Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mountains of magazines....

I love magazines and subscribe to a rediculous number of them that cover a wide range of subjects - fashion, quilting, flowers, mixed media, dolls, sewing, health - the list goes on.  I try to read them as they come in because they can accumulate into big piles really fast.

One of the things I enjoy about magazines is feeling free to tear
things out of them.  I tear out stories, pretty pictures, things I want to make, words or phrases that catch my eye, all kinds of things.  Those, too, can accumulate into big piles!

As the piles of "tear outs" grows, I do a few things to keep them under control.  For the articles and instructions I bought a three ring binder and plastic pockets to put the articles into.  I keep the photo of the item on top, instructions in the back.  They aren't indexed - I prefer to flip through the pockets and often find a project I had forgotten about.

One thing I love to do is make collages of my torn pages.  I make them in color schemes, filling in areas as I find more things that fit the collage - it can take months to finish one as I wait to come across just the right image or word.  They are super simple to make, I use big sheets of inexpensive watercolor paper (it has more "tooth" than oaktag) and a glue stick. 

I am always seeing things that I think will be inspirations for a project, or a color scheme that I want to remember, or clothes that I want to remember for the fabric used or sewing details.  Jewelry, collage, quilts and dolls are a few more subjects that I keep a lookout for.  For those tear outs I use speckled composition books - I glue the images into the books, keeping a book for each subject.  I sometimes make notes of what caught my eye.  I collage the covers of the books to make them more fun and colorful.  They are great reference books and I turn to them frequently when I'm looking for inspiration.

I know that the electronic age is going to eventually lead to the demise of printed magazines - a very sad prospect indeed!  The electronic version of my speckled books is Pinterest and I am totally addicted.  I love that my pins are shared with my followers and that with just a few clicks, a Pin is shared with an endless stream of people.  What fun! 

I love my collages, I've shared some here - finished and "in progress".  They are SO much fun to make!

Despite all my cutting, tearing and collaging, I've still accumulated a big pile of magazines - mostly mixed media art and quilting magazines.  I have begun going through all of them, keeping only the pages/images I want.  I kind of gasp when I think of how much I've spent on all of them but then when I realize how much I have learned, how many friends I've made (through being published), how much I have been inspired, well, they are a real bargain. 

Three cheers for magazines - I hope they will be around for a long time to come! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Art Interrupted

When I last posted back in February, my big dilemma was picking out a poem for a quilt project.  Little did I to know that I would soon be facing a much bigger challenge - Stage 1 Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

Needless to say, the poem project was completely forgotten as I prepared to face the challenges of lumpectomy surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  My surgery went well, since it was "only" a lumpectomy I recovered quickly and even went back to work for the rest of tax season.  I started chemotherapy on April 16th, the day after tax season ended - no rest for the weary!

I must say that the IDEA of chemotherapy had me a little unglued.  I've heard all the horror stories of the side effects and of all things I deplore, getting an IV line put in and vomiting are at the top of the list.  Lucky for me, the IV lines were put in with minimal discomfort and new anti-nausea medications did a great job at keeping me from getting sick to my stomach.  While chemo was certainly not a pleasant experience, and my journey was not without some complications, I found chemo to be manageable.  Yes, I felt lousy and tired.  No, it was not unbearable.  Yes, I was allowing poisons to be put into my body.  No, I did not have a choice - I needed to go "full guns" at beating cancer.  Yes, I am now a survivor.  No, I don't want to go through this again.

I learned a lot along the way - life is full of lessons if we keep our eyes open.  I was shocked to learn of how many people in my life have had breast cancer - now, remember, we know at least two thousand people just through Steve's CPA practice and we have a large circle of friends outside of that so the odds are we would know quite a few.  That list is dozens of people long - a big surprise to me and a reminder of how far cancer treatment has advanced as the vast majority of them are SURVIVORS.  I met a lot of people at chemo and radiation, fabulous caregivers, skilled nurses, brilliant doctors who patiently answered my million-and-two questions.  I was reminded of how blessed I am to live here, an hour north of NYC where some of the most talented doctors are trained - and then wind up in my wonderful Mt Kisco Medical Group.  I heard a lot of stories from other cancer patients, both good and bad experiences.  I learned that everyone deals with a cancer diagnosis differently and that everyone responds differently to treatments - sometimes largely due to their emotional state.

I am blessed to have been raised by an incredible mother and father who faced their share of health issues with amazing strength and grace.  My approach was to be pragmatic, learn the facts and do what was needed - all with the best attitude I could muster through it all.  I can't count the times people told me that my good attitude was great medicine and would be really help me through it all.

My hair started to fall out about two weeks after my first chemo treatment.  A few days into finding gobs of hair in my brush, I was running errands and it so happened that the only parking space was in front of a hair salon.  I decided to go in and get my head shaved to just get the hair "thing" over with.  It turned out that one of our clients worked there - I felt so bad for her, she had tears rolling down her cheeks as she cut my hair and shaved my head - I was smiling the whole time.  It was SO empowering!  I guess that is the "control freak" in me - I don't like being vulnerable and letting my hair be in charge of just when I was going to be bald just didn't suit me.  So, I showed my hair who was in charge, LOL.  I very quickly got used to having no hair and actually have enjoyed how quickly I could get ready and out of the house!

Anyway, enough rambling about the past few months.... it has been a journey.  One that I could not have handled as well were it not for the incredible support of my husband, my family, my friends and the countless people who have been part of my treatment team.  What was amazing to me was that nearly every day from my first treatment I received either a card, a note, a quilted postcard, flowers, a plant, home cooked food, a gift, a Mass Card, or some other kindness.  It was as if everyone in my life had gotten together and set up a schedule so that the support would be spread out over the months of treatment instead of me getting a pile in the beginning and nothing in the later weeks.  It was so wonderful, every day brought some little joy, an endless stream of love. 

How blessed I am.

I am now back to making ART again and that will be the subject of my next blog post in about two weeks...  LOL, my computer drives me nuts... I somehow hit a combination of keys that has me typing in italics and I can't get rid of it....  ARGH.  Anyway, I plan to be back to blogging more regularly, at least a couple of times a month or so.  Thanks for hanging in there and waiting for me to show up again! 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Getting started is the toughest part!

I currently have three projects with deadlines to work on, a small format art quilt "inspired by a line of poetry or song lyric", a pair of altered shoes for a Heart Health fundraiser, and a fiber art piece for an upcoming exhibit.  I have spent hours pondering what I am going to do for each of them...

Poem after poem has been read and discarded - I like the poetry but can't come up with a visual translation that makes sense to me.  I've wandered lonely as a cloud, given up on the daffodils to find myself on a road less traveled and I've tried to keep my head when all about me were losing theirs.  I know that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree by the shores of the Gitche Gumee - I am now following the advice of Miller, in his poem "Columbus".... "Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!".  I am sailing on in my search for the right poem... here's hoping I find it soon!

The altered shoe project is a fundraiser for the "Kick Off Your Heels" fundraisr for the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.  I've got some ideas but I want to my project to be one that people will want to buy (oh, how sad it would be to be the one project that does NOT sell in an online charity auction...).

And then there is the fiber art piece for an upcoming exhibit.... I've got that figured out in my head and have even gotten the fabric out and sorted.  I need to figure out what my "base" will be and then I can get going on that one.  I do have some surface design things to work out, I guess that would be a good place to start.

Whether it be writing or an art project, I always find that starting is the toughest part.  The first line of an essay or article is, for me, the greatest challenge.  It sometimes takes me longer to write the first line or two than it takes to write the next couple of pages!   Art projects are the same way - the first swipe of paint on a canvas, the first cut into a piece of fabric - the committment to the idea, the hope that I'm on the right path and that it will all come together.....

I'm back to my search for the right line of poetry.... any suggestions?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Letting go....

I have been making art quilts and collages for  a long time, at least fifteen years.  I have accumulated a very large pile of finished work (we won't talk about the UNfinished pile...).  About forty pieces are on display at my husband/s office - the rest of them (dozens) are stashed in my studio, either in a pile, like these lovelies, or hanging around my studio.  I have 98% of what I've made - mostly because I have a problem "letting go".   
I am often asked if I sell my work, which I suppose I would do, if I ever got my act together and worked up a price list.  I think, however, that one of the reasons I haven't gotten my act together on selling my work is that I really don't want to let go of it!  It is totally crazy, I know.  I mean, how many little qults can one person posiblly hoard?  And, what is the point of creating something beautiful if you're not willing to share it with someone who will enjoy owning it?  Sigh. 
I met a well known painter at a party last week.  We talked about how hard it is to earn a living as an artist and she said she has been supporting herself as an artist from the very start.  Wow.  That is darned impressive!  I often wonder what it would be like to be a full time artist, needing to sell your work to pay the electric bill or make a (gulp) mortgage payment.  It seems to me that I would have to make a mountain of work in order to support myself!  For now, I'm grateful that my husband and I have good day jobs that pay the bills and that I just get to enjoy the process of making art, just for the enjoyment, without the pressure of having to think of whether or not it will sell.

One of my goals for 2013 is to finally finalize my website and put up galleries of my work.  I'm thinking that I will be able to sell some work after it is properly recorded on my website, I'll be able to let it go because I'll be able to visit it from time to time, in pictures.  Which brings me to a second goal for 2013, stocking the Etsy store I established last year.  Part of those processes will be to create a price list for all of my work.  That will mean I will be prepared with an answer when someone asks "Do you sell your work?".  I'll whip out my price list and see what happens. 
Until then, I guess I'll just keep making and hoarding... 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Time management

Managing time - in life, with special people, at work, in my studio, and quiet time, is a challenge.  I feel so fortunate to have a full life - a wonderful husband, a large family, lots of friends, a good job, a sweet home & a dream studio.  But, I often find myself trying to squeeze 27 hours into a 24 hour day, trying to fulfill the "must do's" of life and the "want to's". 

Obviously, I have to take care of the business end of life, which means going to work and doing things like laundry and paying bills.  Finding ways to simplify these "must do's" allows me a little more time to spend in my studio.  Little things like wearing mostly clothes that don't have to be ironed (and sending my husband's shirts to the cleaners), paying bills on-line, and spending a whole weekend cooking a freezer full of ready-to-eat meals, are just a few of the things that work for me. 

The truth is, there will never be enough hours in my lifetime for me to make all of the things I have dancing in my head.  However, I think that is a good thing - I mean, are all ideas really that good?   Time limitations cause us to filter through what we want to do and decide what is most important, or the best of the ideas we have.  Some projects get started and never finished - quilters call this their UFO (unfinished objects) pile.  My view of that is:  If I have a project that I really love, I will finish it.  If I am ambivilent about it, it will languish and may never be completed. 

Through the course of my creative journey, I have started and not finished countless projects.  Either something I was thinking didn't quite work or I became distracted by something else that caught my attention.  All of the work had value though - I always learn something, either "great, that worked well" or, "that was a bad idea".  In the end, it is all time well spent because it helps me to grow as a person (accepting failure, enjoying success) and as an artist (learning from my mistakes, building on my successes) - those lessons show up in the piles of projects I have finished.

I often say that I wish there was an eighth day in the week, as if that would mean I would have more time to do what I want, ha ha.  That joke is on me! 

One thing that is both a gift and a curse to time management is the computer.  It is terrific that I can find out pretty much anything with a quick Google search, pay my bills online, and get my work done faster.  But on the other side are things like Pinterest (which I love but can eat up a lot of time), Facebook (which is fun but can be another time killer) and the worst part, having to constantly learn how to use the newest version of whatever you're doing.  It seems that just when I get it all figured out, some wisenheimer decides to "improve" the program and I'm back to computer kindergarten (notice there are no pictures in this blog?  Guess what they changed on Blogger that I haven't figured out yet...).

My goal is to strike a good balance between spending time with my husband, family, & friends, being productive at work, enjoy our home, and feed my soul with studio time.  I don't know what I'm going to do with all the stuff I'm making..... maybe I'll sell it on Etsy someday, if I can figure out how to post pictures there!


Friday, October 26, 2012

I'm exhausted but at least I'm organized!

Phew!  Operation Organization turned out to be a bigger project than I realized!  The smartest thing I did for the project was enlist the help of my sister, Valerie.  Thanks for your help, sister!

The project was great on many levels.  One, I now have a clean and organized studio that I am itching to get back to work in.  Two, I learned a lot about my creative journey as I sorted through projects I made years ago.  Wow, has my work evolved (and am I ever grateful that it has).  Three, I no longer have stale supplies or books.  Four, I found a lot of things I had forgotten about.

My studio space is about 25' long by 13' wide  I've divided it up into several work areas so it is tough to get a good "overall" photo so I'll show it to you in sections.

My fabric stash is directly opposite the entrance and is a beautiful introduction to my wonderful space.  As part of the re-org project, I went through all of the fabric and culled out all the fabric that no longer "spoke" to me - about EIGHTY POUNDS of it!  Yikes!  Some went to my sister, some to friends and some to my Goddaughter to take on her next mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  I cleaned out my stash and made a bunch of people happy - how fun is that???  I still have more fabric than I can use in a lifetime.... in some circles that would be considered strange but I know that you all understand, LOL.

Opposite the fabric area is my worktable for collage, handmade books, stenciling, etc.  There used to be a sofa bed in this area but nobody ever slept in it or sat on it because it was covered in piles of fabric and art supplies.  So, out went the sofa bed and in came three Ikea bookcase units that Val and I assembled.  I moved all my mixed media supplies and some equipment, like my Cricut, into the shelves.  Colorful baskets help it look neat and I love having everything at arms length.  The tall skinny cabinets on the left came from Home Decorators Collection and hold much of my collage stash, sorted by subject.
Under the window I have my bead cart (from Dick Blick).  I love the rainbow colored drawers and have sorted my bead stash by color in the coordinating drawer.  It is SO easy to find the right color beads quickly.  There are four more drawers on the bottom (they are purple).  The drawers pull out easily so I can take the whole drawer to my work table and keep things under control.  Love this! 

Next is my desk which houses my computer, laser and ink jet printers and related supplies.  We re-arranged this space and added a two book case units (one tall, one short) to house my journals, stationary and office supplies. It is a wonderful to have it all organized instead of in toppling piles!  Two organizational items in that area that I especially love are the wooden rack for my re-inkers (a tag sale find) and the lucite cubes I found at Office Max to organize my markers (which I wanted to store flat to extend the life of the markers).  
The other side of the room is where my cabinets start - what a find they were!  We got them nine years ago when we originally renovated my studio space.  A contractor friend of ours was doing a kitchen expansion not far from our home.  His client wanted to sell the original cabinets and we got them for just $500.  We paid him another $500 to install them and the pre-made Home Depot countertops we picked up for under $500.  For $1,500 I wound up with great storage and twenty-one feet of countertop. All we did in the re-org project in this area was to sort, sift and toss.  Much better!
This is the area I use for rubber stamping, card making, collage & journaling.  The gray shelves on the left were a tag sale find - pre-made & painted wooden trays that I made into a rack to hold my rubber stamps.  On the wall to the right is an old cassette rack which is perfect for holding stamp pads.  The shelf to the right of that is another tag sale find - I know it was meant to be mine because the shelves are exactly the right height for bottles of Lumiere paint.  The cabinets hold collage and assemblage items, envelopes, paper and countless doo dads and gee gaws. 

 I'm skipping pictures of the next section because it is just more cabinets.  The only thing of interest there is a small shelf unit I built to hold the countless bottles of glue, mediums, and other liquid stuff in bottles.  At one time I was going to put a sink in the countertop below this unit but I've decided I like the countertop better.  I have a laundry sink in the next room so I can live without another sink in here. 

This cart is another new addition, from Ikea.  It has wheels so I can roll it to my easel or to my work table.  Three shelves hold paint, meduims, water jars & paintbrushes.  Love this!

My sewing table is on the other side of the room (behind the desk area).  My table is a large closet door that sits on top of a short book case and a couple of file cabinets.  I love having a large area to work on and can clear it all off if I have someting big to cut.  I covered the door with peel-n-stick tiles so it would be smooth and easy to cleaan.  My ironing board is nearby so I just spin in my chair, iron, and return to sewing.  What you can't see is the stuff UNDER the table.  I've got a couple of large scrap bins & boxes of vintage linens under there - have to use all available space!  This area was a mess, covered in piles of fabric and works-in-progress. Extra things have been put away and this area is ready to work in again.


Before entering my studio, I pass through a foyer area that leads to the back door.  Years ago, I had custom book cases built and they house my huge book collection.  It had gotten pretty messy so we took all the books off the shelves, culled out the ones I no longer wanted and re-organized them into more meaningful "departments".  I took out hundreds of magazines that I have been saving and I'm in the process of going through them and tearing out only the articles that I want.  It seems silly to save the whole magazine when I only want five pages.  For now I will keep them in binders but eventually I envision scanning them and keeping them as electronic files.  "Operation Organization" extended into what I call the "Studio Annex" which is the unfinished portion of our basement.  We cleaned, sorted, threw out and organized.  We installed four sets of steel shelves and added narrow shelves to them to house my paper collection (a great alternative to spending a lot of money on flat files).  My canvases, paper, and equipment are all nicely organized now.  What a relief it is to have this all done!  Time for me to get back to studio work - having my hands on all these supplies leaves me longing to do something with them.   Stay tuned for posts about what I'm up to.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Me and my big ideas!

We have been hard at work for more than a week on "Operation Organization" - we had a good plan in place and were off and running.  I needed some new shelving so we made two trips to Ikea (New Haven, CT and Paramus, NJ - good thing I live in the middle) and two to Home Depot.  I love the value of "self-assembled" furniture & shelving but that stuff is HEAVY! 

Supplies in place, Valerie began the process of clearing out the areas that the new shelves were going to.  And that led us to my first photo, the "Omigod what have I started???" stage.....

Which led to the "Who brought all this stuff into the house??? stage....

First, I know three solid reasons for my rediculous stash of art supplies.  Reason 1: When I was a kid, I had to have the "big" box of Crayola 64.  I wasn't happy with the little box of 8, or 16 crayons.  I had to have ALL of the colors (my favorite crayon was, and still is "Midnight Blue").  Reason 2: I managed my Mom's flower shop for fourteen years.  Fourteen years of having a fully stocked work room with supplies in every size and color at my fingertips led to me replicating the same thing at home (minus the flowers, that is).   And, Reason 3: My art supplies make me happy - some women want shoes & clothes, I want tubes of paint and fat quarters of fabric.  Call me crazy, I consider it a compliment :)

Here's another shot of the crazy mess...

I should mention that this is only the STUDIO part of the space we are working on.  We're also working on the basement area (also known as the Studio Annex since half of it is full of my overflow art supplies and equipment), and the "Library" area (basically a back foyer with built in bookcases), and the Utility Room (also known as Studio Annex Two since half of it if full of the rest of my overflow supplies). 

Here's a shot of the mess in the "Library"... I will be sorting through the books & selling the ones I don't want in our tag sale.  The leftovers will be going to our local library for their book sale. 

Sorting through these mountains of supplies, fabric and UFO's has been and interesting reminder of how much my interests and style have changed through the years.  Purging the things that no longer interest or inspire me is very freeing - I can already feel the clearer "air" in my studio.  I am anxious to be done with this project so I can get back to creative work!
Val and I have assembled four large Ikea bookcases, two "cube" cabinets, two "bin" cabinets and a great little rolling cart.  The white shelves in these photos are among the ones we assembled.  They went together pretty easily - by the time we got to the third one we barely looked at the assembly instructions and didn't even look at them for the fourth. 

We are now in the process of of sorting supplies and deciding what should be where. 

Here is the new cube we assembled for my larger pieces of fabric. I already had the one to the left, an old post office sorting cabinet that I purchased at auction.  That holds my fat quarters.  The new cabinet is for cuts of one yard or more.  It is all pretty yummy looking, don't you agree?

If  I live to be a hundred, and don't buy another inch of fabric between now and then, I could never use all the fabric I have.  The same goes for ribbon, art paper and beads.  It really is sort of like having my own personal store.

We also assembled four sets of steel shelves from Home Depot, for the "Studio Annex", AKA, the basement.  My studio is in the finished half of the basement, the "Annex" is in the unfinished portion.  It is a great place to store things like stretched canvases, tools and bulky supplies. 

We are making great progress - it is a ton of work but it will be SO worth it in the end.  Come back next week to see how far we've gotten!