Sunday, December 20, 2009

Busy hands...

The book I've selected for this week is "pretty little pincushions" from Lark Books. It is a compilation of projects by many different contributors. The book is full of pincushions of all kinds - I think you could make one a week and never run out of ideas from this book! I'm planning on making the ones on the cover from the scraps of felted sweaters I have left from other projects.

On another front, the new issue of Belle Armoire includes an article about a round robin project I participated in. We all made capes and passed them around for embellishment. The article includes plenty of photos, check it out! It was a fun project and I love my finished cape.

I spent much of my weekend baking Christmas cookies. My Mom used to make hundreds of cookies every year, always making sure to bake everyone's favorites. After Mom passed away, I made cookbooks for everyone using Mom's recipe cards - I photocopied them so they would have her handwritten versions, including little notes in the borders. They were put into blue notebooks with a collage on the cover that included photos of Mom's dining room and kitchen. It is a treasure and a reminder of her love. It was nice for me to spend part of my weekend following her baking tradition.

I am still working on the quilt from the "Crossroads" book. I've got it pinned up on my design wall and have spent a lot of time re-arranging the strips. I keep thinking I'm satisfied with it so I take a photo and prepare to stitch the pieces together... then I leave the room for the night, revisiting the next evening after work... and change my mind! It remains a work in progress though I think I'm almost there...

In the meantime, I'm going to move forward with new books & projects. Check back next week to see what my little pincushions look like!

Until then, I wish you & yours a beautiful Holiday season - whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza, I hope you have joy-filled times with your family and friends. Spending time with those you love and making special memories is a lovely way to wrap up a busy year.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Crossroads...A Work in Progress

I have no idea if the colors that Nancy Crow used in her quilts have specific meaning - my guess is that they do. Before choosing colors for my quilt, I gave some thought to the meaning of the word "Crossroads" and how that might guide me in the selection of colors for my quilt.

Like all good bookworms, I turned to my dictionary for a definition. Here's what I found: "Cross~road, A road that crosses another; the place where one road intersects with another; the point at which a fateful decision must be made."

So, I got to thinking about how one thing leads to another and how we all like to think that we are in charge of our lives but how it can all be changed in the blink of an eye by a tiny action like stopping for a cup of coffee or being late for work because you had to change your too-tight shoes.

Then there are the bigger things like where you grew up, who you spend time with and where you work. I thought of all the "big" things in my life and assigned colors to all of them - some based on the actual color (like my high school colors), others by using the first letter of a name (like lavender, chartreuse & lavender to represent my lifelong friends Lisa, Colleen & Louise). Coming up with colors to represent my parents was easy, my Mom had amazing blue eyes and my Dad has brown eyes, like me (my three siblings all have Mom's blue eyes).

I selected the fabrics based on the "thing" I was trying to depict, not taking any consideration of how I'm going to make all of this work together visually. After all, my life has been a patchwork - who knew that would all work together? But, somehow, it has, and it does.

Funny that I am working on this now, the week after Thanksgiving. Though my life is pretty ordinary, I feel so gifted. I was born to amazing parents and was raised in a fun, stable and loving home (where my father still lives). My sunny yellow bedroom was my favorite room in the house. I have three loving siblings who sometimes drive me nuts but who would always be by my side if I needed them - and I, by theirs. My three best friends from childhood still live close enough that we have dinner a few times a year and growing up with them in the charming town of Shrub Oak was a joy. I loved High School and that it helped me to accomplish my first career goal of becoming a professional florist (I later convinced my Mom to buy a flower shop, depicted by the green & raspberry slice of fabric). I later returned to Mercy College for my Accounting degree & fell in love with the best husband I could hope for who also brought three step-kids into my life, followed by five grandchildren. All of that has been converted into the colors I've used for the strips in my Crossroads quilt. It will be a challenge to make all the colors work together but, that's o.k., what's life without a few challenges?

Books I Love

If you are looking for books to put on your "wish list', here are a few I recommend... The first one is by artist Andy Goldsworthy, titled "A Collaboration With Nature". The artist uses materials found in nature to create fascinating sculptures - some that last only a short time, like those made of thin sheets of ice from a stream. The photography is beautiful and the concept is very inspiring - it will be fun to find opportunities to work with Mother Nature's art supplies!

Another book that I love is "Everyday Sacred" by Sue Bender. It was originally loaned to me by a friend who said she saw me in the pages, which made reading it even more intriguing for me. The book is about a bowl, seeing with new eyes, appreciation, and being open to the possibilities before us. It is a lovely book, one that I am now reading for the third time. I find the journey through the pages to be both comforting and energizing. I loved the book so much that I bought six of them to give as gifts. Buy it for yourself & put it in your stocking as a gift from Santa!
The third book on my little list is "Caffeine for the Creative Mind" by Stefan Mamaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield. "250 Exercises to Wake Up Your Brain" is the promise on the front cover - and true it is! The focus of the book leans towards more commercial artists but the exercises are worthwhile for any creative mind. Some of them are thought provoking, others are silly (like writing a jingle about a ball of lint). Some of my best ideas have come from surprising places and I'm sure that I'll eventually come up with something interesting through these exercises!
Time to go work on my "Crossroads' quilt... I've given it some thought and it's time to start pulling out the fabrics I'll use (translation: making another creative mess in my studio!)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Home Sweet Home

While I enjoy travelling, there is nothing I enjoy more than being HOME. Our house is a sweet ranch - peaceful and comfortable. We did a huge interior renovation before we moved in and my goal was to make it warm and cozy, like the inside of a cashmere glove. Between the cozy upstairs and my delicious studio, the hardest thing I do every day is leave to go to work! We have been home for the past four days and it has been wonderful! It is rare for us to be home so many days in a row without any demands on our time - we have to work on doing this more often...

I spent almost all four days in my studio, working on a book proposal and projects for a magazine article. I should have done my blog projects but I was on a roll with the other things and decided to stick with them. Unfortunately, I can't show you any of what I did since it is all for future publication!

At last count, I was four weeks behind on my weekly projects - I think this week brings me to five. I've picked out the books - here's the first one, Crossroads by Nancy Crow. I love the bold bands of colors in the quilts in this book. I recently ordered a yummy box full of hand-dyed fabrics from Cherrywood and they will be perfect to work with. I admire quilters who also dye their own fabrics, as Nancy Crow does. It is an art all unto itself!

I finally bought a piece of homosote to use for a design wall - making a quilt based on this book will be the perfect chance to put that to use!

The photos in this book show the works in progress, pinned to the design wall as Nancy worked out her quilts. Photos of her studio and peeks at her journal pages brings her process to life and makes this a very enjoyable book. I am excited about making a "Crossroads" quilt of my own - check back in a few days to see what I've done!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A productive weekend!

I got a lot done this weekend, including these two projects - the first from "Fabric Leftovers". I'm not a coffee drinker but I love the idea of coffee cup huggies so I made some for my step-daughter, Dawn, who loves coffee. These will add a little pizzazz to her morning!

My project from "Plush-O-Rama" turned out very cute - I've decided to call her "Cuddles" as she is super cuddly soft. In keeping with the idea of up-cycling sweaters in the book, I made her from a stretchy knit top that is probably the softest fabric ever!

Both projects were fun to make - the coffee cup cuffs were super easy to make - I simplified the method used in the book and basically did a stitch and flip method so that no top quilting was necessary. I can't even tell that I took fabric out of my scrap bin - my guess is that I have enough scraps left to make another ten thousand of these!

Two full days of studio time has been a lovely treat - I'm feeling so contented and satisfied after getting some projects made and organizing myself for some more.

Scraps are taking over!

Scraps of paper, scraps of fabric, scraps of ribbon, bits of this, bits of that... all sorted out in drawers, boxes and bins - some scraps are from projects I have made, others are scraps that I have actually BOUGHT! I used to love the scrap bin at The Country Quilter (I'm so glad I built up my stash before they closed!). Buying scraps gave me the ability to add hundreds of fabrics to my stash for very little cost. I'm also hooked on the scrap bags from Laura Murray - she overdyes vintage kimono fabric and her scrap bags are just delicious, and inexpensive.

As a collage artist, I also save endless scraps of paper. It has to be a pretty tiny piece of paper for me to throw it away! I've given up separating them by color and have resorted to just keeping them in the boxes that a case of soda comes in. That makes them easy to store, dig through, and makes for quick clean-up.

I've come to realize that I could make ten scrap projects a day for the rest of my life and never consume the scraps I already have! I came across the book "Fabric Leftovers" by D'Arcy-Jean Milne (C&T Publishing) and am going to play with my scraps today and make a project from this book.

Plush-O-Rama is another book I came across while cleaning up (by Linda Kopp, Lark Books). I love the sub-title "Curious Creatures for Immature Adults'. I'm going to see my granddaughter in Tennessee this week so I'm going to make something silly for her, based on the Plush-O-Rama spirit of kooky critters.

Finally, while putting things away, I found the book from last week's project in my scanner. I had scanned the cover but never posted it, so here it is. The book is "Layers" by Shari Carroll, North Light Books. There are a lot of projects in the book that would make great gifts and the techniques are clearly spelled out and inexpensive to make. Everyone loves collage gifts that include photos of family and friends and this book is full of ideas.

I better get busy! After doing these two projects I'll be almost back on schedule... I never imagined that it would be so hard to do just one project a week! I know, it doesn't really matter if I fall behind and, believe me, I'm not stressing over it. I would just like to stay on schedule so I am in the habit of making a project and blogging about it. Otherwise, it may wind up sort of like a gym membership - start out going every other day... then twice a week, then once a week, then once a month, then the gym bag rides around in the car gathering dust...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Catching up...

At last, studio time! October was a crazy-busy month without much studio time which meant that I'm behind on my book-a-week projects. I've gone back to my post for the week of October 17th & have done my projects from "Layers"... originally, I was going to do collage in a board book but then I finished a journal (woo hoo!) and re-discovered one I had started a while ago. Both had boring covers so I did them instead.

The first one is a big sketchbook, over an inch thick and about 8" x 10". It will take me a long time to fill all those pages! I used a combination of a catalog image, hand painted fabric and marbled papers on the cover - much better than the plain purple cover it had before! I also covered the binding and back and inside both covers. Somehow, it makes sketching more fun to have a creative cover on the book.

The second book was just a plain spiral bound book (this is the one I've finished working in). The photo on the cover is by Kelly Kilmer and is from one of her collage sheets, all photos of hands, that I love to work with.

After I finished the journal covers, I flipped back through the book of the week and pictures of a collaged clipboard caught my eye. I remembered seeing a clipboard in the garage & made that my next project. What fun that was! I'm going to use it for my ever-present list of projects I want to do. I usually write the list and proceed to lose it in the mess on my desk. Now I'll keep the list on my pretty clipboard & it will be easier to keep track of!
While I had all the papers and medium out, I decided to also decorate some cardboard tubes to hold my tool on my worktable. The tubes are from single-malt scotch - I have friends who save them for me. I cut them down to the right height and covered them with pretty papers. Here's hoping they will help me to keep my worktable more organized!

One week down, a few more to go... I'm off to pick out another book to work from!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Digging out

Doing these blog projects has been fun but working in so many different kinds of media means that I've been pulling out all kinds of things! My studio looks like a tornado came through it so I've spent much of today straightening it up and putting things away. I've only scratched the surface - here's hoping a couple of evenings will do the trick. The fun part is finding things that I forgot about - the not fun part is realizing that I need either more space or less stuff!

When I last posted, I was telling you about the Monothon printing session I was going to in Connecticut....

I had never done any artist level monotype work before - I had done monoprinting on fabric and a little screenprinting but nothing that required multiple layers of prints or lining up the registration. What a learning curve! I made a couple of mistakes at the beginning - one was using oil based inks instead of water based (at the insistance of the person "helping' me), and, two, trying to make a print based on a drawing I had done. I now know that I would have been better off just rolling ink on the plate & doing a "subtractive" print where you wipe away areas of ink. Instead, I was doing the "additive" type of printing where I was applying paint to the plate.

The woman helping me was very patient, more patient than me, I'm afraid! After a while, we set aside my first project and I just did prints with dried leaves. I did wind up with a print that was deemed "good enough" to be put into the silent auction fund raiser - here's hoping it sells! I forgot to take a picture of it, however.

I'm sharing some photos of the prints I made but they aren't going to stay this way... my plan is to do a wash over the prints to tone them down and then cut them up and rearrange them into a collage. I want to try and make something out of them!

The facility is really beautiful - interesting architecture and plenty of room to work in well equipped space. If you are a printmaker, this is definitely the place to be! I will be returning to the center in late January when Inge and I start a six week course in a variety of printing techniques.

All in all, my Monothon experience was interesting but not the success I had hoped for. Really my own fault in the end, I should have taken a class before going instead of assuming that I would pick it up quickly like I usually do. Would I do it again? I think so, but now I know what to expect and I know more about the materials and the process. For now, however, I'm going to stick to what I know!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Too tempting to resist...

All week long I was dreaming of two totally quiet days in my studio, catching up on projects and enjoying some time for me... then, on Friday, a friend/client stopped by the office and asked me to join her on a visit to the Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk, CT ( It's a place I've always wanted to visit and, even more tempting, we were going to be allowed to visit a class in progress by the master printmaker, Ron Pokrasso. Well, that offer was too good to pass up!

So, Inge and I headed to CCP. Inge knows every back road between here and Norwalk, I think, and we enjoyed a fabulous ride through the countryside. The autumn leaves were beautiful, most especially a lovely low growing shrub (the name escapes me) with leaves ranging from deep burgundy to all shades of pink to almost white - they were everywhere!

Once at CCP, I got to meet Inge's friend, Grace, who I believe is the Director, and Ron Pokrasso, who graciously allowed us to observe the goings on in his class. I've never done any printmaking and it was interesting to see what is involved.

Another temptation that I could not resist (I am such a pushover!) was signing up for the CCP event called "Monothon". It is an annual event with printmakers from beginners to expert signing up fo six hour sessions during which they crank out as many prints as they want. I've always wanted to participate but was intimidated by my complete lack of printmaking knowledge. Well, my little excursion with Inge has gotten me over that... we are signed up - our session is Tuesday from 1:30-7:30. They even feed us lunch and dinner! Even better, CCP provides a Master printmaker to do the printing and an assistant to clean up and fetch supplies. Monothon-ists get to just concentrate on their work.

In keeping with the purpose of my blog, I have taken out my book on Monotype and will be doing some cramming before Tuesday. The book title is "Monotype, Mediums and Methods for Painterly Printmaking" by Julia Ayres (Watson-Guptill). I'll post photos of my work later in the week - I'm really looking forward to this!

Back to my excursion... after we were done at CCP, Inge took me to the Silvermine Center for the Arts, which was nearby. They have a large, bright gallery exhibiting many more examples of monoprints and a good number of encaustic paintings. The grounds were beautiful, I see it as being a peaceful and lovely place to take classes.

I had a great time with Inge, she is such an interesting person with great knowledge of art, books, architecture, local history, plants and trees. I've known her for about twenty-five years (she used to be my landlady) but this is the first time I got to really appreciate her. It will be fun to share a studio with her for the Monothon!

I arrived home, abandoned all the projects I was going to work on, and took out my sketchbook to start planning for the Monothon. Markers and pastels were spread on the desk and I enjoyed several hours of drawing and planning. It was lovely.

Today was spent at the office, helping Steve, who is heading out of town on a hunting trip on Tuesday. I wouldn't have had much fun in my studio thinking of him sweating over getting things done before he leaves town. It was a productive day and he really appreciated my being there.

I remain several weeks behind on my weekly blog projects but, for now, that's just the way it goes... the purpose of "Bookworm 52" was primarily to get my creative butt moving, not being married to a schedule. I'll catch up, after the Monothon!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Almost back to normal!

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks with planning for my father's surprise 80th birthday party, visiting relatives and tax deadlines. The party was a great success and we managed to totally surprise my Dad. Some family has headed home, we are still enjoying the company of others. Tax deadlines never seem to go away but things have settled down a little at work.

One of the things we did over the weekend was go to The Blaze, a display of over 4,000 carved pumpkins at Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, NY ( It was AMAZING! Many of the pumpkins were joined together to form things like dinosaurs and an enormous spider web. It was really a sight to see. We were fortunate in that it was a perfect fall evening, the aroma of leaves, candles & pumpkins added to the atmosphere. My camera is at my office - I'll add a couple of photos tomorrow night. It was great fun.

I am now officially two weeks behind on my projects! I've already posted the book and project for the first one but I haven't selected the second and third (I have to add this weeks book too!). I'm itching to get back into my studio so I should have something posted by Saturday night.

We have purchased tickets to go see "This Is It", the Michael Jackson movie. Whatever you think of his personal life, there is no denying that he was an amazing talent. I am looking forward to seeing the movie and learning more about his creative process. When I read that he often had trouble sleeping I could really understand it - I know that sometimes I get an idea in my head and I have to head to my studio to commit it to paper (or sometimes to start making it) for otherwise there would be no falling back to sleep. I can't imagine what it must be like to have music or lyrics running through your mind continually - much like when you get a song in your head and it is with you all day. We are going to the movie on Thursday night. I'll let you know what I think.

Even though I haven't been getting any projects done I have been surrounded by creativity - our fun decorations for the party (including funny sayings on the party favors), thousands of pumpkins carved in ways I'd never imagined, the minister at Church yesterday (whose sermon was quite creative in conveying its message about REALLY opening ones eyes), and Mother Nature's autumn glory - the leaves are beautiful, just exploding in color when the sun is on them. Creativity at every turn - we just have to pay attention!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Busy getting nothing done...

For the first time since I started this project, I missed my Saturday deadline. It is likely that I will miss this week's also. It has been bothering me a little, after all, this project was supposed to get me back in creative mode!

Then, when I gave it some thought, I realized that it was probably unrealistic of me to think I could do this without ever "being late", and, while I haven't gotten my blog project done, I have been doing a lot of creative things....

For example, last Saturday, my sister & her boyfriend had a party and guests were asked to bring a carved pumpkin - one per person! My father was also invited and asked me to carve his pumpkin also. Three Jack O'Lanterns! I really didn't have time to carve them so I came up with another idea... I had a wooden base with a dowel in it that I had assembled for an unfinished project a few years ago. I carved holes in the base and top of three pumpkins and stacked them on the pole. The top pumpkin had a hole in just the base. I added a small straw hat and painted a face with black gesso - it was a Stack-O-Lantern and a great hit. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures!

I've also been working on a super secret something that has taken some creative thought. My point is, even when I am not being directly creative, my creative side is awake and working.

Since I don't have any project pictures to show you this week, I'm going to share photos of our newly painted garage. My husband's side is University of Tennessee orange (his alma mater), my side is a more sedate "Squish Squash" yellow. I just couldn't paint the whole thing orange! So we compromised and we're both happy. And that, my friends, is the secret to a happy marriage!

This is going to be a super busy week, my in-laws arrive tomorrow from Florida and we are celebrating my father's 80th birthday on Sunday. With all that going on, I don't see how I can get a blog project done! I'm planning on making it up in the next couple of weeks.

On another note, I bought a most amazing book a few days ago, it's a book full of photos of nature projects, sculptural arrangements of objects from nature - leaves, stones, icicles, bamboo, berries, all kinds of things. Really beautiful stuff. I will be using that for one of my projects - but more on that next time.... until then, hope you are in a creative state of mind!

Friday, October 16, 2009

An autumn day...

Having survived the October 15th extended tax return deadline at work, I decided not to go to work today (I needed time to recover!). After puttering around the house for a little while, I remembered that I needed to go buy pumpkins for a party we are going to on Saturday. I could have gone to the local supermarket but it was a nice day and I thought I'd enjoy a visit to a local orchard - Outhouse Orchards in North Salem, New York.

My art quilt group is doing a micro-photography project and I've been carrying my new digital camera everywhere, hoping for inspiration for that project. I took some photos as I wandered the orchard's property and am sharing some of them with you here. Having this new camera has been great fun and the micro-photography project has me taking pictures of the craziest things, like cracks in the pavement. I am astonished by the detail that this camera captures (Nikon Coolpix S630).

The picture of the daisies was taken from across two lanes of traffic! These crazy blue-gray pumpkins (well, I guess they are some kind of squash, technically - but, then again, so are pumpkins, right???) seem so forlorn when viewed next to their more colorful cousins. There were friendly roosters and chickens roaming around and a couple of ducks that were fun to watch as they waddled around.

So, on to the book of the week for 'Bookworm 52"... this weeks selection is "Layers, inspired collage for paper projects with meaning", by Shari Carroll (North Light Books). It is a lovely book with a lot of projects, many of which would make great gifts (the holidays will be here soon!). My project is the "memory book" which is basically a blank chipboard book with a collaged cover and decorated pages, ready for individual collages and journal entries. It will be fun to dig through all the papers in my stash in search of the "right" ones.

It was a lovely autumn day, the crisp air, enjoying a bit of nature and taking pictures of the bountiful pumpkins and apples at the orchard, bringing home an apple crumb pie for dessert and enjoying Mother Nature's fall production of color-changing leaves. I remain fascinated by nature and the cycle of life in my four-season corner of the world.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What I learned this week...

I must confess - one of the reasons I selected the macrame book this week was because I knew that I would have limited time to work on a project (busy week at work) and I thought it was going to be pretty easy. Just knots, right? HA!

For my first attempt, I wanted to make the necklace on the cover (dare to be great). After an hour of working I realized that it was going to take a long time to finish - probably because I was working with some pretty thin cord (which translates to tiny knots). First lesson learned: start with something simple when attempting an unfamiliar technique.

My next attempt was the red bracelet in the picture - I never quite figured out the starting instructions on how to make the loop for the clasp so I winged it and continued on to make the bracelet. That was followed by the orange one which came out kind of knarled. The next night, I thought that maybe the problem was the kind of cord I was using. I decided to try again, using black leather cord. That one did come out much smoother with more uniform knots and I'm much happier with the result.

While at work, on endless hold waiting for the IRS to answer a question, I thought about my lackluster red and orange bracelets. I realized that part of the problem was my frame of mind the night I made them - it's been a busy and frustrating week at work as we try to wind up tax season, dragging procrastinators into the office with the last of their information. I've been feeling a bit agitated and tired and, for some reason, have really been missing my Mom this week. After some thought, I realized that my knarled uneven knots are reflective of my mood this week, not any problem with the cord or the book. Second lesson learned: no matter how I try to put on a happy face when I'm working on something, my true mood comes through in my work.

Being the stubborn person that I am, I decided to attempt yet one more project (this book was NOT going to get the better of me!). I found a set of purse handles and a couple of yarns. I was going to make a macrame purse and don't even try to stop me! I started it on Friday night, around 9pm, after dinner - fatter yarn = bigger knots, it would go fast, right? HA! Here's a photo of my "work in progress" purse:

I'm planning on finishing this and will post a photo when I do (don't hold your breath, lol). The purse has been fun to do but reminded me of why I don't knit or do crochet projects that require counting a lot of stitches. I have the worst time keeping track! My mother was a talented knitter who made elaborate sweaters with cables and all kinds of designs. Her mother was a skilled crocheter who made teeny tiny flowers with the skinniest crochet cotton. Well, I guess it's not genetic because I'm having trouble with a simple pattern of big fat knots! Lesson #3 learned: Projects involving counting knots and/or stitches are a challenge for me.

It is a lovely book with some beautiful projects and I will re-visit it someday (I'd still like to make the necklace on the cover). I will wait until I'm in a different frame of mind, I think.

Though I can not claim to be a master of macrame, I did get an idea from doing these projects that I am going to use in a future project - if it works I'll show you some pictures of what I was inspired to do. One of the reasons I like to learn so many different techniques is so I can figure out ways to put my own twist on them to make something unique. That is also one of the reasons I take a lot of classes - learning how to handle different materials and tools gives me freedom to play and find my own voice.

Here's looking forward to October 16th and the official end to tax season 2009.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Macrame was all the rage when I was in high school during the 70's. It was mostly used for decorative items like plant hangers and wall hangings that looked like owls. This book, Beaded Macrame Jewelry (by Sherri Haab, published by Watson Guptill), takes macrame out of the
home dec trends of the 70's and advances it to a new level of stylish contemporary jewelry projects.
I'm still deciding what cord to use - I've got leather, silk, satin, jute and waxed linen, all good choices for the projects in this book. With beads from my extensive stash, I should come up with some fun things!
Since it's already Thursday night, I guess I'll be busy tying knots on Friday night. Check back on Saturday to see what I've made - I'd like to make a necklace but if it takes me a long time, it may just be a bracelet!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Blank Canvas Day

Peeling away the layers of my studio desk was a walk back through what I've been up to for the past couple of months. One of the things I uncovered was a poem that I wrote a few years ago. I don't know why I had it out but I'm sharing it with you here:

"A Blank Canvas Day"
by Gail Ellspermann

A blank canvas sits before me.
As I ponder where I will begin
I pause to wonder
What it must be like to be completely blank
and anxiously await a creative hand.

Each day is like a blank canvas.
Will the day turn out blue and sad
or yellow and happy?
A confusion of colors and shapes
or sweetly calm and serene -

Unlike the canvas,
which is at the mercy of the artist -
We have the power to make each day
a little better,
a little brighter.

Today is a blank canvas.
Pick up the paintbrush of kindness,
add the colors of joy,
and delight in the possibilities
before you.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Six Six by Six

I originally said that I was going to make six collages on 4" x 4" canvases. As I gathered my materials I decided that a 4" square was too small to have much fun with so I changed to 6" x 6" canvases. So, what I've got this week are six six by six collages - hence the name of this post (I guess I could call it "six cubed"...oh well, on to the fun stuff!).

For these collages, I worked with a variety of Golden products (mediums) - heavy gel medium, modeling paste, black gesso, glass bead gel and gel medium. The book "Altered Surfaces" reminded me of how to use some of the products that have been sitting unused on my shelf for too long. I used foam stamps, templates (, foam stamps, sequin waste ribbon, ends of paintbrushes, a palette knife, and other odds and ends to create impressions in the wet mediums. In some cases I painted the canvas first - for others I applied the mediums, created the textures, let them dry, then painted them. It was all great fun!

The background on the collage with the bird and the hand has the best background - and it was one of the easiest! I applied a base of black gesso that only partially covered the canvas, then after it dried, painted a light coat of white and titan buff paints. I then laid down a template (or stencil - you say tomato, I say tomAHto, lol)... and used a palette knife to apply molding paste through the stencil. I lifted the stencil off and let it dry overnight (wash your stencil pretty quickly). After the design was dry I painted it with acrylic paint washes, being mindful of keeping it lighter towards the center and darker at the edges. I love the way this one turned out (well, ok, I love them all...).

I worked on all six canvases at the same time so I always had something drying and something to work on. I pretty much always work that way - I'm not one to sit around waiting for paint to dry! It's more fun to go from one to the other, then back again - that way I'm always making some kind of progress.
I added layers of textured paper, photographs, copyright free images, embellishments (embroidered stars, buttons - adhered with gel medium), and paint accents. It's surprising what something like a simple row of dots contributes to a piece.

I don't use original photos, I use color photocopies of photos (even the black and white photos are done as color photocopies - otherwise the values flatten out). "Forever and forever" is a photo of my husband's paternal grandparents on their wedding day. "Wildflowers" includes a photo of my paternal grandmother (first one on the right) back in the day when showing one's legs was considered risque. The little lion is my niece, Jennifer, at her first dance recital, singing the song "Shy Lion".

This last collage, "Bubbles Blue Bird", was a bit of a surprise in that I didn't paint the medium after it dried - I liked it the way it was! I had made circular impressions in the medium using the lid from the jar and another smaller circular lid (save those lids from your recycling bin), then painted inside the circles. I did shade a bit inside the circles with a tiny bit of black gesso on my fingertip - it doesn't take much sometimes!

So, that's it from me for the week... I had fun re-introducing myself to the great Golden products that I used. In fact, I popped into my local A.C. Moore and bought another six mediums that I haven't ever tried. I'm looking forward to re-visiting this book to learn how to use them!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Supply sources

I brought some of my projects to my monthly Art Quilt group last night and was met with great enthusiasm. There were a number of ladies asking about where I purchase the sticky backed canvas and paints that I used. Here's the info:

Both the sticky backed canvas and paints are from the Claudine Hellmuth line of products. The sticky backed canvas is great to work with since there is already adhesive on the back. Just paint, cut (or tear), peel off the backing paper and apply to your desired surface. Her paints are FABULOUS - they are creamy and cover well. One of the things I especially love is the mixing chart she has on her website ( - the paint line has only 15 paints but the chart gives you the mixing recipies to make another 51 colors. No more making mud in search of the color you want - just go to Claudine's chart, find your color and it tells you how to get there. It's great! I would suggest buying all fifteen paints in the line so you can make all additional 51 colors. I purchase the supplies at - it's the site for the publishers of the delicious family of magazines that includes Somerset Studio, ArtQuiltingStudio, Where Women Create, Belle Armoire, Stuffed, Altered Couture, Haute Handbags, Memories... the list goes on.

OK, I admit, I'm a little biased towards Stampington & Co because of their generous support in publishing a lot of my projects & articles and I think that Jenny Doh, their Director of Publishing is one of THE most AMAZING women I've ever met. Her blog is worth looking at also,

That's it from me for now! I have to get back to my day job of accounting!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Altered Surfaces looks like fun...

The book "Altered Surfaces" is this week's pick. It is by Chris Cozen and is published by Design Originals (who also published my books).

This book is all about "Using Acrylic Paints with Gels, Mediums, Grounds & Pastes". I already use Gel Medium for a lot of things, as a transfer medium, as an adhesive, etc. My plan for this week is to do at least six 4" x 4" canvases using the techniques in the book, then making them into completed collages. I've got a lot of great "tools" like paints, mediums, molding pastes, etc., but they sit on the shelf because I haven't taken the time to play with them. It's time!

I'll be back in a couple of days to show you what I've done. Hope you are finding time in your life for some art-play, journaling, or some other soul-satisfying pastime.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wow, that was fun!

I had a lot of fun with these projects - making backgrounds is something I really enjoy doing, it's so random and very relaxing to work on. It is so handy to have a stash of backgrounds on various media to work with!

Here are the results of this week's book selection, "Canvas Remix" by Alisa Burke...

First, I painted a bunch of Claudine Hellmuth's sticky backed canvas using paints from her paint line, then adding graffiti like writing, scribbling, bubble wrap print, etc. to create texture and interest. I then tore the canvas into strips and started covering a wood frame (see the kids picture). I quickly realized that there were going to be a lot of little pieces leftover so I started to cover a canvas board also. My plan was to put a photo in the frame and to collage on the canvas board.

I treated the canvas board as a background and attached the photo using gel medium. The piece of bubble wrap I had stamped with was on the table, covered in paint. I cut off a section and placed it near the photo - it was just what I needed! So, I adhered three strips of painted bubble wrap around the photo (see close up photo). I love the way it looks!
The large photo is of Steve and I at Brian's wedding in Colorado - in a huge field of dandelions in full bloom. It was beautiful! I made dandelion crowns for Britney and Emily, they looked so sweet.

The small photo is of me and my siblings, me, Stuart, Leslie & Valerie. It's one of my favorite photos and a reminder of a joy filled childhood.

So, that's it for this week! I had a lot of fun with this and will be painting more canvas to tear and collage. The book has a lot of great ideas for what to do with your painted canvas, ideas I'll be sure to re-visit down the road. Check back next week to see what I'm up to!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Time and space...

Once again, the week got away from me - how can it be Friday already? Lots going on - we got the POD emptied and the garage partially straightened out on Sunday - the POD was picked up on Tuesday and it's nice to have it out of our front yard! I'm still trying to figure out how I want to set up my metal/soldering/stained glass work area in there. My studio is a big room but it is carpeted and quite full of all kinds of flammable supplies so I'm nervous about soldering in here. So, I'm taking over some of the garage space :)

I had a great time on Monday night, friends Ted and Jaime (owners of The Crafter's Workshop) came over for dinner & art play. We played with their templates and spray dyes/inks on giant sheets of watercolor paper. Well, actually, Ted and I painted and Jaime was our "sous artiste", washing stencils & keeping us organized. We made about eight great sheets of paper and it took three days for all of the ink to come off my hands (I can't work in gloves!).

On Wednesday I made a little quilt for a challenge from ArtQuilt magazine (Stampington & Co.) based on "what's in your car". It took me a while to figure out what to do but I like what I came up with. I may make a couple more over the weekend since I've got a couple more ideas cooking.
Then, Poof!, it became FRIDAY!

The book I've chosen for this week is Canvas Remix by Alisa Burke (North Light Books). The book covers techniques using canvas, paints and stamps to create interesting accessories like tote bags and pins. The work has a grafitti kind of feel to it.

At the beginning of the year I bought Claudine Hellmuth's incredible Studio line of paints but haven't had time to work with them. I thought this would be a good opportunity to combine my weekly book project and using the paints. One of the great things about Claudine's paints is the color mixing chart that can be downloaded from her site. From the fifteen colors in the collection, Claudine gives the combinations that give another fifty-one colors. The paints are creamy and the coverage is great.

I've painted several sticky-back canvas sheets (also a Claudine Hellmuth product) using all fifty-one colors and I'm waiting for them to dry before doing further surface effects (like stamping & mark making). I'll embellish the sheets tomorrow and will figure out what to make from them.

It's going to be a busy weekend, I've got a lot of things to get done in my studio - this comes first though! Come back tomorrow to see what I've come up with!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Charm photos

I'm so proud of me, I succesfully installed the software for my new camera and figured out how to get the pictures from the camera to the computer! I know this doesn't sound like much but for me, it's an accomplishment!

Here are the photos of the five charms I made for last week's "Bookworm 52" project. I made two pearl bird nest charms and three button stacks. All were pretty easy to make and are really fun necklaces.

It has been a long time since I've made anything along these lines. They were quick to make and I love the results - another fun project I've made because I'm focusing on a book a week. I haven't picked out my book for this week yet - I'll do that tomorrow night. Hope you like what I did this time!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Simply Charming...

With little time to work this week, I chose my book partly because I could accomplish a project in little time. As it turned out, I was having so much fun that I wound up making five necklaces!

The book, "A Charming Exchange" by Kelly Snelling & Ruth Rae (North Light Books) is a delightful book full of charms created for exchanges. After the exchanges, the charms were used to create amazing bracelets and interesting necklaces.

I have long wanted to make Ruth Rae's "pearl bird nest" charm. It is an elegant design, lovely to wear and simple to make. My first one was finished so quickly that I decided to make a second, using different color pearls. I strung one on leather cord, the other on silk ribbon. I see myself making many more of these for gifts!

I also loved the button stacks and made my own version of the design. I had so much fun that I made three of them, all strung on vintage seam binding. It was fun to dig through my button stash to find the right color & texture buttons to use. I combined the buttons with a few beads, used gel medium to attach a word and tied snippets of seam binding for added texture. They are adorable!

My photography skills still need work - I took photos with the old camera but they are all blurry. I have yet to load the software for the new camera so I can't post photos from that one yet. Here's hoping I get that done on Saturday so I can show you what I've made.

I love this book and I'm SO happy that I've finally made the pearl filled bird nest charms that I've been wanting to make for so long. Here's hoping I can post photos tomorrow.

Holy Mackeral, where did the week go?

Yikes. It's FRIDAY and I still haven't even picked out the book I'm using this week! It has been a busy week at my office, we had a tax deadline on the 15th which wore me out - I've been going home and lying down for a little "rest" then waking up hours later. Too late to head to the studio!

So, tonight I'll pick out my book & get my act together for my project. I've got some other things I want to work on over the weekend, plus, our garage renovations are finished and it's time to move our "stuff" out of the POD and back into the garage. Here's hoping that we can get rid of a bunch of useless stuff in the process!

Saturday is my birthday, I'm 51. I still think I'm about 25 (which is probably why I take on too much and wear myself out, lol). We're going to dinner with friends on Saturday night - I've already gotten a bunch of cards, a beautiful bouquet of white flowers from my sister, Leslie, and a delicious Edible Arrangement from my step-daughter, Dawn & granddaughter Emily. I'm all set for a tasty, smell-good birthday!

I better get back to work... I'd like to sneak out early but I have a late appointment - who's idea was that on a Friday??? Happy weekend, all.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New camera!

I forgot to tell you, I bought a new camera tonight! I've been wanting a pocket sized digital camera for a while - I want to carry it so I can build a library of my own photos, taken during my daily running around. I got a Nikon CoolPix S630, 12 megapixels and a 7x zoom. I'm VERY excited about it! I may be posting some photos in addition to the "Bookworm 52" projects.

OK, now I'll go pack for Atlantic City!

"The Promise" quilt

This week's project is finished, here's a scan. It is a 4" square quilt, made on a base of Timtex, a firm batting type material. The blocks were exchanged tonight at a fun meeting - there were twenty-nine participants and everyone did a great job! I wish I could show you all of them but they are going to be submitted for a possible magazine article and I can't let the cat out of the bag! It is a great collection of small art quilts.
The sky is a commercial batik fabric, selected for it's blue shade and lavender "clouds". The background of the center section is also a commercial batik fabric - I hand carved a stamp of trees for the image in the center and I love how it turned out! Little green beads are the buds on the branches (I started out doing french knots but after seven little quilts my fingers were very sore and I switched to beads).
The dark green grass is hand-dyed cheesecloth (dyed by Ellen Anne Eddy, the amazing quilter). I use her cheesecloth in a lot of my quilt and collage projects - it adds great texture and she dyes in a wide range of colors. Yummy stuff.
The bottom section "lawn" is hand-dyed green fabric with large dots I painted with Lumiere paint. Well, I should say "stamped". I used the little round erasers used for white-erase boards. They are sold at Staples and come in three sizes. A fun little tool! I outlined them in black Sharpie marker.
I made thirty-nine of these but only needed 29 (I really must start writing things down!). I have an idea for the ones that are left and will working on that in between other things. I'll post a photo when I'm done.
I was off to a slow start on this project, I have a little pile of sketches on my desk - ideas that started out "brilliant" but that were discarded because they weren't "it". I love what I wound up doing and received many compliments at the exchange.
That's it from me this week, I'm going to pack a suitcase and head to Atlantic City to play in a Women's poker tournament at the Borgata... top prize should be somewhere around $20,000 - wish me luck! I'll let you know how I did when I get back :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A four season girl...

I am definitely a four season girl. I was born in southern New York and haven't ever lived more than fifty miles from the hospital I was born in. One of the things I love about the Northeast is the change of seasons. As much as I can live without the extremes of winter days so cold the air in your lungs seems to freeze and summer days that make me melt when I step outside, I must endure those times to enjoy my favorite seasons, spring and fall. Between the two, spring is my absolute favorite.

After a long, gray winter, I love watching the miniscule touches of green that slowly appear on barren tree branches. I look every day for the tips daffodil leaves peeking through the soil and love the crisp fresh smell of it all. The scents of spring remind me of my flower shop days, spent with my Mom, surrounded by countless buckets of flowers, aromas marrying to create a perfume I will never forget. I love watching the earth come alive and celebrate the gifts of the garden, their sight and smells.

As I worked on my little art quilts, I thought of my love of springtime. I still can't show you my little quilts (the exchange is on Thursday - you'll have to wait like everyone else!) but, I can share the poem I wrote about them. I will be printing the poem on fabric and attaching it to the back of each little quilt. Here it is:

"The Promise"

Charcoal branches own the winter sky
until Mother Nature awakens
and the branches yield
to her power.

A mist of green emerges
to become a leafy cloud.
Spring's promise,

Monday, September 7, 2009

Is this cheating?

A couple of weeks ago I said I was going to make 39 little quilts for a quilt exchange in an Art Quilt group I belong to. I really tried to come up with an idea but, given that this is a REALLY talented group of quilters, nothing seemed "good enough" and I never got anything started. I have a lot of sketches though!

After many false starts, I finally got my act together on Sunday and am just about done with all 39 little quilts (4 inches square).

The leader of the group is my amazingly talented friend, Jane Davila. Jane and another amazingly talented friend, Elin Waterston, joined together to write two books, Art Quilt Workbook and Art Quilts at Play (they also have an instructional DVD, Art Quilting Basics). Both books & the DVD are wonderful tools for both new and experienced art quilters (more on the books later in the week).

When I was struggling with my little quilts, I decided to pick up Art Quilts at Play to see if it would give me a kick start. I had already done some painting on fabric and wanted to use that as part of my project. What I didn't have was a "motif" or theme for my project - that's the "other" side of my brain taking over, I always feel like my projects should "say something".

The section on carving your own rubber stamps caught my eye and I decided to dig out the carving tools and soft carving block. I drew a little sketch, darkened it with pencil, flipped it over onto the carving material, burnished it to transfer the pencil marks and carved away. I loved the result!

I don't want to show my project yet since we are due to exchange on Thursday. I'll show it on Friday though! In the end, I'm going to wind up with one of my little quilts and thirty-eight others from the group. I'm very excited to see what everyone else has done!

So, back to the subject line... I had to make this project anyway - is it cheating to use it for the double purpose of "Bookworm 52"??? I decided in the end that it is ok - and, realized that taking that approach might be even more useful to me than making a bunch of random projects. I'm always working on projects to submit to magazines and I haven't been able to get any of those done since I started my blog. Methinks that accomplishing both magazine submissions and blog projects will be a good thing to do when it is appropriate.

More later in the week....