Monday, January 28, 2013

Siddown (pause) an' Shuddup: Great Wisdom from Jean, the Bus Driver

Lately I've been running myself ragged. Doing what? No idea. I can't tell you what I've accomplished. I just know there's been a lot of hand-wringing, spoonfuls of Nutella straight from the jar, insomnia, a few tears, and an overall bad case of squirrel brain. I've got all these ideas in my head, all these SHOULDS weighing heavy on my shoulders. I've been so focused on them, I haven't been able to get anything done, which just makes everything worse.

This weekend, while armpit deep into a bag of Smartfood popcorn, I had a flashback to my 5th grade bus driver, Jean. When things would get snarly on the bus, she'd slam on the brakes, sending our faces flat into the seat in front of us. We'd quietly regain our senses and she'd look up into that 4 ft wide rear view mirror and say slowly and loudly in her born-and-raised-in-Kentucky voice, "siddown (pause) an' shuddup." 

I wiped the popcorn crumbs from my mouth and thought, "I hear you, Jean." I just needed to chill out. So I did. I slammed the brakes on all those "shoulds" running loose in my brain and I was able to re-focus and create some new pieces that were inspired by Jean's great words of wisdom. Sometimes I just need to sit down and shut both my mouth and my mind up. I need to slam the brakes on all my plans and schemes and just breathe in all the good things that are happening all around me, things I am grateful for each day.

I am calling this series "seated in love."

How about you? Do voices from the past bring you wisdom today? I'd love to hear your stories!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Creative Braveheart for January: Jen Cushman

Last November was a lucky month. Not only did I find myself filming video workshops for Cloth Paper Scissors, but I also got to meet the amazing Jen Cushman! Jen was filming her video workshop on the day of my arrival, so I got to sit behind the scenes and watch. Jen's video workshop, Breaking Out of the Mold: Resin and Clay Casting for Mixed-Media Art (available for pre-order through the Interweave Store), shows you how to create resin and clay objects that can be used in all kinds of creative works.
As I watched Jen filming, I was blown away not only by her level of knowledge and skill with her medium, but also with her easy-going and fun way of presenting her craft.

Although I did not have much time to chat with Jen, I learned that she has all kinds of amazing things going on, including a new book, Making Metal Jewelry; How to Stamp, Fold, Form, and Forge Metal Jewelry Designs (North Light Books, 2012.) I thought to myself, "Wowser, this lady's got it going on."

I recently had a chance to ask Jen a few questions about how she got started and was so inspired by her story. Like many of us, she did not start her career as a mixed-media artist, but instead stumbled upon and fell in love with it while doing something else. Lucky for her fans, that something else was journalism, a skill she puts to great use as she writes about her creative adventures. 

1.  How did you get into working with resin? 

I was writing and producing a column for Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion magazine called Paper, Scissors, Crop, which was the first time a general (shelter) magazine really covered something from the crafts industry on a regular basis. Because of that column, I began looking at artists to feature. I thought at the time the column would be more scrapbooking, actually a wider category of paper arts, but I knew pretty quickly that I was interested in mixed media. This was in 2004. I learned about Art Unraveled, a mixed-media art retreat in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. I met Susan Lenart Kazmer at this event and absolutely was blown away by the sophistication and creativity of her work. The next year, I took a resin class from her and learned to make resin paper. I was hooked! From then on, I dreamed about all the things I could do with resin and started my journey of working with metal and resin. Susan self published her book, Making Connections in 2007 and I helped her do the PR of it. We became instant friends when we met and later business partners. 

2. Tell us a little bit about your new book!
The very next class I took after taking Susan's resin class was one of her metalworking workshops. The first time I used a torch to draw a bead, my insides literally melted into a puddle and I knew I had finally found my medium. That led me to my local community collage where I signed up for beginning metalsmithing. My instructor was a third-generation goldsmith and was not interested in mixed media in the least. I was so frustrated that I searched and searched for the book that would give me basic metalsmithing skills with projects that would inspire my artistic aesthetic. Bits and pieces of it appeared in books here and there, but nothing every really pulled it all together for me. Finally, I felt my skills were up to snuff enough that I could write the book I had always had in the back of my mind. I presented it to Tonia Jenny, Acquisitions Editor for North Light Books and she loved the idea. I'm so thrilled to have Making Metal Jewelry available to people and am hoping they find it informative and inspiring. 

3. What do you hope your viewers will take away from watching "Breaking Out of the Mold?"
Resin obsession! LOL. Seriously, I hope they will see that there are alternatives to using their most precious found objects in their art work. Also that they can make multiples of these objects for their work since repetition of imagery is an important design concept. Breaking Out of the Mold shows all the steps one needs to have success when casting found objects and then lots of tips and techniques for turning these cast resin (or resin clay, polymer clay or paper clay) into gorgeous elements for all mixed-media mediums. All of my books, workshops, videos, the DVD, etc. are technique based, as I believe strongly that mastering technique is the best way for the artist's voice to shine in his or her work. 

Meeting and learning about women who are living their creative dreams really encourages me to keep moving, I hope Jen's example inspires you as well!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dreamy Days in the Studio

I don't  know about you, but projects with deadlines really motivate me. I love to have a goal with a specific end date on the horizon. My troubles come when all the deadlines have been met. I scuttle around aimlessly, feeling a bit despondent and doubtful. After years of struggling with this feeling of "meh," I've learned that I can change my response to this situation. Instead of sklathing about (one of my favorite Eloise terms) in gloomy blah, I now look at this time as my time of freedom and creative rest. This is my time to work on weird, ugly, and experimental art. This is my time to focus on the means and not the end product. This is the time to have fun!

Here's something I come back to when I have a few days with nothing planned. I've been creating some paper works that incorporate some of my favorite techniques: stamp-carving, Gelli printing, painting, and stitch.

I start by carving some rubber stamps.

I like simple shapes and symbols. Nothing too complex.

I use these stamps to cover several sheets of rice paper, creating different design mixes as I go.

I choose several acrylic colors to use on my new designs.

Rice paper really drinks up the paint, so I water it down quite a bit.

Everything dries on a plasticwrap-coated drying rack.

While the rice paper dries, I add some stamping and stitching to some Gelli printed papers.

Now comes the fun part, stitching everything together.

What do you create when you let your mind wander?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Collaboration: Mod Podge Fest 2013

Last year around this time, my daughter and I collaborated on a Mod Podge bird project. We had such a great time making those birds that we wanted to do another Mod Podge collaboration. We decided to make a new set of creatures each year. This year's choice? bugs.

We drew random bug shapes and traced the outlines to create wings that would fit each shape, then covered each wing with paper scraps.

Some paper scraps and a little bit of Mod Podge later, we enough bugs to cover a 10" square canvas.

What a cheerful reminder of great moments with my little girl. Are you collaborating with anyone right now?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy Ticket

 Happy Ticket

Today was a rainy Friday. I had plenty of things I COULD do, but the High Museum of Art was calling me. Their exhibit, Fast Forward: Modern Moments 1913-2013, is ending later this month. I had to see it. I'm so glad I did.  You can watch the highlights here in my little film, Getting Out.
Or read along...

Getting Out
My day starts with a trip to the Marta station and a short train ride into the city. I enjoy just sitting in silence, watching the rain hit the windows, trying my best not to think about anything.On the Lawn
These wonderful sculptures are new to me. I realize I haven't been here since the summer. Why have I waited so long?

Winter Cafe
The cafe is closed, but I love that light sculpture running along the far wall.

I see art I know...

 Piet Mondrian

art I love...
Claes Oldenberg
and art I've never seen before...


As I leave I notice the lonely cocktail lounge, locked up for the day. The sparkly bottles look beautiful against the white building and winter trees reflected in the glass.

Window Shopping

It's a good day.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Back to Artsyville!

A collective sigh of relief went out in my neighborhood this morning. The kids went back to school. I'm ready to get back on track, back on the path to Artsyville. Last Friday, I was thrilled to see a preview of my new Cloth Paper Scissors video workshop, available tomorrow! Then this morning, I was delighted to see that Cate Prato wrote a great blog article about some of my work. I feel so lucky to get such a boost of encouragement as the new year starts. A huge hug of gratitude goes out to Jenn Mason, Barb Delaney, Cate Prato, the Cloth Paper Scissors team, and the folks at Interweave in Loveland, Colorado!

One of my goals for 2013 is to really look at things in a new way, not just artistically, but in my personal life as well. My family was playing Boggle the other night and we had one of those collective ah-hah moments. As each of us wrote our list of found words, we each felt we had exhausted all our options, we had surely found every possible word in the Boggle box. However, as we read our lists, we each realized we missed at least 5 or 6 other words, and some of them were right under our noses. We talked about how this game is so much like life. In so many situations, we become set in our ways, certain that we know all that is possible. By taking another look, by shifting things around, and by sharing our situations with others, we can see things in a very new light.

This little project is a result of seeing things a little differently. Last fall I wanted to use some feathers for a wire and paper piece I was creating. Having none, I decided to just walk around outside for a while and think about how to create something else. A change of scenery gave me the idea to use small sticks with paper and embroidery floss to create these fun feathers. I liked them so much better than my original idea!

All you need:

Here's the how-to:
1) Make a feather shape with paper of your choice. Fringe the edges on each side.
2) Place the stick in the center of the feather.
3) Cut at 10" piece of embroidery floss (two strands.)
4) Starting at the tip of the feather, wrap the middle of the 10" piece of floss around the back of the feather. Bring the floss pieces to the front of the stick, cross the pieces, and take them back through the fringes to the back of the feather. Cross them in back and repeat.
5) When you get to the end of the feather, wrap the end of the stick several times and tie a tiny knot. Add a dot of glue.

I'd love to see what you are up to this month. If you try the feathers, please leave a link in the comments so we can take a look!