Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Peace Begins at Home

The Christmas season brings out the hippie in me. You know... peace, goodwill toward my fellow humans, sharing, feeding the hungry, love, huddling together to keep warm. And there are all kinds of iconic images around that bring those caring-for-each-other qualities to mind... stars, bells, twinkling lights, babies in mangers, doves, wreaths on front doors... and peace signs.

This is the wreath we hang up every year... no cedar boughs or big red bow... but I think it conveys what the season ought to be all about. (Yes, it's a hula hoop.)
Peace, baby... make love, not war.

The house is also dripping with good old fashioned tiny white lights this year... you know, the non-LED kind that make our power meter spin a little faster?

I've been fiddling around with creating a Christmas card this year. Definitely a peace theme... but otherwise, a little non-traditional in terms of other classic Christmas colors and designs. Some of you *may* get some version of this card this year, if I get my act together. Until then... here's a little work-in-progress sneak peek:

HAPPY CHRISTMAS, everyone....  may the PEACE of this season descend upon you and make you see what's important in life! Give a little more to the homeless shelter, or the food bank. Take the time to watch It's a Wonderful Life... not just once, but a couple of times. Do some yoga. Put on the soundtrack to the Charlie Brown Christmas for a little instant joy and calm. Call the ones you love and tell them what they mean to you. Stress not... for in a few short weeks, it will be a new year. Start deciding how it will be different right now.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Adieu to The Mad Hatter

Saying goodbye to one of my creations today. The Mad Hatter has gone to live with Malissa, who has been admiring him for some time. I've always intended to sell my dolls, but when it comes right down to it, it's a little like giving a child up for adoption. I've grown attached to this guy! The Christmas cash is going to come in handy, though, I must admit.

The Hatter was made in the summer of 2010 for the Art Dolls Only "Wonderland Blog Event". There were eighty or so dollmakers from all over the world who participated in making character dolls from Alice in Wonderland. We all finished our dolls, then posted photos on our blogs and spent a weekend blog hopping to share and see each others' work, making friends along the way. The variety of interpretations was just amazing. It was the first challenge I'd ever done and was an absolutely great experience in pushing myself to meet a specific outcome... and a deadline!

Here are the links back to my original blog posts about him, where you can see more photos.
Down the Rabbit Hole
 Wonderland Sneak Peek

So long, goofy guy... you will be missed!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tea Box Swap

Had a marvelous time recently, participating in an altered art swap via the Mixed Media Art group. We were to alter and decorate an ordinary cardboard tea box, transform it into a little work of art, fill it with fun surprises and things our partner might use for future altered projects.

There were around 28 of us, mostly in North America, but a few were elsewhere... each paired with a partner. We got in touch and told each other a bit about our lives, our artwork, favorite themes/colors, etc.

First step, two coats of gesso inside and out.

Golden Fluid Acrylics- several layers of thin wash for a very watery effect.
My assigned partner, Tammy, lives in Michigan... loves pastel colors and vintage themes, has young children at home and teaches scrapbooking and paper arts. I decided to start with a pastel sea green as my base and see where that led me. Rummaging through my stacks, drawers and envelopes full of images and vintage paper bits, I pulled together a collection to draw from.
Right away, that blue butterfly grabbed me.

Anything blue seemed to pop out at first and be drawn to this box, but I really had to let go and let this project lead me. I struggled with a vision of where it was going until I stopped trying too hard and just allowed it to evolve.
Once I saw the butterfly was the perfect size for the top of the box lid, I knew it was going to be the focal point. I started pulling some scraps of vintage newspaper, dictionary pages and old magazine advertisements to tear and place randomly here and there so they'd be peeking out from under the butterfly's wings. So far, so good.... UNTIL I got to the point of gluing down the butterfly itself. It seems I had forgotten a former painful lesson about how slick magazine pages respond to acrylic gel medium! All was well in adhering the image to the box, but when adding a layer of medium OVER the image to seal it... I had a near disaster of wrinkled paper! I wanted to kick myself. 
No, you won't see close-ups of my wrinkled nightmare!
Now, what was that trick I once learned? Ah, yes... my secret technique for avoiding this dilemma comes back to me now... but too late to wind back time and re-do this butterfly. I salvaged it as best I could, using an old plastic gift card as a squeegee (brilliant idea from the amazing Juliana Coles), an acrylic clay roller, lots of swearing.... then a bit of touch-up with blue ink in the places where the image surface was worse for wear. Some wrinkles just had to become part of the design. That the result was acceptably presentable was in fact, De Miracle! (That scrap of paper is from an ad for face cream in a 1922 issue of Women's World magazine, ironically promising to "prevent wrinkles"!)

Some elements like this seed packet image were added, then removed later and replaced with others when they weren't really jiving with the design. 

Dreams and secrets began to move in, as secondary themes...

One end of the box has a poem about the seashore, torn from a vintage children's book. I used one of my favorite scroll-y rubber stamps, and basic typewriter ABC's, plus the essential Staz-On black ink to stamp details here and there.

I love using graphite pencils to add handwritten words to a piece, but watch out... they smear when painted over with wet media. I had to spray these panels first with an acrylic matte sealer before adding more color washes, aging stains or final coats of gel medium.
I used colored pencil and chalks here and there to add color accents and highlights.
Mar Goman showed me how to do image transfers using Chartpak markers and lazer photocopies. I did this one over a piece of an old book page, layered over a map...

This background was from an art card made by another artist. I can't credit her, because I don't know her name, but since I am not selling this piece, I'm just owning up and apologizing to the Universal Artistic Commons!  I clipped the text from a vintage newspaper, circa 1902.
 I often use bits of text from some of my grandmother's papers. She was a writer, and I inherited a huge box containing her handwritten and typed rough drafts of stories and articles, unpublished manuscripts, even her college notes from when she was studying journalism in 1927. I hope she would approve of me tearing her writing up and using it in pieces of art, rather than leaving it all in the dusty attic! For me personally, seeing her handwriting in my artwork keeps my memories of her alive. This is a bit from a short story idea...
"Why for fun, of course", she laughed.
The bottom of the box is covered with part of an envelope I saved from a 1980's Christmas card sent to me by a friend from England. I couldn't resist... since the whole theme of tea was woven in and out of this project. You know...  England, the Queen, and tea.... makes sense, right?
The final project, all done and ready to go!
Trust me, that jewel embellishment needed to go right there.
The only thing I forgot to do was to photograph the little things I tucked inside for Tammy. I made her some crocheted button jewelry, a tiny Wee Folk fairy, an ATC, and a felt flower pin... enclosed some cute vintage squirrel buttons, some lace and ribbon and little trinkets for her to use on other projects.  We coordinated our send dates pretty closely and I received mine from her last week, unwrapping it with great delight! Thank you, Tammy... this was such a fun swap!
The box I received from Tammy also had blue butterflies on it. Total coincidence! We must be psychic!

Back view, with fruit label image and paper flower.
Beautiful hand-painted labels.

Very cool tissue paper flower embellishment.
Sweet gift tags made from tea bag packages.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lucky, lucky me!

Ever hear people say, "Oh, I never win anything"? Have you said it yourself? Have I been one of those people? Well, maybe a time or two... but no more! I joined a fun blog-hop last week... organized by the delicious Ricë Freeman-Zachery, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Portland at Art & Soul just recently, to celebrate the release of her newest book, Destination Creativity: The Life-Altering Journey of the Art Retreat.

Ricë had gathered up an armload of talented art blogger friends and asked them to spread the joy by participating in a nine day book tour "blog hop". On each blogger's appointed day, they posted their own review of this amazing new book and offered a chance for readers to win a great giveaway. We "hoppers" virtually visited a blog each day, having much fun along the way... then entered that day's drawing by leaving a comment. The prize? An autographed copy of Destination Creativity! With such irresistible enticement, I gladly hopped along and entered at most of the nine blogs... some of which were delightfully new to me, now bookmarked and subscribed to for future soul-feeding.

Well, Jupiter aligned with Mars or something like that and I had a fantastic surprise in my inbox yesterday... a congratulatory e-mail from Day 8's participant, the very artful Jen Cushman, letting me know that I had won the draw! How sweet it feels to be a winner. I really can't wait to cuddle up on the couch with Ricë's book when it arrives, dreaming of next year's Art & Soul... or maybe even an art retreat destination that's a bit farther-flung than my Portland back yard. Thank you, lucky stars. (And thank you Ricë and Jen!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Art & Soul 2011- Part Two

Had a wonderful time yesterday in Lisa Call's "Charm School" workshop at Art and Soul. Playing with PMC (stands for Precious Metal Clay) for the first time made me nervous at first. After much trepidation and doubt on my part, I did finally learn that I actually can push myself a little and end up with a lovely bling-y reward in the end! Yes, my friends... PMC + fire = nearly pure REAL silver charms that are uniquely your own!
My charms really show their organic handmade-ness... which doesn't bother me in the least. I'll admit that I hurried through the process of rolling, stamping and cutting out the clay bits, due to fear of not getting them finished, dried and into the kiln by our lunch break. I can see now that I'd have rather put more thought into choosing the rubber stamps and shapes that I used, but I still love the outcome.

Some of the other students had previous PMC experience and weren't quite so intimidated by the necessary careful handling... fear of having it stick to everything, drying out too soon, etc. I saw some really wonderful  textures and patterns in some of their charms!

You can see that many of our charms look to be sort of tarnished... and that is by design. They came out of the kiln looking a rather funky matte white, then were wire-brushed to a bright, gleaming silver which I didn't get photos of. These have all been dunked in a bath of liver of sulpher to give them a dark oxidized patina, then tumble polished.

These next shots are Janne's work... a woman who came to Art & Soul all the way from Norway, and turned out to be friends of another good friend of mine. Such a small world! Janne managed to get her bracelet assembled and it looks really wonderful.
We also learned how to make our own headpins from fine silver wire by melting the end in a torch flame to form a lovely little silver ball. I'm now asking Santa for my own Blazer butane torch.
I'm still working on polishing my coiled links and jump rings, then will get busy assembling my bracelet. This was a great class and reinforces my desire to take off in this direction and make more jewelry.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Art & Soul 2011- Part One

It's finally here... Art & Soul week, Portland 2011! How I wish I was one of the lucky attendees for whom this is a true retreat... staying the whole week in the hotel, far from home and so-called "real life". But, since this event happens practically at my back door step, I always just dip in to a class or two and try to juggle everything else in my life around it. Saves a ton of cash, but I miss out on fully immersing myself in art, camaraderie and inspiration for the full week.

My first class was Lisa Kaus's "Color My World". I've been wanting to take a class from her since Art & Soul 2009 when a friend of mine reported how much fun it was, and how much she learned. We covered a lot of ground, first playing around with Golden fluid acrylics, crayon and graphite pencils on a primed piece of loose canvas. That was meant to warm us up, get us comfortable with sloshing paint around and not worrying too much about making things perfect. Here's a shot of Lisa doing a demo and making it look simple...
Lisa's style is funky-folky... very loose and comfortable, with layers and layers of color. Now I know how she gets creates those pieces that seem to glow from within! She is not afraid of color, and just encouraged us to keep adding more and more... blending water-soluble crayon over layers of fluid acrylic paint, then highlighting with graphite sticks.

Being massively sleep-deprived on this particular morning, and not feeling particularly tuned in to my creative self, I chose to copy one of Lisa's original designs to use for my own class project piece. She offered a number of examples we could trace with graphite paper onto our prepared boards. I chose this sweet and simple little bird design. Very glad I did that, as it saved me wasting time dithering over the design. The whole point was to play with the color techniques... layering and blending, then finishing the piece with a coat of hot beeswax. I wasn't going to risk going home with an unfinished project!
Lisa's birds tend to be in shades of blue, so I went the opposite direction... being in a very red-yellow-orange mood on this particular day. When I got home, my husband took one look at the bird in the detail above and said, "Angry Birds?".
I added some vintage paper scraps and an old stamp as collage details. After getting to a "finished enough" point in class, I was able to do the final step of coating it with hot beeswax, which is something I'd like to play around with further. Note to self:  Check Goodwill for a small crock pot to dedicate to beeswax!

I have to admit, there are some drawbacks to the wax coating... one being the smell! The wax Lisa uses is a refined white beeswax, not the lovely warm yellow and yummy-smelling beeswax I have here at home. I'm sincerely hoping the odor will dissipate soon so I can actually stand to be in the same room with my finished panel. It's really rather unpleasant... which I was not expecting!
It is also tricky to photograph these waxed surfaces, as I discovered today. The colors looked very muted or faded in many of my shots due to the wax itself picking up reflected light. Finally figured out a way to get a good image (the last photo posted above) of the full piece that does justice to the true color saturation. I think of this piece as a practice exercise... certainly not a fine piece of art.

Painting on flat surfaces is not something I'm naturally drawn to, but this class helped me get past a little trepidation in that regard. All in all, a positive experience. I met some great people and am now lusting after a large set of Lyra Aquacolor crayons and more bottles of Golden fluid acrylics!

Monday, September 26, 2011


Another of my favorite Trick-or-Treat kitty dolls, designed by the adorable Donna Veal of Moonchild's Primitives. This one was donated to a fundraiser auction for the Humane Society of Southwest Washington. If you can't adopt a real-live kitty, consider buying a ticket to their annual dinner and auction on October 22nd and you could bid to adopt Teaser for your very own!

Teaser sporting her rusty backdoor key.

She can't believe it's already time to greet this season's Trick-or-Treaters.

Upcycled pull-tabs make great hangers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wild Rag Doll Rumpus!

Let me say this up front...  I have completely loved Portland artist Junker Jane (aka Catherine Zacchino) and her wild and crazy rag dolls ever since I saw her Misfit Circus dolls in Art Doll Quarterly last spring.

They are unlike anything I've seen by ANY other dollmaker and they instantly gave me inspirational chills.
I've been following her blog and Facebook page ever since and continue to marvel at the new creations she comes up with. They are sometimes dark and creepy, which is just exactly why I love them... and can't look away!

Junker Jane's Monster Tibby
Jasper... by Junker Jane
 There is no mistaking Junker Jane's style... so while many of us have no doubt used her technique notes in ADQ to try creating our own versions, there is just no way to capture the essence of an original Junker Jane. But, that didn't stop me from trying! I kept one eye on the ADQ spread and Catherine's "how to" notes while patching together the rag doll I made for the 6-yr-old daughter of a niece of mine, and mimicked the Junker Jane style as best I could.

**Please Note: I would only EVER make one of these to give away (while giving full design credit to Catherine). I'd never sell one or let anyone assume they were my own idea.**

Ava loved her...right down to the blue pony tails & Junker Jane-style stitched mouth, which she thought was a "necklace". She named the doll "Sasha" and proceeded to include her while dancing to Lady Gaga!

Making this doll was fun and quick. The construction technique is to machine applique and hand-stitch everything on the flat base fabric surface, then stuff. I used vintage fabrics and vintage buttons for the eyes.

The end result made me happy, though I realized how far short it fell from the ideal of the original. (Which is as it should be, I suppose!) Mine is too cute, too tame... not quirky-weird enough. That is HARD to accomplish, believe it or not!

Another recent Junker Jane creation sparked my inspiration... her "Witch Marigold"...
Jane's "Witch Marigold"
I fell in love with this seriously intimidating witchy woman, and started pining for my favorite season (Halloween) to arrive. So, of course, I had to try to create a Junker Jane rag witch of my own.

Marigold's rather plain cousin, Mumphy.
As you can see, mine is more like Witch Marigold's mild-mannered, simpering cousin. This one was also given as a gift to the daughter of another niece of mine (again, with full credit to Junker Jane and never with intention to copy and sell). I bow down to the creativity and wonderfulness of the original Junker Jane. In my opinion, I haven't even come close!

I've learned a lot from attempting to re-create her style. I love the techniques, the upcycling of vintage bits... and just the overall grunged-up look. But, I've got a lot more to learn in just "letting go" of my need to make things perfect. Trying too hard gets in the way of creativity, and this was really difficult for me. I realized I needed to be able to let loose and access more of my spontaneous inner child artist, which is mighty hard to do at my advanced age.:) 

I can't wait to see more fantastic work from Junker Jane and hope you'll all check out her blog and her etsy shop!