Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"What Are U Up To Today?" Wednesdays!

When I visited the blog of a new "postcard swap friend," Deezy, I found out about What Are U Up To Today? Wednesdays.  According to the originator, Jen Osborn, it's an easy way for friends and relatives to make a quick visit to several blogs and see what projects and activities everyone is up to.  I like the idea, so I am going to "play along."  To participate, you take a photo of your workspace--your lap, sewing table, work bench, journal, coffee table, wherever--then write a quotation about or explanation of your project.

Here is my workspace today:

As I posted at the beginning of this month, my mother bought me my first sewing machine during her recent visit. For the past couple of days, I have been having a great time creating "sewn strips paper," using inspiration from an iHanna blog post from last year. I haven't been quite as prolific as she was, but I really like the results, and it has given me a great project to use to "get to know" my new machine.

You'll also notice in the photo a couple new books I've been reading: Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at at Time, by Deborah Moebes, and Stitch Alchemy: Combining Fabric and Paper for Mixed Media Art, by Kelli Perkins. Now that I'm starting to sew, I'll be adding even more books to my crafting library!

What are YOU up to today??

Monday, March 28, 2011

Learning from the Masters

People today think a lot about creativity, happiness, and joy. We read articles about it, subscribe to newsletters to inspire it, create journal entries to explore it, and visit blogs to develop a sense of community around it.

I love doing all of these things, and they have added immeasurably to my life in the past couple of months. I realize, though, that my greatest teachers—the Masters of Creativity, Happiness, and Joy—are right here in my own home, dropping crumbs on my floor, creating loads of dirty laundry, and strewing toys across my family room.
My children are Master Teachers when it comes to creativity, happiness, and joy. They OWN these qualities without self-consciousness, strategy, or defined purpose.

I am not going to abandon the articles, newsletters, journals, or blogs, but I AM going to spend some time observing my two- and three-year-old daughters a little more closely to determine what wise lessons they have to teach me about living life.
{Some days it's a boat, some days it's a train, some days it's a car. 
Who knows what it will be tomorrow!}

{Total trust and total fun.}
{At our church's Family Retreat.}

{That's "MISS Potato Head" to you!}
{One of those moments you just live for as a Mom.}

{A student and her teachers}

Sunday, March 27, 2011

And They're Off!

I went to the post office yesterday morning to mail off my postcards for iHanna’s postcard art swap. I have to admit—I was a little bit nervous! I think I had visions of the postal worker looking at my art and saying something like, “You want me to mail this crap!” Isn’t that terrible? But I was putting my art out there for the world to see, and I’ve never really done that before.

Turns out, the woman at the counter didn’t bat an eyelash, was completely helpful, and didn’t make any more remark than if I was mailing postcards of the Liberty Bell.

There was only one problem with the whole process: she gave me Ronald Reagan stamps for the postcards being mailed within the United States. Ronald Reagan? Really? When I came home and told my husband, he said, “Oh, man…you should have asked for something else!” So it isn’t just me who somehow sees Ronald Reagan as the antithesis of the arty, creative spirit (Hollywood origins notwithstanding)!

I went for a celebratory coffee and muffin after the post office, and now I await the arrival of ten beautiful postcards from around the world. I will post them for you to see when they get here!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Postcard Swap Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I described the first half of my process for creating postcards for iHanna’s international Postcard Swap. Today, I’ll finish the story!

After choosing background papers, as well as papers and pictures to create borders around each card, I looked for ten favorite quotations to include on the cards. I have all kinds of collections of quotations—I’ve been saving favorites since I was a kid—so this part of the process was both easy and fun.

At first, I planned to put the quotations on the cards using a mix of rubber stamping and handwriting. Here are the first two cards I made:

I wasn’t completely happy with the results, and I decided to rely completely on my own handwriting. Scary! I, like so many other people, am not generally a fan of my own handwriting. But I decided to use a black chisel-tip Sharpie, write in cursive, and then outline the letters in white gel pen. For quotations that were especially long, I only did this for select words, writing the rest in regular cursive. After using ultra-fine Sharpies to create loose, free-hand border lines around the edges of the cards, here is the final result for the other eight cards:

Throughout the process of making my postcards, I kept reminding myself to leave time for “the boring part”—that is, the back of the cards. I kept thinking of it as “the boring part”! But once I decided how I wanted the backs to look, and started stamping, I liked the simple, clean look of them almost as much as I liked the busy, colorful front sides. I created the backs on separate pieces of 4”x6” cardstock, and then glued them to the first parts of the cards that I created.

Now the postcards are finished, and I am ready to write my messages on the back and take them to the post office. Four of the cards will then be on their way to Canada, four will move along to other places in the United States, one will head to the UK, and one will go to the Netherlands. And I will await the arrival of ten works of art from around the world right in my mailbox!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Postcard Swap Part 1

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am taking part in my first art swap ever, making ten postcards to send around the world, and awaiting the arrival of ten postcards in return. This is all thanks to iHanna's inspiration and organization!

As I have worked on my postcards, I have documented the process in photos, which I will share in two separate posts.

Usually when I make something, I’ll do one thing, start to finish, then make something else that looks completely different, start to finish. This was really the first time that I got ten items going at the same time, with roughly the same look, and the same process. It was quite refreshing to feel so efficient!

First, I gathered background papers that I had created with acrylic paints, and cut them into ten pieces that were each 4”x6”.

Voila—ten postcards!

Then, I cut and tore pieces from my same stash of colored background papers, along with pages from a book written in French, to make borders around my postcards.

Next, I went through my files of pictures from books, magazines, and catalogues, and added images around the borders of the postcards. This, to me, was the “funnest” part of the process.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you what I did with the inner space of the postcards, as well as the backsides!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tangled Trading Cards

I’ve been having a lot of fun creating Zentangles since I first blogged about them last month. I have a handful of patterns that I come back to again and again in my Zentangles, and beyond that I tend to consult my Totally Tangled book for new ideas and patterns to try.

The “Zen” in Zentangle reflects the fact that the repetitive patterns keep me focused, yet also relaxed, to the point of being a kind “artistic meditation” (a phrase used on the official Zentangle web site). Zentangles look so complex, and yet are probably simpler to create than many art forms because they build on simple pen strokes, applied over and over again. All those simple pen strokes can build up to something pretty interesting to look at.

Recently, I paired my interest in tangling with my love of Artist Trading Cards (ATCs), 2-1/2x3-1/2 inch works of art created to be traded among those who make them. An ATC can be photographed, painted, collaged, stitched, drawn—anything!—so I realized they could be “tangled” too.

I love working on this size. Even though the “official” Zentangle site recommended tangling in 3x3 squares, I was just drawing drawing squares freehand, and making them much larger. Creating a tangled ATC is quick, and feeds my “need to produce results”!

Here are my Tangled Trading Cards:
I have a feeling there will be a lot more where they came from!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Yesterday I got to combine two of my great loves—creativity and shopping! I attended the StampScrapArtTour at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA. I went with two fellow crafters—Sue, who attends church with me, and Adrianne, an acquaintance of hers:
{Sue, me, and Adrianne}

Sue and I have attended rubber stamp shows several times before, in Reading and York, and yesterday’s show was tiny by comparison—just twelve vendors. But on the bright side, it was much less crowded and hectic, and I left knowing that I had not missed out on anything the show had to offer (though I would have enjoyed winning a door prize!).

To someone who doesn’t use rubber stamps or make cards, a rubber stamp show might sound like a weird way to spend a Saturday morning. But for someone who DOES enjoy these things, the show has a lot to offer:

*Drooling over art supplies. The booths were filled with old standbys, like card stock, rubber stamps, and ink pads, as well as things I’ve only recently considered using, like shrink paper and Copic markers:

*Watching product demonstrations. A sure-fire way to lure me into buying things I had no intention of buying is to show me all the beautiful and interesting way a product can be used. I already have a bunch of short stipple brushes, but I was lured into buying four long-handled brushes, which for all I know do the exact same thing but looked so cool when the demonstrator used them at her booth!

One man had all sorts of stencils, but no demonstrator. If someone had been there showing off how they can be used to create beautiful cards and gift tags, you can bet I would have been suckered into buying a few. But he spared me that expense!

*Looking at project samples. Most of the booths have card and project samples using their products, and it is inspiring to look at them and imagine how I might adapt them with my own supplies. There were MANY of us snapping pictures here and there of the pretty items on display:

*Chatting with like-minded crafters: Sue and I always enjoy getting together to talk about our current projects. We definitely have different styles when it comes to rubber stamps and card projects, but I think we both respect those differences. It was fun to get to know Adrianne, just getting started in her card-making, and especially dedicated to making cards to send to her new husband (of just four months!), who is away serving in the army. At one booth, Adrianne ran into a woman who had chatted with her at length at a local craft store a week or so before this event. And there are lots of quick exchanges with strangers as we “oohed” and “ahhed” over products and project samples at the different booths. There is a fun camaraderie in attending a show with others who value and enjoy the same things I do.

*Coming home with new art supplies to play with: When I get my postcards finished for Hanna’s postcard swap, I have vowed to get my sewing machine out and start exploring how I will craft with it. Now, with my new purchases, I’ve given myself further distractions! Most people seem to swear by having multiple projects going at the same time, so as I try that out for myself, I’ll be able to balance all these creative options! Here’s the final pile of “loot” from the day:

In addition to all of these benefits, I really enjoyed the “time away.” I discovered when I walked out of the show that I had NOT ONCE looked at my watch to check the time! I had no idea what time it was, and I loved the feeling of not having to worry about it. It gave me such freedom to just enjoy the day. I have to continue to include these "creative excursions" into my life, because they are so very energizing!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Goldilocks Bookmark Project

About a week ago, I found the blog Artsyville by Aimee. She has great "doodles" that she sells on Etsy, and her posts have a lot to do with incorporating her art and creativity into her everyday life as a mom. Obviously a topic of interest to me! I found on her blog a series of what she calls "Creative Explosions" or "crafty experiments." Her cut-and-paste bookmarks immediately caught my eye.

Collage is my first love. I'm a sucker for sitting around cutting pictures and words out of magazines and other paper sources. I love rearranging images and phrases to create something new. I also, like anyone who gets involved in collage for long, have a ridiculous amount of scraps, papers, and ephemera piling up in the areas where I work. For a long time I would hoard images, fearful to use them once and never be able to use them again. I would photocopy everything, even though I was never happy with the results. Now, I've learned to let things go, because there is always plenty more to take their place!

Because of my love of collage and my stash of materials, I decided to make the collaged bookmarks that Aimee demonstrates on her site.

I used a basic white piece of 8-1/2"x11" cardstock, and just glued down all kinds of papers:

Once I cut the bookmarks out, this is what I ended up with:

I liked the look of them, but I was still terribly disappointed at first. Because of the direction I had cut the paper, the bookmarks were only about four inches long--way too small, I thought--and I had forgotten to collage the back to make them reversible! Then I decided that for anyone who sticks a business card or sticky note in her book to hold her place, these bookmarks would be more than adequate. I got over myself.

Then I set out to make another set, larger and two-sided. I didn't cut the paper in half this time, just cut it into five 8-1/2" bookmarks. Here is what I came up with:
(one side of each bookmark)
(the other side of each bookmark)

Again, I was a little disappointed. These bookmarks were way too long, and it made them bend around areas that had thicker scraps of paper.

Perhaps you understand now why I have called this post "The Goldilocks Bookmark Project." One set was too short, one set was too long. Would I manage to come up with one that was "just right"?

I set out a third time to create my bookmarks, actually making them the way Aimee had done it in the first place if I had been paying attention! This time, I used a lot more "ephemera"--tickets, clip art from art magazines made to look like vintage papers, actual vintage papers, scraps of envelopes, text from a French book, that sort of thing. I oriented my collage vertically rather than horizontally, and cut across the center, so that when I cut the individual bookmarks, they came out 5-1/2" long. Here is my final "just right" effort:
(one side of each bookmark)

(the other side of each bookmark)

And then for my grand finale, I took some "arty photos" of my work, as I've been learning from so many of the blogs I've been enjoying lately:

I had so much fun making all three sizes of bookmarks, and sorting through all kinds of bins and folders of papers and other materials. It's a great "fallback" kind of project--something to do "in between times" and, frankly, while I'm watching TV or the girls are playing. Many thanks to Aimee from Artsyville for prompting me to give these bookmarks a try!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Celebrating Creativity at the Flower Show

This past weekend, my husband and I got a babysitter for the girls, and headed to the Philadelphia Flower Show on its final day. I knew that I would see breathtaking arrangements of flowers in interesting displays around the Convention Center Hall. But I ended up seeing flowers used in much more creative ways than I had imagined. This post is a kind of "pictorial celebration" of the different kinds of creativity I saw on display at the Flower Show.

I especially loved the theme for the year, "Paris in Springtime." My husband and I took an amazing and memorable trip to Paris in the springtime in 2006. We couldn't exactly recreate the experience here, but there was plenty at the Flower Show to bring back good memories.
(A self-portrait thanks to a long-armed husband!)

I was especially fascinated by the wall of pictures made entirely of pressed plant materials. As I understand it, the artists had to use only natural plant materials, with no color added by paints or other means.

Amazing! Remember--only natural pressed plant materials!

Perhaps equally fascinating was the display of jewelry made entirely from natural plant and flower materials. Here, the artists could add color and embellish in certain ways. There is a little card above each piece that shows each material (in its natural state) used in the item.
(I didn't take a photo of the one next the this one, but it was an actual working watch!)

There was another section with purses and handbags embellished with plants and flowers; here's a sample:

Another fascinating section had little windows we could peer in to see miniature rooms, enhanced by miniature landscapes. The only drawback to this part was the incredibly long wait. We stood in line and waited...and waited...and waited...for everyone else to peer at the little rooms behind the glass. All that waiting took its toll:
(My husband forbid me to delete this photo from the camera, so I thought, 'What the heck, I'll put on my blog!')

Turns out, the exhibit was worth the wait!

(After we were finished, we wished we had held up a hand or something to give a sense of perspective to how tiny these spaces were! They were only maybe a foot and a half across. What unbelievable and realistic detail.)

We got to see creativity in action with the folks at work on their bonsai trees:

And we also got to see botanical illustrators in action:

I was excited to end the day with a visit to the marketplace, where I found this lovely space by Jill Schwartz, an artist and jewelry-maker I've been reading about in magazines for YEARS:

I splurged and bought a memento of the day:

As many photos as I included in this post, there were many more I had to hold myself back from including. What a picturesque experience to attend a flower show! I have no talents or interests related to gardening and plants and flowers, and yet was interested to see all the varied examples of creative expressions at the show.