11 months ago


There she goes with that click-bait title again.  

I have been dying to share a number of things that’ve been going on over here- and coming from an oversharer, you’ve got to know it’s taken a lot of self control.  

Guys, my family and I got to participate in a short film, created by some very gifted individuals, with a beautiful vision.

Here is the link to that film, at long last: http://thecatholicwoman.co/letterstowomen/2017/3/8/from-carolyn

(All images courtesy of The Catholic Woman)

Here’s a bit more about my story, if you’re interested:
Late last summer, Corynne Staresinic from The Catholic Woman contacted me about a project she was working on; which is to show the world the many diverse faces of the modern catholic woman.  From her website, she says, “Good or bad, right or wrong, many of us have a very vivid idea of who the Catholic woman is.”

If you’d had asked me when I was 20 years old what pops into my head when I hear someone say “the Catholic woman”, I would have probably described a scrupulous, lifeless Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe.

When I was 20, I was struggling with my faith and with what I felt called to do as my vocation.  I didn’t want to get married and absolutely swore never, ever to have even one child.   ….har, har, har, har.

From my experience, when you get married and have kids, you basically throw away your time and talents so that you can wipe bums and feed people all day.  At that time, I did not see how my own mother had turned her gifts into a tool to use to raise my sister, brother, and I. I did not see how she’d handed her skills and talents, time and treasures over to us; how she and my dad raised three more people up in the world with love and goodness, as best as they could, with the prayer that we would leave the world a better place.
  All I could see is that taking care of selfish little kids was a lot of work, a lot of worry, a lot of sacrifice, and no payoff. I didn’t fully understand the Catholic belief of being open to life, and the view of how far reaching a single human life resounds globally and eternally.  

I also struggled with art as my vocation. I knew it was something I’d always do, but as a college student, I didn’t like what I was seeing. 

First of all, I struggled with artistic vanity: the desire for praise and applause.  I saw that my peers had it too, in varying degrees.  Some of us were more skilled and arrogant, some of us were not as skilled, and jealous, others of us were very skilled and still jealous. I didn’t like that part because an unskilled artist is just as human as the skilled one. I’ve seen life like drawings completed out of a perverse ambition to disturb a viewer, and I’ve seen work that while given valiant effort, did not produce the artist’s original and beautiful intent.  I’ve seen how people react– and it always produced a strange worship of the artist.  I see that amplified in culture so deeply today.  Hollywood stars are basically the secular world’s gods and goddesses.  They create something, perform something, maybe shocking, maybe beautiful, and we are obsessed with them.  They’re artists, not gods.

In art school, there was a lot of separation of art from why an artist feels called to beauty– a lot of separation from beauty in general, and instead, a reverence for using art to shock viewers with the artist’s personal prejudices about certain subjects.  In short, I encountered a lot of prejudice against Catholicism.  I remember having a heated discussion during studio in which the person I was talking to only had his own perceptions of what Catholicism is, and from those perceptions, Catholicism seemed truly awful.  But they were so misguided, and misguided by the very people who were educating us that I felt totally defeated.  How can art school engrain perceptions of Catholicism into its students? Aren’t they teaching art? What does art have to do with religion? 

All good questions!  Institutions have thought of these questions and decided to teach us varying historically cherry-picked versions, or at least the worst parts, all skewed in the manner that while many of history’s masterpieces were created out of a “need for” religion, it’s time to shake those old, antiquated chains, now isn’t it?  Let’s dip that Crucifix into a jar of urine and sit back and watch how all the world gazes at the ethereal golden image in awe. 
Additionally, as a woman who was struggling to see her place in the world, I did not see how unless I was going to be painting grand masterpieces on church ceilings, I would ever be able to contribute my fractional talents to any ideal of beauty in the world.  I struggled with thinking that the desire for affirmation attached to creating might be a sinful thing, and therefore my artistic abilities might have to be one of those things where I was supposed to “go to my inner room and close the door, not to boast.” 

In that year a lot happened. 

 John Paul the Great died. I didn’t really know much about the guy, other than he was an old priest who must have been so far removed from real life, living in that shining Vatican City surrounded by those costumed guards that he could not possibly identify with a young female artist. 

WRONG. Ah! So wrong!

The day he died, my Dad called me.  I’d finished my wild freshman year of college, opted to live my second year in an all-girls dorm on the designated “quiet floor.”

“Did you know anything about Karol Wojtyla?” He asked me.  “Not really…” I mumbled, looking out my window at the stormy spring sky.  

My dad, who could have been a history teacher, proceeded to enlighten me about John Paul II’s life previous to becoming a Pope.  I was blown away. 

After the conversation, I sat down in front of my laptop.  The lights were off, and it was raining heavy outside. I found myself reading through various papal encyclicals written by John Paul II on the Vatican website.  My heart stopped as my eyes landed on something:



The opening of his letter broke my heart open. He knew that creative yearning only an artist experiences.  He knew it, and he was a Pope.  I read the entire thing in waves of tears as he took me through biblical and historical reasons for the significance of art in the world, and in the church.  The spiritual spark was lit in me that day.  I suddenly knew that the theories they were teaching me in school didn’t matter, and the teacher’s opinions didn’t matter, and the struggle with vanity and seeking affirmation might always be present, but with a constant offering of glory to God, the first artist, that will be quelled, and filled instead with love and humility. 

He also helped me to see that life itself is a work of art, which we are each called to craft a masterpiece.

I stepped away for a while, from art. I met that insufferable Craig Svellinger, and you know the story. 

After giving birth to Lexington, our first baby, I began a prayer that I will always say as long as I live. It goes like this: 

Lord, show me ways to use my gifts, to do what I love to do, to create art, according to Your will for the world, and for Your ultimate glory.

In many ways, I feel that having the opportunity to participate in The Catholic Woman has been an answer to that prayer I began saying nearly 8 years ago. An answer which I could not have possibly foreseen would have been given to me intertwined with being a wife to a wonderful man, and a mother of four darling boys.
I am so grateful to Corynne for this gift, and hope you will all follow along in her beautiful project

1 year ago

I SAW A SHAWL! {a digital short story, illustrated by C...

***I drove myself to the doctor this morning, with my kids, and got a positive for strep throat. The boys had no idea what was going on and kept asking me “Mom, who is sick?” So that’s fun. I wrote this post out over the weekend, enjoy.***

If you’re not the creative sort, it’s okay because in truth, I am not the creative sort. Ideas don’t come to me easy. I always fall back on using obnoxiously cliche things to practice drawing or lettering.

I bounce around to other projects during my times of creative stagnation. I do a lot of knitting or crocheting because it’s easy, it gives my hands something to do instead of sitting there going “What should I draw?”.  I’m supposed to say I give my hands work by folding laundry and washing dishes, or cleaning my husband’s beard trimmings from around the bathroom sink, but for some reason, I’m still immature and all that rot.

Creating relieves stress, cleaning piles it on.  Creating is a stolen sanctuary in a busy day, cleaning is the Barney song that never ends. The purple dinosaur, Barney. …I actually just drew a complete blank on what the Barney song sounds like because I’m delirious and have strep throat. Help. -No, wait. Don’t help, I don’t want to know, because tomorrow, now that I’ve written this, I’ll be going about, wincing as I swallow with my enormous, sick tonsils, scrubbing the dishes, and I’ll think of this paragraph and if you’ve helped me remember the song, then it’ll get going in my head and I’m already cleaning, and cleaning IS the never ending Barney song, and on top of that I’m sick, so it’s Hell thrice over! NO!

ANYWAY. I started knitting my first shawl in December.  Picking a variegated color palette always results in decorative war and tragedy, so I chose a safe, slightly heathered, Thicket Green.

It occurred to me sometime around Christmas that I’d never raked Instagram to find fellow knitters for inspiration.  Lo and behold, there is quite a posse there, and little did I know there exists some very cool yarn makers who sell the loveliest yarns, in the loveliest colors. And then, a small creative inkling hit me, and I went back to my drawing board. Literally. And digitally.

I now present my first digital illustration/story:



By C. Svellinger


As you know, I started my shawl. But here’s what you might not know so much about my personality. When I have something I want to do for the first time, I Pinterest, and Google, and YouTube, and Skillshare that thing to find out every way it can be made.  I go ahead and learn how to top-down knit a shawl just in case I decide that’s how I want to do it so that I’m already familiar with it when I actually begin. But I decide against it. I screenshot colors and toss them together in a random app to see how they look laying together and I confirm that still, no, I am not good at making colors friends, even though that group seemed like it should make total sense! And then, sometimes I get sidetracked and learn how to knit socks because after this I want to learn to knit socks and it helps if I’m already a little familiar with the process.

Yeah, she’s a funny bird.

So, there I am, after my extensive shawl recon,  beginning to knit with cozy thoughts of wrapping myself in this carefully planned masterpiece during these cold months. Basically, it was going to be my adult lovey. I chose what I thought was a lovely deep green, fingering weight, Pima cotton yarn. Like, boy, hi. This was gonna be the best little thing ever.
That’s when I got on Instagram to look for inspiration.

And I realized there’s this, like, wave of trendy knitters. Which is very cool. Truly it is! Like: you, also, like to sit and let your anxieties flush out of you in repetitive finger movements, to the small clicking of two needles, mostly in silence? YES. Come. Let us sit in the same room and not really talk much, and we can knit our lovies and we can be friends, and sit separately in our coziness.

So that’s a fun discovery. But then I saw it.  Down the cushy hole of the Instagram knitting thread, I SAW A SHAWL: the one I would have picked to make, had I seen it 200 rows ago. T’was a goddess of a shawl, and beams shot out from its stitches, and its asymmetrical elegance gave a lofty hair-tossing when it caught my eye.

It was VERY MUCH cooler than my poopy thicket green shawl I’d been garter-knitting my brains off. I looked at my work and now, it felt like I was making something a peasant would only begrudgingly choose from the basket’s bottom when all the other shawls were taken.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 10 years that I would go back and tell my ridiculous 22 year old self, it is this:

Follow through. Finish it. You’ll only regret the unfinished.

Don’t wait for it to be perfect before you start because it never will be, and then you never will, and then you’ll be standing there 10 years later wondering WHAT in the world you were actually fussing over that kept you from just finishing it. Stop over analyzing and trying to learn all the things before picking the most rational route, just start, and then, DO THE TASK AT HAND.

So in my case, in this instance, I MUST. FINISH. my Thicket Green shawl, and I will love it because I’ll actually have something to show for it.

Plus, I paid $40 for the yarn.


Goddess shawl, I see you, and one day, I’ll try my hand at you. But not this day, lass.

I don’t know where that turned Irish, but there it is. Bye.

**PS. If you’re interested, the goddess shawl is actually called the Find Your Fade Shawl by Andrea Mowry.  Here’s her pattern on Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/find-your-fade It’s so lovely!

2 years ago

In case u didn’t read

…to the bottom of my last post…
Here’s the name of my Etsy shop coming up in the super near future:

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

And because today is the feast of the Archangels (it may be 8pm, but by golly, it’s still today.), and because this is one of my favorite prayers, and because I’ve wanted to do this f o r e v e r, here’s a free PDF digital print of something you should expect to see me selling from Brass & Mint co.:

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

CLICK HERE to download a high quality PDF


Click HERE for the iPhone Wallpaper version

You’re welc!

3 years ago

Our LEGO visit!

DJ be playin’ my jam all day. Property of Carolyn Svellinger

I am too excited LEGO asked me to write about their Americana Roadshow this summer.*
First of all, I didn’t know they did coolness like this, so I’m happy to pass the cool onward.
Second of all, I am the mother of 4 boys. Do I need to say anything else? No. I do not. But I will.

Third of all, give me a creative way to teach my people in a way they don’t suspect they are being taught to, and we are a happy people. I’m kidding, my boys love learning. But they have itty bitty attention spans and their eyes start darting when I get 5 words into a sentence, so. Yes.

LEGOs + art + architecture + American history = a great learning opportunity. A great experience.

Lucky for me and mine, LEGO Americana Roadshow came to the Kenwood Towne Centre this month (they’re still there!) and we went last weekend.
The photo evidence I promised you? You bet.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

Trot. Trot. Trot.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

property of Carolyn Svellinger

My boys –Yes, we conquered the Kenwood mall without a stroller(!)– delighted in their range-free hunt for each large scale replica made completely out of Lego blocks.  They were tickled to find extra creations scattered throughout the mall in display cases which depicted artistic scenes containing their favorite well-known characters.  We spotted The Simpsons (pictured below. Can you see Bart? How about Maggie?), Star Wars characters, Wyldstyle, The Hulk, Batman, Princess Unikitty, and even some micromanagers.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

Craig wondered whether the Masterbuilders who built the Liberty Bell used enough Kragle to keep it together from the excited fingers of my children, and we had great fun discovering how long it took them to build each replica.

property of Carolyn Svellinger


I’ve seen these monuments of America in person, multiple times in my life, but my boys have yet to do so. It was wonderful to witness their amazement at the diligence of the Masterbuilders, that these places really exist in America, and to learn what these places mean for Americans.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

property of Carolyn Svellinger

What’s exciting for me as a mother, and duly as an artist, is to see my oldest son looking in admiration at how someone used his favorite medium, and then to watch him when we got home go to work on his Legos with a mind more open and inspired.
I love that stuff. It’s what better artists and learners are made of.

property of Carolyn Svellinger

property of Carolyn Svellinger


Lexington’s faves were The Statue of Liberty and surprisingly, The Old North Church.


If you’re in the area, LEGO Americana Roadshow will be hanging around until the 19th of July (that’s this Sunday).  Highly recommended.  For further details, click on over to the Kenwood website right here.  And to see if LEGO’s coming to see you this year, visit their tour schedule page here.

Kenwood Towne Centre Mall Hours:

  • Monday-Saturday
  • Sunday

*This post is sponsored by LEGO Americana Roadshow.