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!