A Fan-Art Thank You for Once Upon A Time

Gratitude Project Presentation: 5 February 2017

It’s hard to believe this has come so far! I am very, very pleased with the outcome and consider the Gratitude Project wildly successful. Please enjoy the video!

While I have no expectation that the bell recipients will ever land on this page, it could happen, so I will address them in the beginning of this article. For everyone, after that are my initial conclusions about this project and some of the nerdy details I just couldn’t stuff into a tiny video. Consider this some bonus material included for those interested. I hope you like it.

Bell Recipients!

If you are here because you were mentioned in the video and I have a bell for you, I am SO glad you’re here!!! Please use the below picture to tell me which bell you want! If you comment here on my blog, I will receive it. I might suggest that you tweet a brief video of yourself saying “I want my bell!” and its number to me (@ponamgaudium). It might be easiest to follow me on Twitter so that we can private message back and forth in order to get it to you. Video chat is also an option so we can both be confident of with whom we are making arrangements.

Please note that my travel abilities and resources are limited so I will want to make only one trip up to Vancouver to deliver these. You are of course always welcome in Seattle and I will happily meet with you if you are passing through. Again, thank you so much for what you’ve done for me. I really can’t say that enough.

Which one is your favorite?
Which one is your favorite?

The Drafts

An illustration of progress from right to left.
An illustration of progress from right to left.

Barbara, what are you going to do with the umpteen drafts sitting on your kitchen counter? Um. Well. I may choose to come to filming sometime this spring with a box of drafts in tow and offer then to whomever is working on set that day. I might do that. I make no promises about the drafts.

I hate that I had to choose who to dedicate the final versions to. It’s too bad these are so hard to make that I can’t make one for everyone who works on Once, but sadly, those are the facts. If you are cast, crew, writer, musician et cetera and you let me know you are interested in one of the drafts, that will increase the likelihood that I bring them to set. If I am unlikely to recognize you, you will need to provide evidence that you actually do work on Once because I am uninterested in wild goose chases or dishonest people who think they are entitled to someone else’s gift. Sorry to be that way, but needs must.

These are offered as is and none of the available drafts has a clapper installed. I have a few spare parts which will go to whomever speaks first, but I make no guarantees about these drafts. Please keep in mind that many of these are obviously broken and may have sharp edges. 

Outcome of the Gratitude Project

The journey through this project has been an amazing one for me. At the outset, I figured it’d take me a quarter to do and that would be that. Not so. I learned so much over the course of the year and suffice it to say, my pottery skills have improved. Emotionally, I find I had little idea what to expect. What I anticipated and what I got are quite distinct. A friend suggested I post a blooper reel to illustrate more fully just how difficult and frustrating this project was. But I got so much joy out of it too and that definitely overshadows the challenges. It’s hard to describe the elation of seeing that the finals had come out of the last firing intact and beautiful after all that work. So worth every moment of, let’s call it non-success. 

I got to spend a year thinking about all the ways Once has impacted my life and the final estimation is rather staggering. I could only mention so much in an itty-bitty video, but I spend a lot of time with the Once community online and have loved every second of my writing about Once and its characters. Though I know I am but a spectator, I feel like I’m a part of the magic.

I have to admit, I have had serious second thoughts about posting this project for all to see. If this is supposed to be about gratitude, why am I so nervous? Why am I afraid of sharing this? It should be alright, right? I sure hope so. This feels like sharing an intimate part of my mind with a whole lot of people and that’s a little daunting. But you’ll all be wonderful and supportive, I’m certain.

I will say that I am proud of how this turned out and proud of myself for seeing this through. If I thought I was grateful to Once before I started this project, I’m even more so now. Because of Once I just learned a tremendous amount, I made something I can be proud of and I stuck with a project start to finish no matter the obstacles. I would never have done any of this if not for being inspired by Once.

So? Did it work? Did I experience gratitude? I’d say so. I feel now that I knew relatively little about what gratitude is, how it functions, when I conceived of this project. I am still processing my newly expanded definition, matter of fact. For example, I didn’t know that gratitude and inspiration were so tightly linked for me. Now I do. I certainly did not anticipate that saying thank you for Once would feel so much like continuing to receive this incredible gift. Almost as if the effect of the gift has been magnified. Deciding to say thank you for Once has made Once even more a part of my life than it was before and has generated even more reasons for gratitude. Maybe it’s like a positive feedback loop, the more I notice my gratitude, the more the reasons for that gratitude become apparent.

I intend to do a more formal write up of my experience after it has percolated for a while.

New Skills!

In addition to the emotional journey, I have definitely grown as an artist and a potter. I experienced tenacity and determination I hadn’t planned on needing to see this through. In a way, I think this project changed my appreciation of Once as itself, a piece of art. I had thought of Once as art before I started this, but now that I have been to filming twice, made my own art project, filmed it and put that video together, I have, shall we say, a more nuanced perspective.

In case you were wondering, making film is hard freaking work. There were times I thought I might die of video editing having gotten bogged down in just trying to figure out what to say with all this emotion, all these stories, running pell-mell around my head. A year’s worth of pottery class videos is a lot to scrub, by the way. I couldn’t show the whole process as no way was I out to make an hour or two’s worth of explanatory film. Yikes! Maybe they call that a documentary if it’s done by someone who knows what they’re doing. Anyway, just trying to narrow the scope into something digestible was a challenge from the sheer amount of material I had to work with. Hopefully it is understandable and even enjoyable.

For the pottery nerds out there, here’re a few more details. When all was said and done, I ended up using Coleman’s cone 10 porcelain for my clay-body having rejected a cone 10 Laguna B-mix and a cone 6 Dove porcelain- the latter of which I hated. Hated! I wasted most of a quarter on that cone 6 debacle.

For the white bells I used a clear glaze which isn’t really clear; it ended up being a subtle, transparent, icy blue which I found lovely on that clay body. A happy surprise. The gold is a gold luster overglaze. Yes, it is actual gold in an organic solvent- toxic! Wear your PPE! The blue surface design is a simple underglaze, probably designed for low fire and cone 6 but still usable at high fire. It deepened beautifully from a royal blue to a lovely marbled navy. I’m very happy with that too. The blue bell, or the Dark Bell as it is in my mind, uses a cobalt-heavy glaze which I think is probably fairly common to most potters.

A word about the Dark Bell. I love that cobalt glaze and have used it on many of my pieces in the past. I can’t remember exactly how the idea came to me, but once I imagined an inverted color scheme for the bell, it stuck and I couldn’t not make one. As with the others, if I could have, I’d have made many more of the Dark version as well as the white bells, but I suppose there’s some kind of poetic rightness that among the finalists in the project, there is only one Dark Bell. It has a special place in my heart, maybe because I know what it’s like to be different and I think it’s wonderful. I wonder who might choose that bell.

When I conceived of this project one of the early challenges was that I did not want any raw clay showing. No rough edges, no unglazed surfaces apparent. That’s impossible, right? So I designed the bells to be fired on stilts such that the clappers would be glued in over the raw area, as you saw. I’m both pleased and lucky that the thin tops of the bells could support their weight during firing. It is evident when this was a near run thing. I also had problems with the delicate nature of the handles. They tended to warp and melt badly in the firing and even one of the finals is only just useable due to this issue. Lucky me!

The clapper is a wooden bead which reminded me of Rumple’s Dark One eyes suspended with an 18 karat gold wire. Before anyone freaks out, yes it’s gold, but it’s a tiny amount, same with the gold luster. Comparable to the cost of going out to lunch, say.

While we’re on the taboo subject of cost, someone probably won’t have noticed the disclaimer in the credits and is wanting to buy their very own. Folks have already asked me about this before I even finished the project. Thank you very much for the compliment, but under no circumstances will I sell one of the bells or any of the drafts. They are not for sale. No. You can’t put a price tag on gratitude. Please don’t ask me this.

Even if I hadn’t made these for a gratitude project, art that is this involved is pretty much unsellable anyway. Anyone who makes things by hand will tell you that handmade stuff is expensive because the artist wants to eat. The hourly rate for most artists is pretty abysmal or more people would have quit their day jobs already in favor of arting. Save us both the time and don’t ask me to sell you a bell.


That said, I love making stuff and commissions are a possibility. I’m not yet set up to sell online, but if interest is sufficient, I could probably find my way to Etsy or elsewhere. Now, please, again, I will not make you a bell; these bells are only for Once and only to be given away. Sorry. I also will not make other fan-art to sell. I’m not looking for trouble.

I can make nice things, dishes and the like. Most of my work is utilitarian in nature, but I can figure out how to make all kinds of things. If you have something in mind that you think you might like, ask me. We might be able to work something out. My sculptural abilities are limited at this point, but you can always ask. Remember, I’m a student, I’ve been at this a while, but this is my hobby and in no way am I a professional potter. Please also keep in mind that a commission is like a deal with the Dark One, it is an agreement made between two people and magic always comes with a price. Expect to pay what’s fair. I’m nicer than the Dark One, but I still expect all deals to be honored.

I can’t believe this is actually finished!! I made it! I did it! Maybe it’s ok that self-satisfaction is part of gratitude. What do I know anyway? More than I did to start with that’s for sure, but I still feel like I have a lot more to learn about gratitude.

Thank you so much, Once, for this incredible gift you’ve given me. To quote Wicked, “I have been changed, for good.”

Before you go, you can check out my research project! I have conducted a study of OUAT viewer preferences and you can check on my progress here. Yay for science!


Ring a Belle?

Expressing Gratitude Through Fan-Art!

This project is now complete! This post remains for posterity and completeness but please come and see the finished work here.

The internet is alive with passions but which voices get heard? I want those who make Once Upon A Time to know I appreciate their work and that Once makes me happy. So I will use my passions to express my gratitude. It is with great excitement and anticipation that I announce the beginnings of my latest gratitude project!

It would be no fun at all to merely describe the project and then post its completion, so I won’t do that. The point, after all, is the process. Instead, I’ll journal my progress here. Vaguely. This way, I will have a record of my journey and will get to watch the evolution of this project, succeed or fail.

Here we go!

Mid December 2015: I hatched this idea about two weeks before Christmas. I was working on my Once Upon A Time Season 5A Awards project and enjoying that process -making the image manipulations- when I realized that I was having a blast doing it. And that I make other kinds of art than just digital and pumpkin based.

I soon realized that I could go so much further than simply making a piece of art. I could show you how I went about it. I could share the journey.

Late December 2015: I ordered these

Ingredients: filming equipment
Ingredients: filming equipment

and started writing music. The writing went relatively well. The performance, not so much.

1 January 2016: I have been practicing and improving- the typical result of practice and effort. I began writing basic script ideas and formalizing the Gratitude Project Description.

2 January 2016: I took a trip to a bead store and several other craft stores with a friend. We encouraged each other’s creative endeavors. I consulted a friend about the desirable gauge and karat of gold wire and I acquired these for experimentation:

Ingredients: copper-ish wire and wooden beads.
Ingredients: copper-ish wire and wooden beads.

In the evening, I drafted the formal Gratitude Project Description write up.

3 January 2016: I have now published the Gratitude Project Description and spent some frustration on my blog’s menu system. I have outgrown the bounds of this template but was unable find a better one for free. And I refuse to risk losing the extensive amount of menu work I have done. While I appreciate WordPress, it does have its limitations. But! As of today, this project will be documented here.

Note: the ratio of wire to finished chain is about 6:1. Tension is important for even stitching. Safety note- be sure to wear glasses so as not to scratch eyeballs with flicking wire.IMG_1402

7 January 2015: Today I worked on imagining. Imagining thoroughly is indispensable for art. A half-baked idea turns into a disappointing project. It is impossible to make something exactly which is ill-defined in the first place. I worked on my ability to understand shapes in three dimensions and on drawing, not a strong skill of mine, but essential for imagining. I also began filming in earnest. My new equipment is exceeding expectations.

30 January 2016

Thank you universe!!

Today I went to visit a friend in her new home. She moved to a neighborhood I used to frequent for work and adventure when I was in college but it had been months since I had set foot there for any reason as I live a city and a bridge or two away. We had a wonderful visit. The neighborhood has changed, gentrified, substantially in the past sixteen years and as we walked through the streets, I realized that while I used to know my way around, I was totally dependent on my friend because I was lost. I dimly wondered, and lamented because it simply couldn’t be so, if my favorite fabric store had survived the surge in high rise apartment buildings and sprouting of trendy restaurants.

My friend and I made the effort to frequent a tea house, but it was closed so we opted to keep walking until we achieved our original mission, a bowl of pho for lunch. We snooped in shops along the way and she took me to see a library where she used to work which has a green roof. It’s so cool. After pho we took the long way back to her house as the day was pleasant and good for walking.

Lo and behold, there between yet another high-rise under construction and a recently completed one, was my fabric store.

When I was living in the dorms, a college friend and I decided we simply had to have cloaks. Lord of the Rings was rising in the east and stalking the university district with a billowing cloak at night was too much for my teenage brain to pass up, hers too. So, in one of our early adventures in a new city, we searched for a fabric store, found the nearest one and then figured out how to bus it there.

Poor as many college students, we opted for reject fabric on the one-dollar-a-yard or less rack in the back of the store. We were SO happy. My memory fails me as to how we got these sewn while living in dorm rooms, maybe we did it at my then boyfriend’s apartment, but I can’t remember anymore. It’s also possible we didn’t sew these cloaks until sophomore year when we lived in our own apartment together. But at doesn’t matter.

The point is in the present day when myself and my (other) friend decided to go in and visit this fabric store only because I was telling her about my good memories of it from college. We went in. We were immediately attracted to the coloring books for adults on display, though we didn’t buy them.

I only walked to the back of the store because I wanted to see what had become of my beloved sale rack. There, unassuming on a shelf sat this:

The Teacup
The Teacup

I stared and exclaimed to my friend. I just couldn’t believe it! How could I possibly get so lucky? I have been struggling with this project because I cannot touch and hold the actual teacup in question. Sight alone simply could not tell me how it was made, what it is like to hold, how much it weighs and a million other little details that I was certain never to have the answers to because, after all, it isn’t like Once is going to send me the cup for my edification.

Yes I know that there are copies available for sale, but from the pictures I have seen, they are not the same exact design.

But this is. This cup is mass produced, wholesale I assume, for decoration by whomever and for use as film props, clearly. I believe this is made with a couple of moulds, but I can’t be certain. These are not thrown by hand, that much is obvious. The original model for the mould might have been a thrown piece, in fact it seems likely. The image transfer is different and this is ever so slightly different from the original seen in Skin Deep, but the body and design of the cup are the same. The handle has a few subtle differences, but this is the teacup.

Learning a form is a very interesting challenge. In order to make something, anything, the first step is to imagine it completely, thoroughly. This is a challenging process. My teacher this quarter has shifted the dynamic of the class toward the didactic such that she has set us a series of challenges designed to improve our skill and artistry. This is a wonderful thing, of course, but I have been long used to just making whatever I want in this unstructured time during which I only made use of my teacher for insight and help on whatever I had in mind. It’s been years since the basic classes which were structured.

My teacher is, I hope, not offended that I’ve got this project and am only peripherally listening and following along with her plan. She has said this is no problem to her and I’m not the only student on her own trajectory, so I am not just being disrespectful. However, she did suggest that we all pick an artist and try to emulate something that interests us, not to sell or anything like that, just to figure out how it was made and then acquire those skills. This part of the class is clearly in line with my work. So, another thing I am learning from this gratitude project is how to make something specific rather than something that generally fits what I had in mind.

It’s all in the ability to imagine and then execute.

I picked up the cup and felt a rush of jubilation and excitement. All the things I had been wondering about came in to my mind in a rush of tactile information. I could finally look at it from all the angles I need to. I now know how thick the walls should be. More than anything, I know the actual size of the prop. People’s hand sizes vary so scale is hard to appreciate exactly from a photograph. I no longer have to. I know how it should fit in my hands.

I was probably giggling and I was definitely smiling. The answer to MANY of my stumbling blocks so far in this process was in my hands, and I never in a million years thought it would be.

Of course I turned it over, how much was I going to have to pay to take this home? I sure as hell wasn’t leaving it in the store, so how much was this rather tacky looking teacup going to set me back?

Ten bucks the tag on the bottom said. Ok, that’s expensive for a mass produced teacup, but it wouldn’t break the bank.

Then I had to choose a print pattern. I didn’t like any of them and the certainly weren’t the chipped cup, which actually looks elegant with its simple cobalt carbonate brush work design. I picked the least cheesy print and held it like long lost pet, or an heirloom from a beloved relative.

We wandered the store for a little while more and I ran my fingers over every aspect of the cup learning what I had been so frustrated by not knowing only two days ago. I held it carefully, determined that I would not allow this cup to come to harm before I so much as got it home to really study it in detail.

When it finally came time to pay, delightfully it was half off. I paid a whopping five bucks for a huge amount of happiness.

Afterwards, my friend and I were discussing how to do vacations right and not have to even leave the city. Day trips to be exact. We talked about how the ability to wander with out a plan is seemingly a rare thing among our friends and how planning everything out ahead of time can feel like such a burden. The art of wandering yields amazing pleasantness and exploration. She quoted Winnie the Pooh.

I explained an assignment from a college psych class called the Vision Quest. The rules are simple: do not plan, leave the house, do not come back for at least four hours, wander, expect to find meaning somewhere and embrace it when it happens. I told her what a wonderful time I had had doing the assignment and I was thinking about the serendipity of finding the cup while wandering. This isn’t magic or religion, it is simply noticing the things in life that matter and being open to experience.

If we had been worried about going a certain way, or getting a certain thing done, I would not have brought up my memories and then taken us into the store to indulge them. But plans, such as they were, were loose ones which allowed for deviation and made room for experience. Meaning is found by noticing life as it happens and being willing to accept our feelings about it.

That and blind ass luck, which this was.

I bought the cup at Jo-Ann Fabric, by the way, if you want a tacky teacup of your own.

For clarity’s sake, I am not making a cup. I am not simply (ha, ha) making a copy of a film prop. I am making what the film prop inspired me to make, so you’ll just have to wait and see what I come up with. After all, the what is much less important than the journey, the collecting of neat experiences like this one.

18 February 2016


What a productive day! I confess disappointment because the first drafts were still in the kiln and it was too hot to unload when I arrived. Next week, then, to see what works, and what doesn’t. Today however I was able to put my newly fabricated handles on two of my pots and how fabulous that, turned on its side, the handle of the chipped cup looks like a graceful R. I am getting more and more excited about this project and I am getting better as a potter in leaps and bounds. I can nearly approximate the cup now and I learned a little more today which will help me get just a little bit closer to my goals. It takes one half pound of clay to make the teacup part at the proper thickness and dimension and I only need a curved object, not a hemispherical one, to make the out-poaching parts of the cup. I am getting so close to being ready to making my final products.

Someone asked me today how many of these I plan to make. The answer? As many as it takes until I get it right. Which means until I love what I make. I am experiencing such a lovely explosion of ideas of what to do with these and how to alter the surface and glaze designs. I’ve also decided that I need a bowl sized chipped teacup just for my own personal use at home. Because it would make me happy. Oh yes, and I have spent the day being happy. This is working!

Please come and see the now completed project!!

Before you go, you can check out my research project! I have conducted a study of OUAT viewer preferences and you can check on my progress here. Yay for science!

The Gratitude Project and Its Origins

The Gratitude Project and its Origins

If cultivating a habit of writing gratitudes every day can change something so foundational as our thought patterns, what could engaging in purposeful demonstrations of gratitude do? [Reference: 21 Days for Happiness] [Here is my completed Gratitude Project]

With that thought in mind, I will use myself for this experiment. I have found that habitually writing my gratitudes has indeed changed me. For me, the most tangible proof of this is the state of my neutral mood, my default mode. Before explaining this further, a little more background is necessary.

I suffered a serious and life altering injury nearly five years ago and as you might expect from such a description, my recovery has been a long one. In fact, it is predicted to last me to the end of my days. I lost my livelihood and had to learn an entirely new discipline, in fact, there was doubt I would ever get off the very couch upon which I am writing this. My injury was bad. Really bad. Most of my disabilities are now invisible to casual acquaintance, but I can’t always hide them. Some only appear in certain situations and others I struggle with every moment. I fell a very long way from my previous ability status.

To be clear, I am not pursuing your empathy on this subject, only giving a clear point of reference. A point of origin for my ideas.

As you may imagine, a loss as I have -albeit vaguely- described above comes with many consequences. As careers go, my former one was demanding cognitively and physically. And I loved it. Deeply loved it. Most people I know do not say that about their jobs, but I did, with regularity. I worked a great deal of overtime because I wanted to be at work. In many ways, you could say I lost a love when I lost that career. Thus I endured the duel heartbreak of losing my purpose in this world and (I thought at the time) the ability to find a new one in one fell swoop.

I do not bandy the word depression around lightly because it is a diagnosis and I shudder to misuse the term. I beg my readers not to apply the term liberally to my descriptions of my mental status surrounding my injury. Have there been periods of time over the past five years when I have been clinically depressed? Maybe. But I think it is much more useful to avoid the label in favor of explication and understanding the mechanisms of my emotions. Simply, I do not want the word depression to be used as a mental short-cut, a laziness and oversimplification of what I have learned as a result of this journey.

It is quite true that my sadness in the beginning and a good part of the middle of the story reached significance and impacted my ability to take on my challenges, but it had another function too. It is my considered understanding and personal opinion that emotions serve a purpose. For me, my brain produced sadness to keep me from over reaching my capabilities. My brain forces me to do what is necessary to heal. Now, when I notice a seemingly exaggerated sadness, I know it is a signal that my body needs rest and a time-out. My unprofessional opinion on the matter is that this sadness is not pathology, it’s a signal. And an important one.

That’s why I don’t want to use the label depression for my episodes of sadness and low energy. I suspect clinical depression is something else, something whose edges I have sniffed, but I do not believe I have ever been truly submerged, embedded long term, as they say.

So why, if I am seemingly so contented to allow, understand and use my bluer moods, am I so invested in cultivating happiness?

Because, in short, I want to be happy. These two ends are not mutually exclusive, not a cognitive dissonance of mine.

I spoke earlier of a neutral mood, a default, maybe even to be described as what happens between moods. I’m referring to the resting state between moments of stronger, even if not extreme, emotional conditions. The mood that happens while doing mundane tasks like walking or dishes or in moments of idleness.

Left untended, where do your thoughts go?

In the harder moments of this recovery, my thoughts were not positive without distraction, effort and at times outright attempts to trick my brain into doing something, anything, other than being miserable about my condition. My neutral wasn’t neutral, it was negative.

I don’t want that from life, no matter my situation, that is not how I want to live. So how, how do I, unable to change what is unchangeable by me, make happiness?

The first step was realizing that I could. That I do have a lever over my own thoughts, emotions, my mental landscape. Without the need to ignore my problems, I could still make room for other things, happier things, if I took the trouble to do so. There’s much more space in my mind that I realized when I was allowing myself only to see the horrible.

I must thank a friend of mine, whom I will not name without permission, because she planted this seed in my head. Her story isn’t that dissimilar from my own and she found this piece of wisdom somewhere and had the wherewithal to apply it and then tell me about it. At the top of this article, I gave a reference to a TED talk which set the ball rolling. I will in no way pretend that the link between gratitude and happiness is my invention or discovery, it is only something I stumbled upon and then embraced with both arms. Further disclosure, ACT (Acceptance, Commitment Therapy) and whole acres of other psychotherapy have brought me to where I am now. I will take credit, however, for applying what has been given to me. And I will claim that I did in fact come up with the idea of a gratitude project on my own with the above described foundational knowledge. My models (below), interventions if you want to call them that, are also my own invention.

The basic concept of a gratitude project is this: if thinking and writing about gratitudes can bring about a change in thought pattern toward the positive end of the spectrum, doing something about that gratitude could cause a pattern of pursuing happiness by creating it in the moment, establishing a pattern of positive and goal directed action, and perhaps, resulting in an increased sense of confidence via accomplishment.

The model looks like this:

I can.

I will.

I am.

I can: noticing current capabilities and believing in them. Take stock of what is possible. Everyone has limits on their capabilities, but accomplishment stems from stringing those capabilities together effectively to achieve something that would otherwise exceed a particular capability on its own. For example: at first, walking to the mailbox with a cane was the extent of my physical ability for one day, but I am also creative.

I will: planning to achieve a greater goal based on those capabilities. In order to expand my ability to walk, I cultivated a habit of pacing while talking on the phone. Yes, I believe I even fell down while on the phone at least once. That’s ok.

I am: noticing the present moment while acting on a plan. “I am” happens more or less by accident. Now I walk for miles to and from work (after a LOT of hard work and therapies over the years). I am still a fall risk in certain situations, and probably always will be, but I’ve been daydreaming about trying to ski again. In essence, steps one and two are really step three, but there’s no step three without steps one and two. Achievement happens while in the process of trying.

With the recipe for getting stuff done explicit, what constitutes a Gratitude Project?

True gratitude is the essential foundation of the project which means that a definition of gratitude is necessary. Gratitude is always a positive emotion, but other things can masquerade as gratitude, complaining being chief among them. For example, “I am grateful for the sunshine today,” is gratitude where “I’m grateful it didn’t rain today,” is actually grousing about rain, even if on other days. It’s negative. It follows that a gratitude project must stem from gratefulness for a positive experience of some kind.


  1. The project must stem from gratitude resulting from a positive life event or situation.
  2. The project can be aimed at another person or people, but this is somewhat flexible.
  3. The project must require action aside from thought.
  4. The project must require planning.
  5. The project must require effort.
  6. The project must originate emotionally from the desire to express gratitude and not from the desire to acquire something from someone else. Expectations must be non-selfish in nature.*
  7. The project cannot be an obligation or punishment imposed by society, or any individual person, including the self. A gratitude project can never be a homework assignment, for example. It can be a suggestion, though, so long as it is in no way pressured or coerced. Gratitude must be given freely or it is not gratitude.

*Non-selfish meaning not a social bribe or payment for goods or services.

About motivation. Getting down to brass tacks, it could be argued that deciding to do a gratitude project because I want to generate my own happiness is a selfish motive. But let us not confuse selfishness with self cultivation. It is about me but here’s the news: that’s ok. Self interest is not necessarily selfishness any more than self-care is a failure of altruism. Selfishness hurts other people, but self cultivation does not. The self is important and left un-nurtured, cannot nurture others. Gratitude isn’t a contract, but rather it, wonderfully, nurtures both ways. Put another way, happiness is a dish best shared and gratitude is a main course at that banquet.

Do the project with the expectation of getting nothing at all in return from the recipient. The actions generated by the project and expressing/experiencing gratitude are the points of the endeavor. That said, hoping to delight someone else, or hoping for a positive outcome in general, does not defeat the purpose of the project. It isn’t selfishness to hope for a good result, whatever that may be, so long as the project isn’t used as currency or relief from guilt.

There are many potential side effects to doing a gratitude project, many possible positive outcomes. Some of them might include learning, creativity and possibly even teamwork. Working on a gratitude project together with someone else might strengthen a friendship, or improve family dynamics. Hoping for these outcomes does not defeat the purpose of the project. Remember that the purpose of the project is to promote a pattern of positive, goal-directed behavior and confidence via accomplishment with the added bonus of noticing happiness along the way. This is ultimately self-cultivating, but these attributes make gratitude no less genuine.

I am afraid that it is impossible to escape the need for a disclaimer. I have designed the above intervention for myself, for the purposes of my own healing, happiness and well being. In point of fact, writing this article, designing this intervention and publishing it are all mechanisms which generate happiness in me. That said, I will not take responsibility for the health or happiness of anyone else for any reason as I have no license to lean upon and little formal education on the subject. While I may have extensive experiential understanding of the subject matter, I am in no way equipped to make recommendations for other people. I am the guinea pig in this experiment and choose to make it public. I have submitted no human subjects description to any governing body for approval.

If you choose to try this for yourself it is, therefore, entirely at your own risk.

If you do, I would passionately love to hear about it and beg you to comment below describing your projects and experiences with them.

Lastly, uncomfortably, this is my work. My intellectual property. Though this clause may perhaps not be a formal copyright (but it might be and I just don’t know it), I will ask that you not take my ideas as your own and make money from them. That’s shameful. If you do decide to do that, the shame is yours and I will always know that. If, however, you think these are good ideas and want to approach me about helping me publish them more broadly, I would welcome that and most definitely want to talk to you. Comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Update! I have now completed my gratitude project and you can see it here! I’m very proud of this work.

Before you go, you can check out my research project! I have conducted a study of OUAT viewer preferences and you can check on my progress here. Yay for science!