Monday, October 29, 2012

The Queen of Fun

Queen of Fun? Am I talking about me? Uh... No. Queen of Don't-Eat-That-on-the-Couch? Possibly. Queen of But-What-if? Yep. Queen of I-Don't-Know-if-I-Should? Absolutely.

No, I am talking about my friend Tamara. She would be the Queen of Fun. And I have to say just a wee bit Queen of Crazy as well. She and her family just held their 2nd Annual Halloween Kids Festival for pretty much every child they know. And I think everyone came.

Tamara and her family turn their entire compound into a village of kid-friendly spooky. She's got an inflatable castle, a trampoline, a playground, zip line, s'mores around a fire pit, games with prizes, cookie decorating, paint spinning, popcorn, pizza, cotton candy, and even craft beer tasting for the grown-ups.

My kids love coming to this party. Now that Halloween is barely acknowledged in schools, they miss out on some of the silly fun their parents used to have. This party brings it all back... fake blood, plastic fangs, potato sack races, and fuzzy teeth from too much sugar.

If this were my gig? Oh, I might come up with some cute party ideas. But I'd never move past how many party napkins to buy. Tamara just does it and does it big.

I'm just the boring gal who gets to bring my kids over, drink her beer, and feel lucky that I know the Queen of Fun.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bucket List?

Do you have a bucket list? I don't, but recently I've been thinking maybe I need to create one. My cowardliness is probably the biggest reason why I have never had a bucket list. I feel no need or desire to jump out of an airplane before I die. I don't care if I never climb Mt. Everest. But are there other things I don't want to miss? Hmmmm.... time for some thought.

After some thought, I am feeling quite boring. My bucket list includes things like:

1) Learn how to make some encaustic art without burning the house down

2) Take a photography class

3) Learn how to dye fabric (I'm talking the fancy stuff, not a tie-dyed t-shirt)

4) Take up oil painting again (haven't done this since high school)

5) Learn how to weld and make a giant metal sculpture

Where is travel? Where is adventure? Where is danger?

Do I really need a list?

Does it help to create a checklist of your dreams? Or is it better to keep them cloud-like and ambiguous, floating up there with amber 1970's Kodak memories and sparks of ideas and old Abba songs that play softly in the background?

I'm not sure. But I do know this, two years ago I started making lists of creative goals in my journal. I talked to my husband and a few family members about my vague ideas and dreams. I never proclaimed anything official or made a big fuss about my list of dreams, but these goals were written in real ink on real paper. And you know what? Many of these dreams are actually coming true. Maybe this list of goals is really my bucket list. A bucket list doesn't just have to include crazy, near death adventure, right?  Can't a bucket list include things that are crazy and heart-stopping to you alone?

There must be something to it. The action of writing it down. The secret commitment to yourself. And so... I think you DO need a list. Do you have one?

Ok, all that thinking makes me sleepy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Still Pinching Myself

I've got some big news.

I recently found out that I have been selected to do two DVD workshops for Cloth Paper Scissors Magazine. I will be heading out to Colorado in less than a month to film them!

I am thrilled and honored beyond measure. I still cannot believe it.

And I am scared to death.

I'm working my fingers down to the nub making step-outs and display pieces. I am working my brain down to the nub writing my scripts and endless lists of what not to forget and how to organize everything. I am practicing my scripts in my studio, in the shower, and in the car. 

I am driving my friends and family nuts.

Then there is my appearance. What about this sea hag hair-do? I need a hair cut! What will I wear? I don't even know what is hip right now since I only go to Michael's, JoAnn's, and the grocery store. And look at these eyebrows! There is work to be done, friends. And lots of it.

Meanwhile, I am trying to document this experience. 

This journal page is all about that gut-level chicken feeling I've been feeling every day since I heard the news. 

I decided to just laugh at it and accept it as a part of the experience.

Instead of constantly shooing her away, 
I think I will just let her have a tiny roost. 
Maybe she will lay some eggs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kicking Up Some Dust Over Here

The past few weeks have been a marvelous blur of projects and, drumroll please... , a big studio re-org and clean out. It had to be done. I realized that I was starting to move my art projects to other rooms in the house because I literally had no floor or table space. In true dramatic artist style, I had a bit of a meltdown on Monday morning. Thankfully my husband had taken the day off and was here for an intervention (just what he wanted to do on his day off.) He helped me move my work tables and bookshelves around (again... wasn't this a great day off for him?) Suddenly I could see possibilities in my little basement pit studio. I took a deep breath, channeled my drama into focus, and started a massive cleanout. No clutter pile was left unturned. Here's a quick browse.

One of my organizational goals was to give the best workspace to the supplies I use almost every day. Before my re-org, part of my frustration was caused by the fact that my paper scraps were in a huge pile crammed onto one bookshelf, while my collection of vintage button cards, dried-up craft paints, and dollar-bin doodads were hogging all the best shelves. I threw out those paints and moved what I wanted to keep into boxes stored under the table or over in the corner. Suddenly I had a whole shelving unit for my papers. Wow. Who knew?

This white metal paper organizer? Found it in my kids "craft cabinet" loaded with about 3 faded sheets of construction paper. Why did I not steal this sooner? They won't even miss it. 

The former dried-up craft paint holder... now my paper organizer!

One of my projects this week... a lap quilt for my daughter's friend. Her family has been so good to us, so she gets the special treatment. It is her 11th birthday and she loves to read. We're going to put the quilt, some hot cocoa, and a special mug into a basket for her. 

Now that my studio is clean and neat, I kind of want a cot down here.

Let's hope I keep it this way.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Paper, Glorious Paper

I'm still drooling over the pages of my latest read, The Found Object, by Cas Holmes. Her projects really encourage me to experiment. One new technique for me is momigami, or Japanese paper kneading. Holmes gives a great how-to in her book, but you can find all kinds of information on the web. There are lots of different methods, but I went with the easy one. Essentially, you put a little oil in the palm of your hands, grab a sheet of paper, and crunch it into a ball over and over again until you've got a soft fabric-like texture.

I decided to start with some monochromatic choices; a sheet of black cardstock and a few pages out of a Restoration Hardware catalogue (where everything is gray or brown!) The cardstock was a little rough on my hands, but so worth the effort. The end result looked a bit like a piece of worn leather.

The magazine pages were wonderful to work with. Go ahead, put some olive oil (just a few drops) into your palm and rip out a page from the closest magazine. Start crunching. You'll be amazed by the transformation that takes place. What was once slick and shiny is now soft, delicate, and almost a sculpture in itself.

Holmes also includes pictures of some wonderful little bowls and containers made from paper and fibers with stitched embellishment. I played around with this idea too. Using a yogurt cup covered in plastic wrap as a base, I collaged scraps of paper and fibers to create these delicate little cups.

These cups are very thin and I am not sure how I will use them, but they sit on my studio shelf and remind me that I want to try this technique again; next time thicker and with added stitching. For now, I just like to look at them.

Here's another Holmes-inspired creation. I've been playing around with the idea of sandwiching fabrics and papers between two sheets of rice paper, then painting, inking, stitching and cutting to create a textured piece. Here's a new pile.

Glue everything together using matte medium on a sheet of plastic wrap. Let it dry, then peel it up.

Sandwich this piece between two sheets of rice paper, using matte gel medium on the top and bottom.

Apply pressure to the front and the back of the piece so that all the textures can be felt. Allow about a day for the whole thing to dry. Once dry, add paint, ink, stitching, anything to play up the patterns and textures beneath the surface.

I decided to play around with the finished piece and my momigami pieces.

  Who knew paper could do all this?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Yo-Yos in the Wind

Being the daughter and granddaughter of quilters, I know a wee bit about quilts and the art of quilting. My mom is the real deal. She meets weekly to hand-quilt with a lovely group of women in the basement of a nearby church. They have the big wooden quilting frame and everything. People in their community pay them to quilt fabrics that have already been pieced together. The ladies then give the money to the church. They quilt because they enjoy the act of stitching, they have fun gabbing as they stitch, and because they all get that same thrill when they take a completed quilt out of the frame and admire what they created together.  Doesn't that sound dreamy?

As you all know, my favorite thing to stitch is paper. I like applying my meager sewing skills to paper and seeing what I can create. Lately, I've been playing around with the yo-yo quilt concept. Yo-Yo quilts are made from a series of fabric puffs made from circles of different fabrics. They are so whimsical and fun. Here's a perfect example from Yo Yo Cottage's Etsy shop (right here in Georgia!).

I decided to try this technique on some painted rice paper. You might like to try this too, so here's the low down on how I did it.

1)  Using a variety of colors and playful techniques, cover several pieces of rice paper with acrylic paint and allow to dry completely. If you've never painted on rice paper, be aware... it is very delicate when wet, almost like a wet paper towel. I place it on plastic wrap, then gently peel it up and dry it on a plastic-wrap-covered drying rack.

2)  Using a circle pattern (mine is a jar lid), trace circles onto the paper and cut them out.

3)  Use your sewing machine to baste a stitch about 1/4" from the edge of each circle.

4)  Gently pull one of the loose strings from the seam  you just basted. As the paper bunches up, carefully move the gather around the paper until you have cinched the entire circle into a puff shape.

5) Create as many puffs as you'd like. My mobile is rather small - only 25 puffs, but you can make any size. I'd love to see one in jumbo form!

5) Use fishing line or other translucent string and a needle to string rows of completed puffs. Leave about 10 inches of fishing line at the top of each row.

6) Find something to use as the anchor for your mobile. You can use a stick if you want the mobile to be straight across. I found this cardboard ring and covered it in extra rice paper using matte medium as my glue. You could also use a wooden embroidery hoop.

7)  Tie the rows onto the ring in whatever pattern you like.

8) Tie the loose strings together at the top.

9)  Even though this mobile is for indoor use, you must take your finished mobile outside and let it blow in the wind for a few moments. You'll be happy you did.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Hooters Are Out Again

Hooray for October, one of my favorite months. I love the weather. I love the leaves. I love the cheesy Halloween decorations. A few years ago I made these owls. I smile every year when I take them out. I posted these photos last year, but I'd like to post them again and give a brief how-to for some of my newer followers and friends. Unfortunately, I did not take stepped out photos when I made them. But, they are very easy to make and do not require a pattern or a sewing machine. Here's a rough how-to.

Supplies you'll need:

  • felt (I like wool blend (20-30% wool) felt the best. I buy it by the yard, then wash in hot water and dry in the dryer. The result is a soft and nubby texture.) Regular craft felt will work too and you might have more color choices.
  • embroidery floss and heavy embroidery needle
  • thimble (sometimes you will be stitching through several layers of thick felt)
  • fiber fil 
  • vintage buttons
  • tiny rickrack trim


1) Cut the felt as follows:

-2 pieces of owl body shape. As you can see here, owls can come in all sizes.
-2 circles for eyes
-2 wing shapes. I created a variety of wing sizes too. My favorites...the tiny ones that poke out from the sides.
-1 beak
-2 feet

2) Stitch the eye circles onto the front body piece using a basic stitch. If you want your owl to have eyelashes, put rickrack pieces behind the circle, then stitch the piece down. Sew a button on top of the each circle.

Another variation is to use two buttons instead of felt circles.

 If you want your owl to wink, stitch a piece of rickrack straight across the felt circle.

3) Stitch the beak below and between the eyes.

4) If your owl has wings that rest on his body, stitch those down. Do not stitch the sides that line up with the body edge. Those will be stitched when you sew the front body to the back body.

 You can also stitch the wing onto the body and allow it to fly out to the side.

5) Stitch an outline onto the feet and wings (if they are coming out between the front and back of the owl.) These pieces will flap freely from the body and will look cuter if they have coordinating stitches.

Another wing variation... cut a half circle, stitch the edges, and fold.

6) Start stitching the front to the back. Insert feet, wings (if not already stitched down), and hair (if desired) as you stitch. When you have stitched around most of the body, stuff a moderate amount of fiber fil into the opening. Finish stitching and secure last stitch.

Please feel free to ask questions if you need help! I think you'll have fun with these!

And on another hooty note...  A few days ago, I went into the backyard for some air. I noticed that the songbirds were all making their warning chirps and flitting among the branches. I looked around for Lucky, the neighbor's tomcat. He was nowhere in sight. Suddenly a dark shadow swept through the branches. I walked further into the yard and looked up to find these eyes staring back at me.

I don't know if you have ever stared into the eyes of a live owl in your backyard. I found it to be a bit eery, like he knows that I know that he knows, you know?

Anyway... I like to think that he flew into my yard as a reminder to patiently seek wisdom a little more often and to be comfortable with uncertainty while I wait for the answer. Most of the time, I am a "go with your gut and quickly" kind of gal. Sometimes this works. Other times my gut is nothing but a
chips-and-salsa-filled blob that really has no opinion.

Here's my latest owl. He is only 2 inches tall. Perfect for that little shelf in my guest bathroom.

Any owls in your life lately?