Monday, November 28, 2011


Since I started reading Tammy's blog, Daisy Yellow, at the beginning of this year, one of the things I have most enjoyed have been her mandala drawings.  I didn't really know anything about mandalas, and I certainly had no idea how to draw one, but I liked looking at the different designs she created.

Back in August, I started to do a little "research", and checked out a couple of books from the library about mandalas. 
Some of my mandala note-taking
One of the things that made the biggest impression on me is how mandalas are found everywhere in the natural world.  Crystals, atoms, hurricanes, the solar system, sound waves, hair shafts, a fetus in the womb, the rings of Saturn, snowflakes, tornadoes, snails, shells, sunflowers, roses, daisies, an octopus, the iris of an eye, pincones, an apple slice, starfish, spiderwebs, the cycle of the seasons, animal migrations....all are mandalas!

Bailey Cunningham explained in Mandala:  Journey to the Center, that "the circle becomes a container to hold your most cherished ideas and emotions.  You organize your thoughts around a central point that represents a particular theme or concept, and express ideas and meanings by choosing symbols and colors that reflect your intent."
It sounded SO meaningful and interesting, yet I still had no idea how to get started.  I even took notes on all the different radiations and their meanings:  3 radiations suggesting wholeness, 4 suggesting stability and order, 7 suggesting divinity, etc.  I understood that to create a mandala was to create intricate designs along multiple radiations.  I just wasn't sure how to do that!

Just two weeks ago, I came across Rainy's website, Honey & Ollie, and I noticed she had a mandala tutorial in the left margin of her page.  She describes a mandala as "a meditation that you build up in layers.  Work from the inside to the outside."  Simply put a dot, spiral, flower, circle, etc. at the center, and then build up your design around it.  She provided a link to a web site with basic henna motifs, and suddenly it all kind of clicked in place for me. 
After some more note-taking, I tackled my first mandala.
Keep in mind that these are not patterns of my own making.  Some are copied as-is from the sites I was looking at, and for the others, I put together the patterns I found there. 
As I started to draw the mandalas, I was reminded very much of the Zentangles I have been enjoying all year.  They look so complex and difficult when looked at as a whole, but when you just make one mark at a time, and let the patterns build up over the page, it's a simple but focused process.
I am not a "mindless doodler"...I wish I were!  For me to make these designs and patterns, I really have to focus and concentrate.  Drawing both Zentangles and mandalas is a soothing, restful pasttime for me.  It has also been an exercise in giving up perfection, which is a valuable exercise for me to undertake.  I know that some folks working on mandalas get out the rulers and compasses, and I even bought some of these tools when I first intended to create some mandalas.  But at this point, I have put that approach to the side in favor of freehand drawing that brings me greater satisfaction.  How fun to have such imperfect lines and spacing, and yet enjoy the results so much! 
Finding Warren's web site, The Doodle Daily, has opened up another whole set of mandala symbols to incorporate into my designs.  I don't think I have anything symbolic going on in my drawings so far.  Right now, I still feel like I'm getting used to the process, and exploring design and pattern options.  I do lots and lots of thinking while I'm drawing, though, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if my work gets more personally symbolic when the designs and patterns come to me naturally, rather than from me looking on the computer for ideas to copy or incorporate.
This mandala is a copy of one of Warren's designs.
Drawing these mandalas was the perfect art experience to bring along with me when I traveled to Atlanta for Thanksgiving this past weekend.  All I needed was a little notebook of drawing paper (which I bound for myself with my Cinch machine) and a black PITT artist pen.  I took along some colored Sharpies, too.  Nothing bulky, nothing messy, and I had a great "arty" outlet to enjoy while I was away from home!

Have your read about mandalas, or created them yourself?  I have MUCH to learn, so please share your knowledge and resources with me in your comments.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Doing My Part

I had never heard the term "Black Friday" until I moved to Philadelphia in my early 20s.  Silly me, I thought it was some sort of local phenomenom!

One year I went out to the King of Prussia Mall (which happens to be the size of a small city, with parking to match), drove around for 40 minutes without finding any spot for my car, and just headed back home.  Black Friday shopping is not for the faint-hearted up here, and now I guess that is the case for most of the rest of the country.

This past weekend, I was in Atlanta celebrating Thanksgiving with my sister.  We left the kids with our (disgruntled) husbands to catch a quick meal at Mambo Italiano and stop in to a few stores to sample the Black Friday excitement.  The Forum shopping center in Norcross was positively civilized!

I was happy to do my part to support the economy when my sister took me to a store called Silver Linings (not to be confused with the plus-size bridal shop or the local classic rock dance band in Atlanta).  The first sight that greeted me was a table of Kelly Rae Roberts licensed items--mugs, notebooks, canvases, figurines.

I am now the happy owner of a new mug:
The mug was sitting by several attractive boxes in the same style.  Because the boxes had price tags, I assumed that they were a separate item available to buy.  It turns out, the mug was packaged in one of the lovely boxes for me to take home!
Image of the top of the box
I also purchased a new notebook:
Inside the cover
I need a new notebook like I need a hole in my head, but I simply cannot resist a beautiful blank book!
Don't I look ready to write the Great American Novel with my
Kelly Rae Roberts mug of Orange and Spice tea?
In my defense, I also found gifts for my mother and my sister at the store!

Just thought I would share my recent contribution to our nation's economy.  Did you find anything fun to buy on Black Friday?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Vintage Thanksgiving Greetings

Wishing you and yours
a happy, healthy, creative
[Photos of the vintage Thanksgiving postcards in my collection]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's a Cinch!

I am loving my new Cinch binding machine!

I am taking a trip soon, and I went looking at the store for a little drawing pad that I could take along with me.  The only small notebooks they had were filled with sketch paper, which was thinner than what I was looking for.  And the only drawing notebooks they had were larger than what I was looking for. 

Cinch machine to the rescue!
I bought a notebook of 80 lb. Strathmore drawing paper, and cut it into 5x5 inch pieces.  Then I cut a piece of heavy cardstock for a front cover and a piece of cardboard for the back cover.
I ended up with a custom-made notebook for drawing while on vacation--just the size I want, just the paper I want. 

And, to make it even better, I followed the machine's directions more carefully, and achieved almost perfectly round wire rings for my notebook!  That had been one of my greatest concerns after using the Cinch for the first time, but I think I understand how to achieve the circular shape that makes a notebook look professionally bound.
Paper-taped cardboard back cover
You know I won't be able to resist book-making now!  My Cinch is going to get a pretty good workout in the coming months.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

1001 Journals

I have signed up to contribute to three different traveling journals that are part of the 1001 Journals Project
1001 Journals

1001 Journals is an outgrowth of the 1000 Journals Project.  In that project, 1000 projects were "released" into the world by Someguy, who then attempts to track their progress around the globe. 

Anyone who finds one of these journals is encouraged to add a story, a drawing, or a picture--anything they care to contribute--and then pass the journal along to a friend or stranger to continue its journey.  It is a giant interactive art collaboration that encourages creativity in those who are lucky to come across one of the journals.  According the FAQs on the originator's site, only one has returned home to him, and 999 are still in circulation!

Because 1000 journals in the scope of the entire earth isn't really that many, and there's not such a huge chance that you or I would ever get our hands on one, the creator of the project began 1001 Journals, where you can go and sign up for a journal to come right to your doorstep for your contributions.  Or better yet, you can start a journal of your own, so that at the end of the project, the journal comes back to you and becomes your own personal piece of art.
Bonita's photo of her traveling journal, from the 1001 Journals site
Sometime in the next year or so, I should be receiving journals sent out by Bonita Rose, Regina Lord, and April ColeRegina's journal has been sent off, and participation is now closed.  Bonita's journal has been created, though I'm not sure if she has sent it off yet; participation for hers is closed now too.  There are still spots open to contribute to April's journal.
Regina's photo of her traveling journal, from the 1001 Journals site
Each originator sets up their own guidelines, but basically when you receive the journal, you have a week or two to create a page or a spread, and then you send it on to the next person on the list.  Fun, right?

It will be interesting to see the contributions of the people ahead of me, but I can sure see the appeal of launching a book so that it would come back to me full of art after its journey is complete!

Maybe that will be a project for a later date.....

A thought from the October 2011 issue of Self magazine:

"To succeed at any challenge in life,
you've got to tune out the noise around you--
the footsteps of others (ahead and behind),
distracting "advice,"
doubters who tell you it can't be done. 
Instead, focus on your inner voice. 
Setting your own goal, charting your course and
trusting your instincts
take courage,
but they are the surest route
to crossing your personal finish line a winner."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

File This Under "Awesome"!

I recently reconnected with a friend from high school, Kristen, at our 20-year high school reunion.  When she saw my blog post about the Great Big Stitched Postcard Swap in August, she proposed that we should do our own postcard swap sometime in the future.  Well, my mail art from Kristen arrived earlier this week, and you can definitely file it under "Awesome"! 

Check out what she did: 

She took my profile pic from Facebook--
And she used fabric to create this--
How cool is that?!

The pressure is on, because I haven't yet created my postcard for Kristen.  I better come up with something great, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Throwing a Themed Kid's Party

I'm no good at parties.

Don't get me wrong--I love to go to a good party.  But when it comes to throwing a party, I am truly out of my element.

When you become a mom, though, organizing birthday parties is part of the job description. 

Up to this point, the girls' parties have been pretty general--Play Doh, balloons, some crepe paper streamers, and a cake.  For Katy's 4th birthday, though, she had a theme in mind--her very favorite movie, Cars.

Now, Martha Stewart I am not, so I felt no need for handcrafted decorations and table centerpieces.  I headed to Party City and bought some packaged posters of Lightning McQueen and his cinematic sidekicks, along with some coordinating sticker packs and themed invitations.

I arranged to hold the party on a Saturday afternoon in the largest Sunday school classroom at our church.  Many thanks to my friend Tracy, whose daughter held her party at her church, and demonstrated the brilliance of the plan:  large space, central location, and NOT MY HOUSE!

As the kids arrived, they found red and white balloons all over the ground to kick around and play with (another stroke of genius from Tracy).  There was also a rug with buildings and roads all over it, with toy cars and motorcycles, as well as Cars coloring pages and crayons on one of the tables.

After a little free play time, I asked if anyone wanted to make a birthday crown.  (That has nothing to do with Cars, but who can resist a birthday crown?)  I provided pre-cut crowns and loads of sticker pages to choose from. 

After everyone had a customized crown to wear, I announced our first game:  Pin the car on the racetrack!  My husband showed his true artistic talent in the creation of the racetrack. 
The kids were blindfolded and did their best to tape their car the closest to the Finish line as they could.  Everyone got cheered, and left with a little gold "Winner" medal around their neck. 

Then it was on to the bean bag toss. 
I wanted the kids to toss the bean bags into a tire, but my husband nixed the idea because it throws our car into a tizzy when the spare tire is removed.  He thought of using a little toy push car we keep in the garage.  We opened up the "hood" and the kids gave it their best shot. 
One little girl had a particularly solid shot.  Another little girl was having some trouble, and we found her in front of the car later on, practicing!

We tried some toy car races, but the 4-year-old set was having trouble mastering how to slide the car backward to give it some power to move it forward.  It became a brief free-for-all, and then it was time for cake and ice cream.
Someone asked if I had made the cake.  Heck, no!  Our local grocery store did a phenomenal job with a Cars-themed cake, and we added our own little Lightning McQueen candle from the party store.
Next came the gift-opening.  The first gift came from the lone little boy at the party, whose father helped him pick out a remote-controlled Lightning McQueen.  Perfect!  Two party-goers gave Katy sets of rubber stamps (do they know her mother OR WHAT?!), and one gave her a sticker mosaic craft kit.  She also got a Tinkerbell doll, lip gloss (yikes!), and an Olivia book.
After opening gifts, we played a rousing game of Red Light, Green Light--another appropriately car-related game.  When you play that game with 4-year-olds, it becomes a pack of kids surging willy-nilly between two strips of masking tape, running off all the sugar they have just ingested. 
After some kid-created versions of Duck, Duck, Goose, and a game called Monsters, the kids were sent home with favor bags decorated with Cars stickers, containing a Hot Wheels car, a Cars coloring page, a Cars-themed box of four crayons, star-shaped plastic glasses, a whistle, some Fig Newtons, and a bookmark (I'm an English teacher first and foremost, People!).
I hope the other kids had as much fun as our two girls did.  I enjoyed seeing their faces during the different activities, and chatting with their parents.  It is such a joy to see your child being celebrated, and handling it with pretty good grace for a four-year-old. 

It was a nice combination of store-bought and hand-crafted, and I think it maintained the simple fun of a traditional kids' party without all the exaggerated excess of so many shindigs today. 

Many thanks to everyone who through this blog, Facebook, e-mail, and in person helped to celebrate the special day when Katy entered my life!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Craft Show Report!

The big day has come and gone:  my craft show debut!

I had spent about two months planning for the event:  crafting items to sell, determining prices, planning my table display, preparing my business cards and shopping bags.  It was an exciting process for me, because I have been wanting to participate in this kind of event for at least two years now.  I have dragged my feet, asking myself if I really wanted to do it, but truly wondering if I could pull it off. 

It all came to fruition at Ashbridge Manor in Downingtown, PA, on Friday evening at the Mom-Hosted Holiday Bazaar:
There were twelve crafters and "mompreneurs" at the bazaar, selling paper-related crafts (me!), jewelry, flameless candles, door decor, scrapbooking and rubber stamping supplies, decorated miniature Christmas trees, hair bows, baby crafts, and gourmet foods.  We set our tables up around one large room, and welcomed shoppers for four hours, from 5 to 9 pm.
We all offered free snacks or wine at our tables, and I added some candy cane package toppers made from red and white chenille stems.

The first wave of customers were mainly residents of the home where we were holding the event.  One woman in her wheelchair proudly told me that she is 93 years old, and that she has so many people in her family now that she doesn't even bother buying them gifts anymore!  One elderly man happily told his friends and I the story of how I must have gotten my dimples, from all of my aunts and uncles squeezing my cheeks when I was a little girl (which, of course, he did to me to illustrate his story!).  I enjoyed these interactions early in the show.

I didn't make a large number of sales, but I went there ready for any possible level of success, so I didn't feel disappointed.  My mother had shared with me a few weeks ago something she read from the book Blink about how people make decisions "in the blink of an eye."  Experiments were done at a gourmet food shop where sample jellies were displayed. In the instances where 3 different jars were offered, 30% of the customers purchased one of the products. When 12 jars were available for sampling, only 3% bought anything at all. The theory is that with a small selection of like items, impulse takes over and people buy without really thinking about it (in a blink), but with many varieties of the same type, choosing takes over, people take time to decide which of many is "best" for them, and end up deciding they don't really need any of it. This phenomenon wasn't a one-time experiment -- it's been true many times.

When I heard about that, I knew I might be in trouble!  I have just a few of LOTS of different things, rather than lots of a FEW different things.  I'm pretty sure I could see the dynamic my mom warned me about playing out at the show.  I'm not sure if I'll be able to change that, though!  I don't have a lot of interest in just producing lots of the same thing.  Something to think about, though, in terms of future success.

The most successful items of the evening were the Scrabble tile and flower gem magnets.
One woman bought three of the jumbo embellished clothespins as gifts for her grade-level teaching partners, which I thought was a great idea since they make such fun desk accessories.
I also sold several gift tag sets, which makes perfect sense for this holiday season. 

Several people asked about my stitched journal cards, but not a single one of them sold!  And no one looked twice or commented on the collaged vintage bottles, which are some of my favorite things!

One of the most commented-upon items were the Gratitude Gift Tag booklets.  Many people thought it was such a great idea to start a new holiday tradition where family members record the things they are grateful for that year--something to both keep the purpose of Thanksgiving at the forefront (besides stuffing ourselves with food!) and give something fun to look back on in future years.  I only sold a couple of the booklets, though, and I suspect several people figured they could use the idea and fashion something similar for themselves.  (I could see the wheels turning in their brains as they looked them over!)  Obviously I would have loved the sales, but I enjoyed sharing the ideas quite well, too.
Gratitude Tag Booklets are at the front right of the photo.

I had a wonderful time spending the evening with these other creative and entrepreneurial women who were part of the bazaar with me.  I felt proud of myself for tackling a challenge that I have had in place for myself for quite a long time now.  I was excited to have earned some money for my handiwork.  And I benefited from a number of observations and lessons that will help me, I think, be more successful in future craft shows! 

Here's a peek at some of the other wonderful women who were a part of the Mom-Hosted Holiday Bazaar:
Melissa, representing Tastefully Simple:  She was our fearless organizer, so generous with her time and talents to get all of this put together!
Meredith, of MerJoy Designs, selling handmade cards and jewelry
Kelly, of Scentsy
Laurie, with her decorated miniature Christmas trees
Kris, with Stampin' Up
Jen, with handmade hair bows for her company Elephants on Parade

This experience has given me the motivation to pursue additional show opportunities in the spring, and I am planning to open an Etsy shop in the new year.