonies of Clarification.”

From today’s viewpoint, I realize we only teach what we truly wish to learn. If you’re on the fence, reluctant to put your theme into words, consider this, the three big benefits of Theme for a Year:

1. Focus. Picking your word could be likened to sharpening an image in photography. Think about tapping the picture within your lens in order to clarifying it. When you choose your word, you direct your thinking to the core of your message for the year.

2. Intention. Your theme for a year gives purpose to your projects and undertakings. As an umbrella shields, your word guides thoughts, deeds and actions. It facilitates decision making. In a word, you set the tone for all you do. For example, the word gratitude sets a direction that can cause one to evaluate positively.

3. Repetition. Creating a visual representation of your world gives you a reminder of your focus and intention. “Remember, whatever you focus upon, increases…When you focus on the things you need, you’ll find those needs increasing. If you concentrate your thoughts on what you don’t have, you will soon be concentrating on other things that you had forgotten you don’t have-and feel worse! If you set your mind on loss, you are more likely to lose…But a grateful perspective brings happiness and abundance into a person’s life.”― Andy Andrews, The Noticer: Sometimes, All a Person Needs Is a Little Perspective

This year’s theme arrived unexpectedly in October: heART Mentor. The words evoke an image of beauty, the combination of making art and heart-centeredness, hence the ART portion of the word. HeART mentor encapsulates an attitude honoring love, one which moves beyond selfishness into rightness of thought, action. A mentors is a teacher, trainer, sage, an advisor, guide and counselor. Hence, my heART mentor is personal, an introspective to reveal truth for me.

The ART in heart blends my joy in creating, adding dimension, substance and new meaning to my vision. As I consider these thoughts, I gather a few of my heart symbols to consider the part they might play in my theme. Keychains, earrings, paperweights and more go into the tray. I’m ready to produce a vision for my theme, but nothing seems to work.

This theme is BIG and visual. Suddenly, I reach for my collection of needle-felted hearts. An idea is forming. I know what I will do.

The very act of needle-felting fuses two separate materials into one. Each free-form heart is felted onto material. I use a 12”x12” canvas as my backdrop and arrange my 3”x4” hearts in rows representative of quarters of the year. Instead of spelling out heART, it will become one large visual, yet another dimension of my theme.

I plan to embellish each heart so they are of interest individually as well as collectively. I use a blanket stitch to outline each rectangle, giving consistency in presentation to the individual pieces.

The engineering problems remain. How will I mount the pieces for a coordinated presentation? The solution will reveal itself. Disclosure: I’m leading the Bead Society through a theme for a year workshop during which my purpose is to catalyze thinking and inspire participants to visually create a theme for the coming year.

The idea of a heart as a visual takes the selection of a word to a different level. Last year I asked, “How can you reinvent yourself?” What I discovered: sharing themes encourages others to take a position.

So, I’m sharing again this year. Here’s my question: What will you stand for? How will you shape your world? What is your theme for 2017?

This collage represents a theme for a year for Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque: heARTmentor.
©2016, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Theme for a Year, “heART mentor”
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