Tuesday, May 26, 2015

2015 iHanna International Postcard Swap

I mentioned in an earlier post that I am participating in iHanna's international postcard swap again this spring, and wanted to share with you the cards I will be sending out into the world this time around.
My set of ten cards has a definite theme this year, which I will explain shortly.  But to begin the process, I cut smooth, white Bristol paper into ten pieces, each 4 inches by 6 inches.  I put a light wash of watercolor on them, and then applied distress ink through a couple favorite stencils using wedge makeup sponges:
For my next step, I glued down some of the old cancelled checks I purchased from the Allentown Paper Show, followed by a selection of Depression-era photos from a book I found at a local thrift shop called Nana's Attic.
Each card got a turn under my sewing machine needle, where I used one of three different colors and a couple of different stitches to outline the pictures or make a band across the postcard.
Finally, I used my "new" old typewriter to type the sentence, "We had everything but money," once for each card.  This sentence is the title of the book I used as the source of my pictures.  I know that some people insist that they only cut up books for their art that are so old and falling apart that they had no other life left in them.  I am here to confess that this book was in perfectly fantastic shape, and I purchased it for the express purpose of cutting out and using its photos.  But as I went through it, I read every single word.  What an amazing book!  It gave me such tremendous insight into the lives of people during the Depression and Dust Bowl eras, and such tremendous respect for the people who made it through with such positive attitudes and memories.
After affixing some postage stamps--some from this very era--my postcards for the swap were complete.

My cards, then, are an attempt to show some of snapshots of life from the 1930s:  how resilient people clothed themselves, fed themselves, dressed themselves, educated themselves, fell in love, worked and played and traveled and LIVED in the face of the incredibly challenging circumstances of that particular decade of United States history. 
Here are my postcards, awaiting the final touches to the messages on the back, about to be sent out into the wider world of mail art lovers!
Many thanks to iHanna for her tireless inspiration!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

And Now For Something Completely Different: Yarn Edition!

I've enjoyed crocheting over the years, but put it aside for quite awhile because my toddlers inevitably wound themselves in my yarn and made it difficult to accomplish much!  Recently, I got this big urge to pick up my crochet hook again, and figured the girls are old enough now to stay untangled. 

I want the chance to crochet, but I don't really have anyone to crochet for, so I decided to focus on blankets for babies and small children.  I plan to donate them to a local food and clothing bank when the cold weather comes back again.  I am guessing that I will have a nice little stack of blankets by the fall, and my mother is joining me in the project, so that will double our donation.

Right now I am working on two blankets at once.  Once is a bit coarser variegated yarn, where one color changes into another color along the strand:
The other is a super-baby-soft yarn in cream and light green; I still have several more squares to add for this one to be completed: 
My favorite part of the process is crocheting the squares.  A little less fun, but still satisfying, is sewing the squares together.  My least favorite part of the process, and the part I haven't started tackling yet, is hiding all those crazy yarn ends!

One great thing about crocheting as a creative outlet is that I can put all my needed supplies in one little basket, and take it wherever I want to work on it.  My six-year-old took this picture of me crocheting in my favorite corner of the family room, but I also like working in a chair across the room from this sofa, as well as upstairs in Studio 791.  Have crochet hook, will travel!

My crochet companion is Stella, my 18-year-old kitty.
For another recent yarn project, I made my own wool dryer balls.  Dryer balls take the place of fabric softener, which contains all kinds of toxic chemicals that have no business on my clothing and thus on my skin.  Several of the chemicals in dryer sheets are on the EPA's list of toxic hazardous waste, and have been tied to central nervous system disorders, cancer, and respiratory disorders.  For more details, I invite you to do your own search of "fabric softener chemicals" to find information from sites you trust.  In place of my old Downy and Bounce, I found Woolzies dryer balls in the Isabella catalog.  I asked for them one Christmas and have been using them for years--long after their intended life span!

When it became obvious that they were ready to discard, I decided to make my own, using skeins of real wool from the craft store.  I had clipped a couple of magazine articles with directions, and also watched a YouTube video that demonstrated just how simple the process is. 
I chose to wind the yarn in a small ball, then felt it inside a sock in a hot washer and dryer before winding some more to create a bigger ball, which I then felted again to make it ready for service.  (There are a couple of versions of directions for making these.)
The balls work even better than the Woolzies brand in my opinion!  I'm only using three rather than six.  They truly cut the drying time of my clothing, and if I don't run too long of a drying cycle, static cling is not a big problem.  Clothing comes out very soft whether I'm using the store-bought or handmade dryer balls. 

If I want scent, I can add some drops of essential oils to the balls and they will infuse the smell into my clothing.  I have gotten used to "clean" smelling like nothing rather than a manufactured scent, so I haven't bothered to try this. 
I used three skeins of wool yarn ($10.99, but I used a 40% off coupon for each of them) to make ten balls.  I gave three to a friend as a gift, am using three myself right now, and have some in reserve for the future.  It's a much better buy than store-bought, and I had the mindless therapy of rolling the yarn balls to boot!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Vintage Photo Gallery Walk

I mentioned recently that I would dedicate an entire post to some of the photographs I purchased at the Allentown Paper Show, simply because I love the images so much, and I think you will enjoy them, too.
I know that in super-old photos, people look stiff and stodgy because they had to stand still for so long for the picture to "take."  But I always thought people looked pretty stiff and posed in the 40s and 50s simply because they wouldn't want to "waste" film on frivolity (unlike today's digital age, when we can take a hundred throw-away shots to get that one perfect "keeper").

Well, I can throw out any misconceptions about THAT!
 (The dealer actually laughed and lost track of his calculations when he saw this one while flipping through my selections!)

I could dream up a whole love triangle storyline for the three people in this photo, couldn't you?
I look at this photo, and think, "This could have been taken of someone last week!"  Certain faces just strike me as MODERN, and make me realize that we're all just PEOPLE, no matter what era we are born into.
Here's another one for my "people holding sticks" grouping, and another modern-looking face:
This woman's work looks pretty humble, but boy she looks pleasant and friendly:
Check out this beauty; I would love to have her hair!
This one is labeled "Senior Trip, 1912."  I don't care if it's high school or college, I can guarantee that kids on their senior trips today look NOTHING like this dapper group!
I find myself paying more attention to the styles of the clothing in the photos I select:
You can tell that this woman is dressed for a special occasion:
I've now see SO many photos from the 1930s of families arrayed in front of their cars:
This photo continues to amaze me:  The woman in the foreground is eating a WAFFLE!  Clearly not something I expect to see captured in a vintage photograph.
These guys are ready for some fun:
And so are these gals:
How about THAT?!
I enjoyed some family pics from earlier eras:
And some sweet pictures of young love:
And I leave you with some final photos and snapshots from my collection:
Let's not forget to get some of our pictures developed along the way, so tomorrow's treasure-hunters will have something to find for their collections!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Digging into the Stash: Collaged Contact Cards

I like to keep a stack of cards on hand with my email and blog addresses for times when I meet someone new who might be interested in my art or my blog. 
It makes sense for those cards to reflect my aesthetic, so I tend to create mini-collages with vintage papers and a mail-art theme.
The back contains my name, email address, and blog URL.  Last time I made these, I very sensibly made them the size of Artist Trading Cards (ATCs).  This time, I made them the size of a standard business card.  I'll return to ATC size next time!
You will recognize papers from the Allentown Paper Show used in these collages.  I used the canceled checks from Farmer's National Bank as the foundation for my cards, then added postage stamps and Cavallini mail-art themed rubber stamps to embellish them.  Some of the cards also include the Grand Union Tea Company tea checks and grocery store merchandise stamps. 
And while I had all my cut-and-paste supplies out on my art table (though, really, when DON'T I have them out?!), I got started on another project. Any guesses what it might be?
I'll tell you!  I am participating in iHanna's DIY Postcard Swap, Spring 2015!  It's been a few years since I have participated, but when I signed up, I dug right in and started creating my cards.  Stay tuned, and I'll share my process and my final results SOON!
Why don't you swing by and sign up, too?!