Saturday, April 30, 2016

Adventures in Jewelry-Making

If you read my Living Stones blog during my Drawing Near hiatus, you are familiar with the Word of the Year group that I belong to.  Each of our members has chosen a Word for the Year, and we are meeting face-to-face four times during 2016 to share our progress and our projects, and offer each other encouragement.  Every month in between meetings, we are emailing a partner, and responding to prompts that keep us thinking about our words; some of us are also keeping journals to record our experiences with our words.

During the month of March, we had a kind of "choose-your-own-adventure" prompt, with several project options.  One of the possibilities was to make our own piece of jewelry that featured our word in some way.  Though I've dabbled in a few jewelry-making projects (enough to have purchased many of the tools and supplies associated with jewelry-making...ha!), I don't consider jewelry my strong suit.  I figured that with a little help from Pinterest, though, I would be able to identify a project within my skill boundaries.

I scanned my Jewelry Projects Pinterest board, and came across a link to Adrianne's book page necklace project at Happy Hour Projects.  It sent me dashing to my supply stash, as I remembered certain creative supplies that I've been hoarding, unused, for probably eight years.
These are Inkssentials Memory Glass and Frames from Ranger.  The packaging itself gave me an idea for my project:  I would choose one of my vintage photos, cut out the definition of CONTENTMENT (my Word for the Year) from one of my dictionaries, and create a necklace that melded the ideas from Adrianne's post with the Ranger packaging.
My first step was to search my photo collection for faces that spoke "contentment" to me.  There were several strong contenders in my collection:
Even though I didn't end up using these, I just had to share these lovely, contented faces from the past.
In the end, I went in an entirely different direction.  I have two pages of "Transparent Winged Cuties" produced by ArtChix Studio (also purchased many, many years ago!), and I thought one of the figures would be perfect to use since the dictionary definition could then show through.
I did a simple bit of measuring, cutting, and layering between the glass slides before popping the whole thing into the frame, creating the main part of my contentment-themed necklace.  My next step was to follow Adrianne's directions for adding a "hope" charm and a bead at the top.
Sweet, don't you think?

To read more about our April Word for the Year meet-up, you can visit my Living Stones blog post here!

I enjoyed this project so much, and had all the tools and materials out and ready, so I made one additional necklace with a vintage photo.
Meet Gertrude and Curt.  I didn't make those names up!  The names were written on the back of the photo, and I was able to use them on the backside of this pendant:
To embellish this necklace I used a bead and a "bliss" charm that reflected the happy faces of young love so many decades ago!

If I manage to find more of these frames and glass, I could imagine making many, many more pendants from my collection of vintage photos.

What do you think?  What materials from your stash would make their way onto your pendants?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Playing Around in Nature: Container Gardening!

I know that many people think of things they want to do, but then don't do them.

I, on the other hand, have a tendency to want to want to do things, but just don't really want to.

Weird, right?

For example, I would always see people jogging on the sidewalk while I was driving down the road, and I wanted to want to jog, but I just really didn't actually want to.

And I would see people's beautiful yards, and I would want to want to garden, but I just never had much interest in it.

One by one, my wanting to want is turning into "want", and then "do."

(You're following this, right?)

Not only did I take up jogging about five years ago, but this spring I'm actually pretty excited about getting a container garden started in my back yard, tucked up next to my garage.
My container garden, one day old
I chose the spot because I can see it from the kitchen window, the family room window, the patio, and every time I head to the car.  I get absolutely the maximum pleasure from my herbs, plants, and flowers in this location.
Wandering Jew and LAVENDER!
In all of these photos, my little garden is just one day old.  Many of the plants I chose will grow, mound, trail, and vine, so I'm expecting a little more full and wild look in a couple of months.
Thyme, rosemary, basil and parsley
Calibrachoa on the right next to the lavender, with ivy in the planter behind
I don't really know what to expect, because it's all new to me, but I have some healthy herbs growing out there, and some happy looking flowers; now I just need to keep them that way!
A little Creeping Jenny tucked under the table, with a Calibrachoa hybrid on top of the table, at right
Et voila!  My container garden attempt has begun....

Monday, April 18, 2016

Creative Excursion to Sakura Sunday

Yesterday was Sakura Sunday, the culmination of the week-long Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Festival.  The festival is a celebration of Japanese music, art, food, and culture, and Sakura Sunday brings all of these elements together on the grounds of the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park.

I found out that "sakura" means cherry blossom, and is a common female first name, as well as a Japanese surname.

I have been hearing about this festival for years, and was so happy finally to go with my husband and two daughters.  We drove down to the Mann Music Center, then took a free shuttle from their parking lot to the event.
Waiting for the shuttle, the girls are ready for the festival!
First off, the girls tried their hands at some radio broadcasting! We found a KYW "Kidcasting" booth, where they both got to record a news piece about the day's events.  The recording doesn't appear to be on the Internet yet, but hopefully I'll be able to let them hear it before too long; they'll feel "famous"!
I may be biased, but they seem like naturals!
There was a separate area at the event set aside for a Cosplay Showcase, but the whole Sakura Sunday was really a cosplay showcase.
I had never heard of the concept until two weeks ago, and now I've run into it twice!  Cosplay is basically dressing up as a fictional character, and people who do it often choose characters from Japanese manga and anime, though I think it has spread well beyond that cultural focus.
I loved this guy!
Lots of people shared their cosplay looks at Sakura Sunday, and were more than happy to pose for photos for anyone who might be interested.

We even ran into a college-aged friend from our church who participates in cosplay.... well as her mom, who was contemplating an outfit that was a bit more...comfy...
The girls got a chance to try their hand at origami.
We ate food from food trucks.  (I opted for vegetable lo mein in an effort to stay at least a little culturally appropriate.  Somehow a hoagie, pretzel, and funnel cake didn't suit the day!)
We checked out some of the crafts and other merchandise for sale, including these beautiful hana tsumami kanzashi, or Japanese silk flowers, handcrafted by local artist Sara Gdula.
There was a wish tree, where you could write your wishes on a tag and then tie it to the branches.
When I came home, I felt inspired to create a little cherry blossom beauty of my own.  I looked online at some photos of cherry blossoms, as well as some more stylized versions of the flowers, and then I carved cherry blossom and branch stamps.
And stamped the blossoms in pink, of course--the signature color of the day!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Adventures in Bookbinding

My cabinet card sketchbook, along with the book that helped me to create it
I took the plunge, inspired by the recent Philadelphia Art Book Fair, and got my bookbinding resources off the shelf and onto my work table.

For my first project, I've created the cabinet-card sketchbook from Jeannine Stein's Re-bound, in which she encourages the use of recycled and re-purposed materials for creating books.

The cover of my hand-bound book is a cabinet card purchased from the Allentown Paper Show.

My husband thinks she looks quite a bit like one of his ancestors; I think she looks amazingly similar to the woman that Jeannine used for her example in the book:
I see the man in the cabinet card on the back cover as a kind of spouse or companion of the woman on the front:
It wasn't until I had the project underway that I realized that I was actually binding three different books for the project, all using a stab binding technique.  Inside the outer cover are two smaller books.  On one side, the book has drawing paper, while on the other side the book has notepaper.
Each pad has a sturdy piece of cardboard at the back, which fits into a sleeve I made on the inside of each cover.  The pad slips in and out of the sleeve, and I can make new pads to replace them when I am finished, so that the cabinet card cover is re-usable.
Ingenious design, no?

I was thinking about giving this blog post the title: "Bookbinding is not for the faint of heart."

But through the process of binding this rather complicated book, I realized that there is definitely a simple secret to making the activity easier:  punch yourself large enough holes so that you are not fighting your needle's way through each one!

An awl is a fine way to start, but the Japanese screw punch is really indispensable for the bookbinder or book artist.  I'm no expert, but as a beginner, I'm finding that these are a few of my favorite things:
My favorite adhesive (UHU glue stick), Japanese screw punch, awls for
punching small holes, ruler, sharp utility knife
I also discovered that the first time through a new binding technique can be a little rough, while the second time through is exponentially easier.  For example, I ripped the cardboard backing on one of the books that fits inside my cabinet card book, and I went ahead and bound it with no strong backing, thinking I could get away that.  Once I did the other inside book, and saw how much better it fit into the sleeve with the cardboard backing, I realized I had to re-do the first one, and do it properly this time.  This time the stitching went so much more quickly! I finally knew what I was doing, and had done it a couple of times before.  There is a bit of a learning curve, but the patience required to catch on is worth it in the end!

And, really, isn't that pretty much true of any creative endeavor?

I'm on a bit of a bookbinding kick, it seems, so there may be a lot more where this came from!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Return of Drawing Near

And just like that--without notice or fanfare--I am returning to my little creative corner of the Interwebs.
The mess on my work table NEVER went away!
I miss keeping track of my creative pursuits.  While writing for my Living Stones blog and working on a larger writing project, I have continued to "fill my creative well" with inspiration from creative excursions.  I've kept tabs on some of my blogging friends, though I haven't been an active comment-er on others' posts.  And I've kept Studio 791 abuzz with activity, though I haven't felt the need to stop and snap pictures along the way to archive projects for the blog.
A recent mail art project.  Hmmm...who will be receiving this soon?
Now that I'm back, my posts will probably be a little more image-heavy, rather than text-heavy.  Just some peeks at my studio, projects, and excursions.  I'm not going to lie--it was a nice, almost-year-long break from writing blog posts, giving me the freedom to DO without the rehashing.  But if I take it slowly and just dip my toes back in the water, so to speak, I think I can manage the benefits of blogging without the burdens.
And I hope to make it back around to blogging friends, and discover some new blogs that have blossomed during my absence!
Let me know if you have found your way back here again.  I am going to make a real effort to keep myself from getting caught up in the anxiety that hinges on page views and comments, but I look forward to reconnecting with people who take the time to visit, and folks whose interests intersect with mine.
So I guess I'll see you around!