Thursday, July 28, 2011

Five Senses In the Sun

Lately, I have focused my creative energies on organizing my supplies and creating some stitched postcards--candidates for The Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap.  My art journal has felt a bit abandoned, I'm afraid, and I'm a few days behind on Natty's In the Sun prompts.  I anticipate a full catch-up within a week or so, though!

In the meantime, I wanted to share some pages I created for a week-long focus on the five senses--prompts created by Natty to get us thinking about the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, and tastes of summer.

First, the sights of summer:   What do I see that reminds me specifically of summer?
I had just seen this catalog image the day before reading the prompt, and I thought the little girl with her toilet-paper binoculars was a perfect fit!  I realized that a lot of my "sights of summer" were drawn more from the things I saw when I lived in the city, before moving out to the suburbs:  people sitting on their front stoops and steam rising up off the pavement, particularly.  Road construction, on the other hand, seems to be fairly universal!

On to the "feel" of summer:  Natty suggested we re-create some interesting textures on our page.  The first texture that came to mind for the summertime was terry cloth.  I don't know why! I don't think I've worn anything made of terry cloth in at least three decades!  And with no terry cloth on hand, I came up with this:
I used a scrap from one of my daughter's outgrown summer tank tops because the colors call to mind the extreme heat of the summertime.  Then I had some fun with messy, free-form stitches on the sewing machine, because...why not?!  I added some yarn-wrapped wire I found in the clearance bin at JoAnn's (33 feet for $1), and voila--a page with more texture than I've tackled on a journal page before!

On the next day, we were challenged to think about the sounds of summer:
Kind of a "loud" page, in itself, don't you think?  Summertime sounds include the music of the ice cream truck, lapping ocean waves, and the voices of kids traveling in packs in the evening now that school is out.

For the tastes/flavors of summer, I immediately thought about all the fresh fruit we have been eating around here:
Natty challenged to use a crafting tool or supply we don't usually use, so I pulled out a swirl punch that I like but seldom use, and added some citrus-y designs on the page.

Finally, we considered the scents/smells of summer.  I had a harder time with this one.  When I smell something, it can bring to mind all kinds of memories, but I seldom think of a time or event and recall any sort of smells associated with it.  But then it occurred to me that coconut is a definite summer smell:
I thought it was fun to work through the five senses for this set of journal pages.  I'm shocked to see that I have used almost all of the pages in the book I chose for my In the Sun journal!  I am going to have to start a new book just to finish the course. 
I will be "off the grid" for the weekend, attending my 20-year high school reunion back in Texas.  Wish me luck for my travels, but even more so, wish my husband luck as he takes care of the girls on his own until I return!  I look forward to getting back to my regular blog visits next week.

Have a creative, happy weekend!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

WOYWW: Craft Cleanse Edition!

I am happy to report some significant progress since making my commitment to organize and inventory my art and crafting spaces!
{My desk Before}

{My desk After}

In addition to having neater spaces to enjoy, I also have “like” supplies all together in one place, and a list of what I own so that I will not go out and purchase duplicates.

I didn’t go crazy with the inventory list, though. I chose not to list all my books because it’s not that hard to walk over the bookcase and see what I have.  I did shelve them in sections, though--art journals, collage, mixed media, painting, drawing, handwriting/calligraphy, scrapbooking, altered art, sewing, and, of course, "miscellaneous".
{Bookcase After}

My "Before" photo keeps disappearing as I prepare this post, so I'll just leave you to check it out here.  It's not tremendously different!  I just made sure to "find homes" for the papers and books that used to lie horizontally on top of my books.

I didn’t list individual colors of ink pads or paints in my inventory, either, because I didn’t have the patience.  Plus, I don’t mind just peeking into the box and seeing what’s there, as opposed to consulting a list. I DID inventory things like adhesives, varnishes, and fluid mediums, because I’m more likely to buy duplicates of those sorts of things without realizing what I already have.
{Left Cupboard Before}
{Left Cupboard After}

{Right Cupboard Before}

{Right Cupboard After}

These cupboard photos don't look as dramatic as the change to the cupboards FEELS.  Everything is now labeled.  Items that are of no immediate use have been sent down to the basement.  Everything is now accessible, without having to pull out a dozen items in front to get to something in the back.  Of all of the organizing I have done so far, this part has been the most satisfying.

And one final Before and After:
{Shelves Before}

{Shelves After}

Not bad for a week's work.  I started work on the armoire, but not yet on my dining room sewing materials.  All the Before pics can be seen here.  And then comes the BIG project: the basement! I will continue to post updates as my progress continues!


In the spirit of complete honesty, I violated my commitment to abstain from all craft-related purchases for 30 days. My local Borders was offering its magazines for 40% off during its Going-Out-Of-Business sale, so I picked up the latest edition of Somerset Studio, along with two clearance books (one about fashion drawing and one about coloring mandalas) that were an additional 10% off. My “sins” cost little more than $10, and didn’t add appreciably to the “mess” I am currently trying to contain, so I don’t feel TOO bad about my transgression!


I wanted to let you know about a fabulous-looking eCourse being offered by Regina of Creative Kismet. Her focus is the Art of Giving, and she is helping participants create a daily practice of gratitude, in part through making beautiful things. Some of the projects she describes include blessing banners, gratitude beads, altered board books, and daily gratitude journals. Check out the two videos about the course she has posted on her blog on July 6 and July 18!


Two other places to visit: 
1.  Julia's Stamping Ground for more photos of interesting art and crafting workspaces on this WOYWW, and
2.  Crafty Moira, hostess of our great Craft Cleanse effort!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

30 Things My Kids May Never Experience

A Facebook Friend recently posted an article entitled, “100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About”.

When I read the title, I immediately thought of all kinds of things from my childhood that my own children will probably never experience, simply because of all of the changes in technology and society since the 1970s and 1980s. I decided to make my own list before reading the article, just to see how many things I could bring to mind.

30 Things My Children May Never Experience:

1. Putting a key in the car door to lock and unlock it.

2. Using the hand crank to manually raise and lower the car windows.

3. Sitting on Mom’s lap in the front of seat of the car.

4. Getting out of the car to raise the garage door by hand.

5. The record player as a piece of furniture in the living room.

6. 8 track tapes. (My Dad listened to 8 track tapes until his car was stolen at a restaurant on my 13th birthday. I don’t think he could have found a car with an 8 track tape player in 1986, if he had tried, so he finally “converted” to a cassette tape player.)

7. Making mix tapes for your best friend or boyfriend.

8. Telephones with rotary dials.

9. Stretching the phone card into another room and closing the door for privacy.

10. Going up to the TV to change the channel.

11. Having only four channels to choose from—CBS, NBC, ABC, and PBS.

12. Reading the comics in the Sunday newspaper.

13. Renting a VCR for birthday parties. (As another testament to my technology-deprived childhood, my parents didn’t get a VCR until after I went to college in the 1990s. When we were young, Mom would rent a VCR from Blockbuster so my friends and I could watch movies during sleepovers!)

14. Going to Blockbuster to rent movies.

15. Stovetop popcorn or a popcorn popper on the kitchen countertop with the rest of the appliances.

16. Tearing the edges off paper after it comes out of computer printer, then tearing the pages apart at the perforations.

17. Chalkboards in the classroom.

18. The flickering and clicking of reel-to-reel filmstrips.

19. Card catalogs at the library.

20. Having a set of encyclopedias on the bookshelf.

21. Waiting to get photos developed to find out if any of your pictures “turned out”.

22. Putting film in your camera, and worrying that you will lose pictures when you open the back of the camera.

23. Worrying about your film getting ruined when you went through security at the airport.

24. Roller skates you strap onto your shoes.

25. Prank calls (I can’t imagine kids make these in the current days of Caller ID).

26. Riding under the grocery cart.

27. Waiting for paper plane tickets to arrive in the mail before your trip.

28. Greeting relatives at the gate of the airport when they first get off the plane.

29. Starting over with a fresh piece of paper to type your second draft in the typewriter. (My Mom and Dad had a plan worked out when we were babies: In case of fire, they knew who would grab the kids and who would grab my Dad’s dissertation!)

30. Using correction tape in the typewriter.

Those of you who are older than I may have additional items to add to the list. My husband, just 8 years older than I am, recalls having a black and white television when he was a kid.

What can YOU add to my list?

Friday, July 22, 2011

30-Day Craft Cleanse!

My latest venture has been to join Moira Richardson on her 30 Day Craft Cleanse project. We are being challenged to abstain from purchasing any new craft supplies, from picking up any new free craft materials, and to focus on the act of art creation instead of the act of craft supply acquisition.

It’s not easy, but it must be done!

Since the beginning of the year, I have been looking at my craft stash with a sense of dis-ease. I have wanted to focus on what I already have, rather than buying new things.

Every time I have given it some thought, I have quickly followed up with a trip to JoAnn’s or a craft book purchase from Amazon or Borders!

I discovered Moira’s blog through our mutual participation in Natalie Malik’s In the Sun art journal e-Course. She mentioned on her blog that she was initiating a Buy Nothing Summer, and invited her readers to participate.

I respectfully declined!

I knew that there was no way I could spend a whole summer not buying craft supplies, magazines, or books.

But then she proposed a 30-day challenge, and I thought, “Surely I can manage THAT!”

So here I am, one week into the challenge. Besides the benefit of inventorying and thinning my craft stash, and spending more time creating and less time plotting my next purchase, I am also experiencing a Ning for the first time.

Moira has put her course on an Art Journal Ning. It’s basically a little social network of like-minded people. This particular Ning offers classes and conversations related to art journaling, some of which are free and some of which are fee-based. It’s a place to post messages, photos, and videos.

I have really tried to learn something new with each challenge I have participated in this year (remember how I discovered Flickr through Natalie’s course?), so I am happy to find out more about Nings from Moira’s class.

(I even looked up “Ning” on Wikipedia to make sure I understand what they are all about. I found out that as of June, there were 90,000 different Nings, or social networks. Wikipedia said that Ning is a competitor of My Space and Facebook, but I don’t see it quite that way.)

So, back to my “cleansing” efforts…

I thought I would offer proof that this is the course for me. Some of you have nice, contained craft spaces, with maybe just a bit of spillover to the dining room table. (We all seem to spill over to the dining room table eventually!) My fabulous purple craft room became my younger daughter’s bedroom, so I moved my center of operations to the living room/play room.
To the left of my work desk is a book case. The bottom two shelves hold my children’s books; the top three shelves hold my crafting “library”:
To the right of my work desk is an armoire, filled with all kinds of crafting supplies: papers, ephemera, markers, scissors, tools like my Cricut cutter and Xyron sticker maker.
I took a photo of the top portion of the armoire, but was too lazy to shove the kids’ toy chest away from the front of it to take a photo of the bottom portion. So that shows you how much I use what’s in THERE!

But that’s only the beginning! Across the room are some built-in bookcases and cupboards. I commandeered those for my crafting and art, too. The bookcases hold my crafting magazines and display some of the things I’ve made:
The cupboards below hold my rubber stamps and inks, my art journaling supplies, and my paint supplies and adhesives.
You thought that was all? Perhaps you’ve forgotten my new sewing machine! That has found a home on the corner of the dining room table.
My husband put a big filing cabinet in the dining room, intending to get rid of it. I immediately took it over, putting my sewing supplies in the top drawer:
The girls’ craft supplies are in the dining room, as well:
As you can see, I TRY to be organized:
So there you have it: my crafting presence on the first floor of our house. Not TOO bad, right? Not TOO hard to organize, right?

But THEN there’s the basement:
Yup, that’s ALL crafting stuff down there. Piles, totes, bins…some are organized, and some not so much:
My need is clear. Moira’s timing is perfect. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you may want to join in the fun.

I’m not sure how much progress I’ll make in just a month, but I’ll keep you posted!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Art Journal Update: New "In the Sun" Pages

I am taking a break from WOYWW this week, in order to share a few more pages from my art journaling project with Natalie's In the Sun e-course.

On the 4th of July, Natalie asked us about our first memory of summer.
My father's side of the family used to meet every July 4th in Sumner, Michigan, at my grandparents' house.  With seven kids in my dad's family, I had plenty of aunts, uncles, and cousins to surround me for the summer holiday. 

As a shy kid, I found the whole experience kind of intimidating most of the time, but there are so many memories and so much fun wrapped up in those summer days; it has hit me hard this year that we no longer meet like that as a family.  My father and his siblings choose to meet for their own holiday, and my cousins and I are just trying to restart a "cousin reunion" (and had one rip-roaring success last Labor Day), but we are at an awkward stage--many still in college, or just getting settled into jobs, marriages, or babies.  (My sister and I are at the "older end" of the cousin spectrum!)  No one has a lot of money and/or flexibility for travel just now.  I am hoping we'll be able to get our own Cousin Reunion on track for the future, though!

Another prompt asked us to consider how we enjoy vacations at home when we can't get away.
Nothing too "deep" here:  I think you can't beat a dinner on the grill or a backyard picnic.  In either case, lounging in the shade is mandatory!

When Natty asked us to think about what our modern-day drink stands would include, instead of the lemonade of days gone by, this is the page I created:
Any slushy, fruity drink works for me! 

We also did a page about picnic favorites:  favorite foods, favorite places. 
I loved the red gingham picnic-looking paper I used, as well as the little ant rubber stamp, but overall the page didn't look like much, so I just included a detail. 

Favorite picnic spots include on a blanket in the backyard, next to a river, where live music plays, under the trees, when the air is breezy, and with a group of friends. 

My favorite foods are pretty traditional:  sandwiches, chips, deviled eggs, soda, and fresh fruit.  The most unusual food I ever brought along was one picnic when we ate California rolls; it seems a little weird to bring sushi on a picnic, but it comes very conveniently packaged!

Natty also had a prompt to get us thinking about our favorite summer flowers.
As you can see from my page:  If you want to see flowers at my house, you're going to have to draw them!  Gardener, I am not.  Someday I would like to start gardening; everyone gets so Zen-like and contented when they talk about their gardening experiences.  But to me, it only conjures feelings of heat, sweat, and buzzy bugs!

Natty asked us about a nightmare travel experience.  I happened to be on a family road trip to Kentucky to visit my mother, which involved twelve hours in the car with my 2 and 3 year old daughters in their car seats behind me.
We had a GREAT trip, so it was far from a travel nightmare.  But hearing, "Mommy...Mommy?....Mommy!" for hundreds and hundreds of miles was a little wearing!

When Natty asked us how we handle our boring days in the summertime, I went in search of a good quotation related to boredom.  I found so many great ones that I made them the whole content of my page:
The consensus seemed to be that we are responsible for our own boredom and activity; if we are feeing bored, it's our own responsibility to find something to do to remedy the situation!  I never have much of a problem with boredom.  There is always so much to do, and any "free" time is easily filled.

Natty is keeping me focused on appreciating summer and all it has to offer with her fun journaling prompts!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Six Word Memoirs

I recently taught a week-long graduate course to teachers of kindergarten through eighth grade. We focused on managing reading and writing classrooms—all the nuts and bolts of scheduling your time, handling your paperwork, getting to know your students, building a connection to their homes and parents, and creating a workshop environment in the classroom to support their reading and writing growth.

One of the activities my co-teacher introduces each summer as an ice-breaker is the Six Word Memoir. She originally clipped this idea from a Valentine's Day issue of Readers’ Digest magazine. People summed up their lives and loves in just six words. We have found it challenging and fun to do the same in our classroom!

Here are a couple of examples from the original article:
  • Where he is, I am home. (Julia Evans)
  • In hindsight, I’d still choose you. (Natana Gill)
  • Marriage, children, empty nest: Now what? (Oliver House)
  • He e-mailed again, and I deleted. (Molly Antopol)
  • Hired me. Fired me. Married me. (Julie Klam)
They’re great, aren’t they?
So, of course, we all write them in class. Some choose to focus on love. Some create a list of topics: a memoir about their childhood, a memoir about teaching, a memoir about love, a memoir about the summer.

I think it’s fun to create a memoir about each stage/aspect of my life: childhood, teenage years, first marriage/divorce, single life, remarriage, motherhood, today.

Here were a couple I wrote during this summer's class:
  • Headstrong, too young, bad choice, divorce.
  • Second chances lead to life’s treasures.
  • Daughters—my heart outside my body.
  • Writing, art—bring energy to living.
Someone in class suggested that this could become a daily writing discipline—to reflect on the day each evening before bed, and create a Six Word Memoir to encapsulate whatever stands out to you.

The words “daily discipline,” of course, doom me before I even begin, but I have done it on again/off again since the class finished up.

I have one of those ten-year journals, where you have just four lines to write about your day.
For example, when I write about July 10, I can see what I was doing or thinking or experiencing on each July 10 prior to this one. My book covers the years 2010 to 2020, so I have really only just begun. (And by the way, I was amazingly faithful to it last year, but there are a few significant gaps this year; I have to believe that after ten years, some two week gaps here and there won’t seem quite as significant!)

Anyway, it occurred to me that this ten-year journal is the perfect place to record my memoirs when I feel inclined to create them. Here are some examples:
  • July 2: Zentangles bring me home to art. Reclaiming comfortable position as full-time mom. Too much laundry for one day. Dirt, shovels, sprinkler—true toddler bliss.
  • July 3: Still, humid heat makes outside unbearable. Pee, poop, and potties exhaust me. Grilled steak, asparagus, and Corona—ahhh! Long talks draw sisters closer together.
Do you see how fun this can be as a journaling practice?
It has also occurred to me that those of you involved in the Index Card a Day challenge could incorporate Six Word Memoirs if you were interested in including meaningful text with your daily drawings and images.

If you decide to try a Six Word Memoir or two, I hope you’ll include it in a comment, or share a link to a blog entry where you try it out!

Enjoy a creative weekend!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WOYWW: Upcycling Edition!

I have moved my base of operations into the dining room for the past few days.

When I got my sewing machine back in March, I started putting aside some clothing from my Goodwill pile, figuring I could use some of the remnants for various projects once I developed some skill with the machine.

A couple of days ago (skill be damned), I pulled out a pair of old blue jeans, and thought it would be fun to make as many different things from as many different parts of them as I could.

It’s amazing how far a pair of jeans can go!
First I made a cuff bracelet from the waistband, sewing a length of lace along the top. Then I made a little ring from two of the belt loops, sewing on a button as a “jewel”.
The whole time I worked on these projects, I felt as though my grandmother (who was a long-time and talented seamstress) was looking down on me from heaven saying something along the lines of, “Good grief, girl, what on EARTH are you doing with that sewing machine?!”
And I’m pretty sure the sewing machine was cursing me just a little as I worked to sink my needle through the incredibly thick layers of denim at the waistband. I used a combination of machine sewing, hand sewing, and fabric glue to make the bracelet and ring happen!

I made some bookmarks, embellished with flowered ribbon, from the rest of the waistband:
I also made a couple of cute pocket magnets from the back pockets:
All you have to do is cut the pockets out, embellish, and put an adhesive magnet strip on the back. For one, I added a few adhesive metallic dots, and for the other, I glued on little diamond rhinestones in the shape of a heart. (I spent a decade in Texas; we have no problem with “denim and diamonds” in the Lone Star state!)
I’m using some strips of denim, along with other ribbons and fabrics, to make some sewn strips fabric paper (in the same style I made with strips of paper alone back in May).  This paper (you can see the beginnings of it in the very first photo in today's post) is likely destined for postcards and ATCs.

Finally, I sewed together a placement, using fabric from the pant legs, but my thus-far substandard sewing skills forbid that I share that part of the project with you!

It’s really kind of fun to just grab a pair of pants (mine had a hole that made them pretty much beyond repair from my perspective, but you could also nab a pair from a second-hand shop), and think of all the projects you can make from them. It didn’t occur to me until this morning to look online for some additional ideas, so I am looking forward to seeing what others have done. I have one more pair of jeans set aside to “play” with!

To see other folks’ worktables and projects across the globe, check out Julia’s Stamping Ground web site for links to WOYWW participants’ blogs.


Be sure to check out a new e-course by Moira Richardson of Crafty Moira. Beginning July 15, she is going to challenge us to stop buying new supplies for 30 days while we “bust our stash” by art journaling with only those materials we have hoarded already!

Enjoy a creative week!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Journaling In the Sun

For about a month now, I’ve been conducting a kind of art journaling “experiment,” participating in Natalie Malik’s In the Sun e-course. Natty provides topic and technique prompts each week day, along with inspiring summertime photos and links to participants’ blogs on the weekend.

It is an experiment for me, because I have never tried to follow other people’s prompts for my art journal. (I make it sound like I’ve been art journaling forever, but I’ve really only been doing it since February of this year!)
I’ve also been trying to keep my style more consistent across entries, which has made it easier to complete an entire page in a single sitting. I rely heavily on magazine and catalog images. While I do not alter them, I make choices to combine them with papers, tapes, text, and other elements to create a page that responds to the daily prompt.
Without a doubt, I am enjoying this experience, and plan to see it through over the course of the summer. As expected, though, I feel more constrained by responding to prompts. I wouldn’t spend so much time on topics related to summertime if I were left up to my own devices.
Having said that, it’s also kind of fun to take a general topic (like “summer”) and really turn it around and around to look at it from all possible angles.
It becomes a kind of discipline to keep up with the daily prompts (though, to be honest, I have not made pages for six of the prompts, though I have made two “unprompted” pages). The part that has been most fun for me has been to search through my collection of images to find something appropriate for the day’s page, and to look through every new magazine and catalog that arrives in the mail for pictures that might work on some future page.
By far, the greatest benefit I have gotten from this eCourse has been my introduction to Flickr. When I first began signing up for Julie Balzer’s Art Journal Every Day, I would post my journal pages weekly here on my blog, but I never opened a Flickr account to share them in that forum. I didn’t see “the point.” I enjoyed looking at people’s journal pages in the context of their blog posts, so I had no interest “flipping through” their photostreams.
Now that I’ve signed up and posted for In the Sun, I totally “get it”! It is one more dimension to this beautiful sense of community I have discovered since I started blogging, art journaling, and sharing this year.
One of the strangest things for me has been the way I have separated in my mind my commitment to Art Journal Every Day from my commitment to In the Sun. When I create a page for Natty’s course, it’s like I feel it doesn’t “count” towards my commitment to Julie’s challenge.
Intellectually I understand that is not the case; I’ve seen people who post one page to four or five different groups they belong to on Flickr. But many of us have delved into the weird and wacky (and totally unnecessary) rules we create for ourselves, and this is one that I am currently trying to get out from under. I have been very happy to maintain my daily art journaling habit and discipline by being a part of Natalie’s class!

You can see the first post I wrote about the In the Sun class here.
Happy Friday to you!