Thursday, February 28, 2013

Christmas in February: Book Ornaments

The purpose of my Christmas in [Insert Month Here] blog series was to complete bookmarked Christmas projects throughout the year, since the holiday season is often too hectic to explore all the seasonal crafts that I want to. 

I didn't really intend to go out and find new projects to try!  But as you already know, you can't turn around in the art and craft world without finding scores of "must-do" ideas. 

The other day I stopped in JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts to buy a new jar of gel medium. The store was out of the medium, but here I was with my 40% off coupon in hand; I couldn't just let it go to waste!  Against my better judgment, I walked down the art and craft book aisle, and spotted Constance E. Richards' book, Books and Journals: 20 Great Weekend Projects, from The Weekend Crafter series.  When I saw her book ornaments, I knew I wanted them to be my Christmas in February project.
Here are the book ornaments, closed and secured with a bead.
The project required paper folding, which, as you may recall from earlier efforts to fold a handmade matchbox, is not my strong suit.  But happily, Richards' instructions for folding were clear enough for even me to successfully follow. 
Here is what one of the book ornaments looks like when opened up.
Here are three of the four book ornaments I made, opened up to look like snowflakes.
I did a web search to find some other crafters who have created similar book ornaments.  If you don't have the book I used, but would like to see how the fold is achieved, you can look at the photos in this blog post at Oh My!  Handmade Goodness.  The Oh My! version does not involve cutting the book into shapes, and it creates a more formal book cover using bookboard.  To see the folding in action, check out this video from Wonder How To; she creates a version that is twice the size of my books, but much thinner. (She folds one square and puts it into the book covers, while I folded three squares, glued them together, and put them into the book covers.)
One final look at my book ornaments for Christmas in February.
I found another post at Style Me Pretty describing how to make miniature leather-bound book ornaments, and now I'd like to try that project, too!  There is also a cute kids' felt version in this Helping Little Hands post. 

Check out previous posts in the Christmas in [Insert Month Here] series:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Art Journal Round Robin

I am participating in my first Art Journal Round Robin (AJRR) with Janet, Mary, and Danielle.  We are just now sending out our prepared journals for the first round of the swap.  We are four different women of different ages, living in different states in different circumstances, making different styles of art, but with a common interest in art journaling and building creative friendships.  Let me share the journal I have sent on to Janet, who will send it on to the next participant in four weeks.  After a couple of months, I will have a chance to see it again, before sending it on for another round of swaps.
We are keeping our journals roughly to the size of 6"x8", so I chose a Strathmore Mixed Media notebook.  Maybe I will make my own journal sometime in the future, but I decided to face one new challenge at a time!  I kept it simple, with a photo from Mollie Makes and a clear Dymo lable.  (This was my second choice of cover, as I destroyed the first in the process of creating it.  Such is the way of art projects sometimes!)
I thought it would be fun to have a sign-in page on the inside, so I left a section for each person to include her signature, and some sort of "artistic signature":  a note, a collage, a drawing, a rubber stamp image, whatever.
Do you recognize the inspiration for my first art journal spread?  I knew as soon as I saw a certain Puffs tissue box in our family room that I wanted to create an art journal page based on its design.  It is a true testimony to the fact that art journal inspiration can come from anywhere!
My second spread began with a painted background, using watercolor paints, stencils, and a sea sponge.  Then, I created a silhouette from a fashion catalog and painted it in black acrylic paint.  Next, I doodled around the edges using design inspirations from Zenspirations by Joanne Fink.  I thought up the sentiment on the left, then added some inspiring Bible verses written around the edges of the woman's silhouette.
At the end of the art journal, I thought it would be fun to include an envelope of scraps to share.  I figure that people can take as many scraps as they want, for their journal spreads or other projects, as long as they replace them with just as many as they take.
I am excited to see all of the different styles of art journals that will come to my door over the next several months.  I try to consistently face new challenges that stretch my creativity and build connections with the people whose online presence I enjoy. 

How are you challenging yourself creatively today?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

We Interrupt This Crafty Blog For...


It's been one of those full weeks, with plenty of "best" and a few "worst" moments wrapped up into its days.
The view from outside the Bayside Lodge, where we stay during the family retreat.
We started our week in Harvey Cedars, New Jersey, with our church family, finishing up our weekend retreat at the Harvey Cedars Bible Conference.  My husband and I have gone most every year since 2005, though not the year my younger daughter was born, since her due date was at the same time.
An unfortunate reminder of Hurricane Sandy's destruction--the little pier outside our lodge was destroyed.
This year was the first time that the girls were old enough to join in the general fun, racing around the lodge with a few other girls almost exactly their same age and size.  What a sight to see them all tearing around together and calling themselves a "Girls' Club"! 
Here are some of the girls dressed up as sheep for our skit of the Parable of the Lost Sheep.  We won't mention the fact that our "costumes" make them look a bit more like little pigs!  It was a low-budget affair!
I had plenty of "Grown Up Time" with my church friends, playing box games like Apples to Apples and Taboo.  Something about playing these games at 10:30 at night sent us into huge outbursts of laughter, and I loved it! 
That's me in the foreground of the photo, looking studious as I wait for one of sessions to begin.
I also enjoyed watching our youth group (and a couple of crazy adults) doing the Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday morning, enjoying five meals that I neither prepared nor cleaned up after, and working with the children to create heart-shaped "stained glass window" crafts to remind us of God's love during this Valentine season. 
We came home on Sunday afternoon, and used Monday for catching up on laundry and getting back into our usual routines.

On Tuesday, I registered my older daughter for kindergarten in the fall--what a milestone!

My younger daughter turned four on Wednesday, so I visited her preschool classroom to read a book to the class and listen to everyone sing her "Happy Birthday."  Later in the afternoon, we had children in our Moms' group over for a cupcake-decorating playdate.
Later in the afternoon brought gift-opening time!
Wednesday night, either because of too many cupcakes or a nasty virus, my older daughter spent the evening throwing up, and eventually all four of us ended up spending the night all together in a queen-sized bed.  It would have been endearing if it hadn't been so darn uncomfortable to be squashed together like that!

Thursday brought Bayla's four-year well-visit at the pediatricians's office.  We have to address some ongoing digestive issues with her that will be familiar to those of you who have gone through motherhood, but I'll spare you the details.  I decided that with all of the authority I wield in this household, it is ridiculous that I continue to make the eating of vegetables and other healthy food choices "optional" for my girls.  I came home from the grocery store with the announcement that we are a now a family who eats vegetables and other healthy foods!  I made a whole-grain pasta primavera for dinner that Bayla ended up loving, and Katy ended up crying over.  I told Michael that I was happy enough with a 50 percent success rate for now!

Tomorrow evening I am going to a Craft Night at the house of a woman in my Bible Study Circle at church; I've never done something like that, and will give you a full report!  Then Saturday we are having my daughter's entire preschool class over for a birthday party.  (I am now heartily wishing that I had called the cupcake-decorating playdate her birthday party, and left it at that, but it's too late for that now!)

So life has been abundantly full, and not necessarily with art-making and craft projects.  I DO have two spreads in my Round Robin Art Journal to show you, and some more fabulous mail art to share with you, but that will have to await a few moments of calm for my next post!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Matchbox Swap

I am in the midst of my first, but hopefully not my last, matchbox swap.  Have you done one of these before? 
You might remember my less-than-successful effort to fashion a handmade matchbox.  For the swap, I decided to use an existing matchbox to spare my partner my feeble folding attempts!
I had so much fun picking out the tiniest of treasures to put in the matchbox, and found it amazing to see how much can be packed into such a little space.  There is a certain benefit to having small children in the house, as we seem to have a larger-than-average number of tiny objects to choose from!  And, who am I kidding:  I am a certifiable packrat, with tackle boxes full of game pieces, buttons, rhinestones, and other odds and ends.
One of the coolest objects came along with the doll house my husband and I bought for the girls at auction for Christmas.  There were all kinds of miniature cans of food, as well as this bottle with a compartment for a secret message inside:
(You can look a few photos up to get a sense of its size in relation to the matchbox.)

When I get my matchbox from my partner, I will be sure to share it with you.

If you think you might be up for a matchbox swap, let me know, and maybe we can arrange something.  This was a fun new kind of swap for me try!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Be Mine, Valentine!

Happy Valentine's Day!

There has been a lot of Valentine love flowing around the Kaskey household today, and I want to share all of the wonderful Valentine goodness I've been enjoying.

First, my girls and my husband made sure that I had plenty of the pink and red and lacy and sweet to enjoy:
This is actually only a small selection of Valentine love from my girls.  Their preschool teachers made sure their daddy and I had lots of Valentine crafts to commemmorate the day!
My mother was ahead of the Valentine game, and sent me this vintage-looking beauty back in January:
I was lucky enough to be part of a swap hosted by April Cole at The Studio, her thriving artistic community on Facebook.  I have received four of the five Valentines I will be receiving:
Here's a closer look:
Valentine tag from April
Positive affirmation on a card and a pin from Nicole
A whole package of Valentine goodness from Deb
The texture on Deb's artwork is worth a second, closer look.
A collage by Amy
Wishing you blessings of love
on this Valentine's Day! 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Return of the Artist's Date: Terrain

I didn't realize how long it had been since I went on an Artist's Date until I went back through my blog to find my most recent trip--turns out, it was in July of last year!  It's high time I make the effort again to enjoy a monthly excursion somewhere that feeds my creative spirit.  This month, I chose the store Terrain, an upscale nursery owned by the same folks who run Anthropologie. 
If you are familiar with Anthropologie, you can see the similarity in the vibe at Terrain.  I found it completely dreamy and inspiring.
There were sparkling lights, engaging tablescapes, terrariums galore, and design ideas to inspire both indoor and outside decor.
There were also lots of things that had little or nothing to do with gardening:  candles, luxurious bathroom products, cooking items, greeting cards, cashmere pajama pants (!), and even some crafty items.  Here are some nifty stick colored pencils, and maybe you can see the bin of washi tape and burlap ribbon on either side of them.
I thought these stacks of bark (for $10 a bundle) would make awesome notebook/journal covers, and was tempted to buy some:
And, of course, there were plenty of plants--indoor plants, outdoor plants, terrarium plants, herb garden plants. 
The building across from the one pictured in the photos above looked more like a "usual" greenhouse, with fewer frills:
I took several close-up photos of colorful flowers and leaves, thinking they would make great inspiration for designs and doodling in my sketchbook once I got home.
There were also large outdoor spaces that I did not explore because it was pouring down rain on the morning I visited.

The store was inspiring even to a brown thumb like myself!  I debated the array of indoor herbs, but decided to buy three little non-herb plants that I thought would brighten my kitchen countertop.  Here they are in the little box they gave me to take home:
And here are the plants in their new home in the corner of my kitchen counter:
It never would have occurred to me to put the Angels' Tears into a parfait glass and a crystal vase if it had not been for a display I saw at Terrain.  And I ventured to combine the fern and the fittonia into a single terra cotta pot after seeing the lovely container gardens designed for display at the store. 

I am truly a plant novice, and have a well-established brown thumb, having seen the demise of bonsai, philodendron, and jade plants in my care.  I had a pretty good run with cacti early on, but that's about the extent of it.  Also, my cat Stella is notorious for devouring any living thing I try to bring into the house, so much so that my husband's first words upon seeing the display above were, "So, you got a snack bar for Stella, eh?"

It is so valuable to occasionally use the time when the girls are in preschool for the morning to do something other than run errands or do tasks around the house.  An Artist's Date is a great opportunity to go somewhere I've never been before but have been curious about, and to see the place through the eyes of an artistic, creative person seeking inspiration, ideas, and refreshment.

See if you can't fit an Artist's Date into your February schedule.  You will NOT regret it!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Coming Soon: Studio 791 on Etsy!

A major part of my goal for 2013 includes not procrastinating any longer on projects that have been awhile in the making. 
Stacks and stacks of books can only mean one thing--collage packs in the making!
For over a year, I have been seriously considering opening a shop on Etsy, but made little progress toward that goal as I pursued the "craft show circuit" last year.  I have determined that 2013 will be the year that Studio 791 makes it to Etsy, and I have set April 6, 2013--my 40th birthday!--as my target Grand Opening date. 
Bins and stacks and piles characterize my work space...but then again, that's the way it always is!
That means that aside from Valentine heart-making, my art space has been dominated by shop-opening preparations:  inventory to assess, packaging and labeling to improve, shipping and handling to be considered.  I've read so many interviews in which artists explain that once they "go pro," they have to spend more time on the business end of things and give up some of the actual art-making that brought them into business in the first place.  I can understand what they are talking about, and I'm not even responding to orders yet!
You can bet that everything I will offer in my shop will be things that I would want to buy for myself!
The whole process is completely exciting, though.  I have wanted to open a shop on Etsy for over a year now, and I am making solid and definite progress toward that goal.  I am definitely the sort that needs to give myself a deadline to make it happen, and it seems appropriate to align my shop's debut with my own milestone birthday. 

I will keep you posted on my progress, and you are all--of course!--invited to the Grand Opening on April 6!


Nothing keeps me more inspired than finding art and friendship in my mailbox each day.  Here are some of the latest goodies I have been enjoying in 2013:
You can see the adorable postcard with the reproduction vintage Valentine in the foreground from Mary.  She has been an amazingly generous mail art buddy this year, and we're just over one month in!

And that amazing envelope in the background comes from Sherry in Illinois.  Take a closer look:
I really don't know why my photo is posting sideways.  Go ahead and crane your neck for a better view!

Sherry also sent traditional Valentines for my girls!  How thoughtful is that?!

Terrie continued our postcard exchange with this great experiment in creating layered backgrounds:
Janet and I did a bookmark swap, and she slipped in an ATC I loved from a recent post on her blog:
This is a lo-oo-oong bookmark with gorgeous colors and images.
It was so hard to capture its awesomeness in a photo!

Janet's ATC--words to live by!
Every day is Valentine's Day when you share Mail Art Love!