January 2018 Hedge a gram

Happy January

     Happy January! I hope you like my monthly Hedge a grams. Besides random thoughts, I like to report on my artistic work every month, and I call it a Hedge-a-gram.  When I was quite young I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator, and I would have loved to be connected to someone who was.  Because it is the New Year I would like to add a personal reflection on a new beginning as well.
I was lucky to have parents that encouraged using our imaginations. When I say, “our” I mean myself and my two younger sisters. My mother was a preschool teacher and was very wise about the lives of young children. When we were in high school she went back to a Junior College to take more courses in childhood education.   She went to a junior college that was in a small town nearby.  The teachers there were top rate and had great expectations. Seeing my Mom go back to school and be so invigorated made a lasting impression on me.  Children always fascinated my mother and her basic rules for us meant we should be reading, playing games, drawing, or being outside. We could have two TV shows only on Saturday morning. In those days we could safely ride our bikes all over our town and explore the woods and fields. There were trails all through some of the larger undeveloped tracts of land, and I often wonder who made them and used them. I became a children’s book author and illustrator, and my youngest sister did too, Jeannie Brett. My sister Sophie became an amazing 6th grade teacher, and now a Speech Pathologist.  I am happy to say my Mom lived to see my sister follow in her footsteps and the other two of us be involved creating children’s books, her two great interests.
Once in a while events happen that coincide in a unique and productive way. This chain of events began around New Year’s and I want to write about it. My husband, Joe and I traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico to see his son and their family. Because they have four children and have no free bedroom, we stay at a resort nearby, called Tamara Hyatt Regency. This hotel is part of the Santa Ana Pueblo and is very beautiful. There are trails through a Cottonwood woods that open up to the Rio Grande, and a beautiful stable in the shadow of a mesa sacred to the Tamayame people. This stable is very well cared for, and the rehabilitated rescue horses- at least 60 head, are like a who’s who of the horse world. Gorgeous Belgiums, Haflinger, Mustang, Paso Fino, a Shetland pony, and more than you can count Quarter Horses in all their gorgeous color combinations live in this beautiful place of sage and grasses. In the hotel, many of the staff are Native Americans and the decorations in the rooms and public spaces are traditional textiles, pottery and Native American painting. In our room we had a pottery bowl with a beautiful chicken in black and terra cotta red on cream background. As if that were not enough there was a beautiful horse and warrior painting in the traditional style. Along with the hedgehog and horse, chickens are a favorite of mine! For a few hours on weekends a Navaho silver artist named Michael visits the lodge and sells his jewelry. He also brings his tools and shows how he works. Last year I wanted to buy a piece, but he was thoughtfully explaining his process to another guest. This year I was lucky and bought a Eagle feather bracelet, because I want it to remind me of my chickens, they both have feathers after all. Another bracelet caught my eye, called a prayer bracelet. On the sides you can see motifs of mountains and grasses in three groups. Michael told me that the tradition was to face sunrise and say the prayer, again when the sun is at its highest, and one more time as the sun sets.

hedge a gram bracelet

This is an excerpt from the prayer, which I got from the Internet.  One starts facing east and turns clockwise to the south, west, north and back to east again.

In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again

When I got home, I woke up and faced the sunrise, but since it was 5 degrees I did it from my upstairs window. I noticed all around that window frost flowers had formed in beautiful patterns. Then I went off to check on my chickens and pack for a road trip to Vermont to meet my daughter and her family for skiing. Just before leaving I snapped a photo of the frost patterns. When I got home I painted them in on the book jacket of THE SNOWY NAP.  The frost flowers were just the touch it needed.

For the book from Jan

I really love to stop and think about beauty three times a day in a purposeful way. It really nourishes me and I get energy from it. The web has some very beautiful Navaho and Native American prayers on it. When I went back down to buy my second bracelet from Michael I showed him an article I had just read in Outside magazine about a Navaho track coach who organizes a 55k race in Arizona’s Canyon De Chelly. The special thing about this long distance race is that the singlet you wear in order to be in the race enables you to follow the course through sacred land, a beautiful canyon. It turns out that Michael, even though he lives in Albuquerque now, went to that same high school.  The race is a little too long for me, but I got a good start on my training by running a 9 miler in my old town next door where I grew up on New Years day. It was 12 degrees but I was warm as toast with all my layers.
I am late, late, late with getting in the finishes for THE SNOWY NAP, but I am revitalized and very happy with my new work, especially the frost flowers!
I love that the New Year means new beginnings, and I wish you all the best in 2018 and a fresh start and renewed energy in your creative life.
Happy New Year,

Jan Brett


  1. #1 by Nancy Lorenson Cook on January 5, 2018 - 3:21 am

    My third grade class in Littlestown, PA has been reading and responding to your books during the month of December.
    We are mailing a packet of letters after reviewing how to write a letter and then reading one or more of your selections.
    Having grown up in New England and having Scandinavian relatives makes me love your books even more every time I reread them. When I read Christmas Trolls and shared my Dala horse with the class, they experienced such awe and joy. Thank you so much!! Hope you enjoy the letters.

  2. #2 by Donna Orth on February 14, 2018 - 7:50 pm

    Hi Jan. We are about the same age and I grew up in Massachusetts and spent my early adult life in New Hampshire. I’m in California now but I miss New England terribly. It has a personality that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. I’m a graphic artist and I went to New England School of art in the 70’s. So, I dabble with painting and most recently watercolors. I’m wondering what paper you recommend and what weight. Also, what paints do you use. Thanks. I love, love, love your artwork. It brings out the kid in me.

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