Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Art Is.... continued

While at the Art Is...retreat last autumn, my friend Cate and I also took a mini-class during the evening on embellishing a beautiful piece of handmade felt. Well, it really wasn't a "class" since we didn't learn anything new--it was more like a "let's play" gathering. We each received a large ziploc bag that contained a thick, yummy piece of handmade felt, along with assorted art papers, fabric scraps, beads, wire, etc. We brought our own images, rubber stamps, thread, etc. and proceeded to play. My piece was inspired by the wispy image that Cate cut out of a newspaper.

I call it, "We are all thin Within"


Back in October, my friend Cate and I spent a fun weekend at the ARt Is... Retreat in Cromwell, CT. I took a painting class with the very talented Aussie artist, Pam Grose. We played around with some acrylic paint, inks & water droplets on canvas board which was fun. Here is my finished faerie painting---I didn't intend to make her a faerie but I wanted to try painting wings. Then I decided I wanted some texture to her dress, so I placed some crumpled tissue paper over the painted area with matte medium, then applied some silver Rub'N Buff over it. The added texture is great so will definitely play around with that some more.

Looking Back -- Going Forward

I've decided that instead of trying to explain away my deplorable lack of communicating for the past 6 months--which would bore both of us-- I'm just going to post some pics of the stuff I've created during that time.

As you may remember, I started taking art classes a year ago and have been learning to paint with soft pastels. As with anything that is challenging, I have days that I'm in love with the medium--everything makes sense and just works----and then there are days that I just want to flush my pastels down the toilet, run screaming from the room and hide in a corner somewhere and suck my thumb. It's definitely a hair-ripping challenge but I'm determined to persevere....

This portrait of our class model--I think her name was Marie--took me about 9 hours of class time. It is done with soft pastel on Wallis sanded paper. Portraits are my favorite thing to paint.

We also did a still life in the class but it was far from inspiring and I just couldn't get into it, so I came home, grabbed some stuff from my kitchen and set up my own in my studio. I like painting small still-life set-ups so I can really study the light & form of the objects without getting too overwhelmed.

I really struggle with backgrounds--but the ceramic vase was fun to do here.

The final assignment for the semester was to do a painting from a photo--or several photos and include at least two figures in the composition. I decided to use several photos taken during our vacation in Scotland last summer as my inspiration. There was no castle near the beach where we stayed, but since our family loves to peruse old castles, I took the artists perogative and put one in along with my family. I had it matted & framed and gave it to my hubby for Christmas. It now hangs in his office. He loves it. (ignore the bright white spots---just light reflection on the glass) Soft pastels on Wallis sanded paper. I tried something new here--started with an under-painting using watered-down pastel in bright tones and I love the vibrancy it gave it!

Now on to other stuff...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Yeah, I know. Once again, I've gotten embarrassingly behind in my posting. My only excuse (if you can call it that) is that life is happening with more gusto than usual at the moment and, it seems, time is not on my side. I do, however, solemnly swear to do my best for the next few weeks.

If you read my previous post "Dress Stress"--and learned of my quest to create the perfect prom dress for my DD--I thought you might like to see the final result. My DD was absolutely thrilled with it--it fit her like a glove (which DIDNT happen by accident, believe me!) and I think my greatest accomplishment was either finally mastering the art of inserting an invisible zipper (that skill has eluded me for years!)--or figuring out how to use the HotFix tool I bought to put on the crystals. Both went swimmingly and that made me a VERY happy camper.

The original pattern for this dress was Simplicity #4577 (View A) which was a fairly simple halter-dress. I did some fairly extensive alterations to the bodice to create the banded opening in the front and I completely redesigned the back to include the woven straps and the lacing since the original pattern was a simple halter that closed at the back of the neck. Also, instead of using a lining fabric under the skirt, I used the black satin which hung about 2" below the green print for a peek-a-boo effect. The best part is that I can remove the green over-skirt and she will have a completely different dress! We loved the funky, lime-green animal print! Oh, and I even made her a little quilted evening bag from the leftover fabric remnants. It's just big enough to hold her pocket camera and lipstick. Then I went nuts with the HotFix tool putting the leftover crystals all over it.

One can never have too much bling.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oh! Domino!

So I was given a challenge to do an “altered domino” which I have never done before and since I love a challenge, I decided to go for it. What fun! I am in love with those Adirondack alcohol inks---I just love how the colors mix and roll and you end up with fantastic patterns and color combinations. I started out altering one large domino…. and then decided to do a couple dice (the eyes)…which led to doing a couple small dominos (the shoes). Here is my final creation:

I call her ‘No Dice: Guardian Angel for the Bad Things Come in 3’s” Syndrome. Get it? domi-No Dice?

Well… I thought it was clever.

I actually learned a few things from this project:

A. dominos are very easy to drill into. Who knew. You can also carve into them with a Dremel tool--which I did but it's hard to see in the pic.

B. I like playing with wire. Probably cuz it’s so pliable. That’s a hard quality to find in anything these days.

C. I need a new tube of E6000 adhesive. It’s really rubbery in the tube. Does that mean it’s too old?

I’ve got a bunch of dominos left so I’m thinking there’s a bunch of little characters just waiting to make their debut. Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dress Stress

Ever notice that no matter how much you plan, organize, itemize, or prioritize…sometimes it just all goes to hell in a hand-basket in the blink of an eye?

Case in point, it's prom season (once again) and, once again, I am designing and sewing the “perfect dress” for my very sweet-but-opinionated, fashion-conscious DD’s senior prom. My goal was to have said dress done in a day or two so I could get on with other pressing matters. “Shouldn’t take more than a day or so” I thought, since this dress is a fairly simple design…won’t require a lot of fit adjustments…minimal embellishment, etc.…. Piece ‘o cake, right?


So I get it all cut out, have the bodice all basted together, all the straps sewn up and am starting to sew up the front skirt panels (mind you, it is floor-length) when, to my horror, I spot (again, pardon the pun) a very noticeable, glaring WHITE BLOTCH on the fabric where apparently the dye machine must have had a seizure or something. And where does this blindingly-white splotch land? RIGHT SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SKIRT FRONT! ….. 3 letters…..OMG! [followed by a string of VERY colorful expletives which I won’t repeat here….just use your imagination.]

Now I bought this fabric about a month & a half ago which is good reason to panic. That…..and the fact that the prom is only two weeks away and my DD will be home any minute expecting her first “fitting” in the “dream dress”. Hell hath no fury like a teenage girl without a prom dress. EEGAD! Sooo....I'm running around my studio in a complete panic experiencing the “flight or fight” response first-hand. I’m pulling out ink, dye, paint, heck....even a box of Crayola’s to find the right shade thinking maybe...just maybe… I could camouflage it....


After the cruel reality sunk in that there is NO WAY I could do that and not have it look like a big-white-splotch-in-camoflage, I grabbed my car keys and went speeding off back to the fabric store. “There’s no way….there’s just no way” my head kept chanting, “it’s been too long…they’ll be sold out…..there’s no way….” So I park the car, sprint across the parking lot, fling open the door and race through the store looking like a mad woman who just escaped from a secure mental facility. Of course, it didn’t help that I ran out of the house so fast, I forgot I was wearing my slippers. Yup. Fuzzy ones. I was just about to collapse into a sobbing heap on the floor when suddenly…I looked up….could it be?....omigosh…could it be?

YES! I found it! And lo and behold, there was about 2 yards left on the bolt and I only needed one and a half. THANK YOU LORD! Now, I do NOT have a history of being this lucky but I do believe that my panicked prayers were certainly answered. I came home, cut out two new skirt panels and all is well in the world of prom-dom.

For now.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Real Needle Case

Although I love looking at vintage-inspired art created by others, I don’t generally tend to lean in that direction. My style is usually a bit more whimsical—probably because I am such a color junkie.
Recently, I decided to take a stab (pardon the pun) at making something with a vintage theme and I have to admit it was fun going thru my stash to find feminine bits of lace, velvet, silk ribbon, etc.

Inspired by the article “Sealed with a Stitch” in the Dec/Jan ‘09 issue of Cloth, Paper, Scissors, I created this vintage-themed needlecase. I printed some copyright-free images onto inkjet cotton and played around with some shrink plastic and rubber stamps to create the embellishments. This was fun to do and would make a nice gift so I’ll have to remember that when the holidays roll around.

But next time, I think I will reach for a bright orange polka-dot fabric, some purple rick-rack and maybe a few hot pink buttons……glittery ones. Oooooo.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Oh well.....time flies and so did I! Obviously, I've taken a bit of a hiatus from the blogosphere but it was definitely time well spent. In the past several weeks, I've spent days soaking up the sun on a Florida beach, perusing the National Gallery in Washington, DC and pounding the cobblestones in Boston's Market Square. Oh, I love being a grown-up.

Now don't think just because I've been working on my frequent flyer miles that I have been neglecting my creativity. Perish the thought. I have, in fact, been taking a "Painting from Life" class at the art Institute which is actually my first painting class ever. I chose pastel as my beginning medium and so far, I must admit that it is truly a love-hate relationship. I love the saturated color, the immediacy (no waiting for paint to dry) and the possibilities. I just HATE that I don't have command of it yet. I pretty much have NO idea what I'm doing. I am, however, determined that I will persevere and win my battle with this medium--mostly because I have spent so much flippin' money on art supplies and I'm just too cheap to give up now.

This is my very first portrait ever-- of "Liza", who modeled for our class. She probably wouldn't recognize herself...except maybe for the green sweater and her skateboard (which, by the way, ended up being a snowboard since I forgot to add the wheels)--oh, and her dreadlocks. She had great dreadlocks. I actually think I did those pretty well. I just pretended they were felted wool.

What's next? Self-portrait. Oh boy....THIS outta be good.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

From Table to Tableau

You know how sometimes you just get the urge to try something new you've only read about? That was me today.

I spent this morning running errands after being stuck in the house all day yesterday from yet another snowstorm that dropped 10" of the unwelcomed stuff on my doorstep. WOULD SOMEBODY PULEEEZ SHUT IT OFF???
But I digress.....

Anyway, as I was running thru the supermarket, I decided to grab a quick-but-healthy "take-out" lunch from the "meals to go" section. A bit of salad, alittle veggie sushi...
Later, as I sat down to eat (in front of the tv so I could watch my favorite HGTV show), I suddenly had a flash from somewhere in my memory banks. I thought I remembered reading somewhere (probably on the web) that you can re-use those plastic take-out containers to make shrink art. They are, in effect, very similar to the shrink plastic you can buy to make jewelry, embellishments, etc. Hmmm....
Sooo.....since my ever-so-healthy lowfat lunch was staring at me thru two of those containers (btw, I didn't eat it ALL--good grief), I decided that after I wiped the traces of soy sauce off my chin and Clive Pearce had declared the house "Designed to Sell", I would head up to the studio to try it out for myself!

Now I did remember that for this to work, the little "recycle" symbol stamped on the bottom of the container had to have the number "6" inside the little triangle of arrows. Any other number won't work (so I read). I checked my containers---yes, it did! Woo Hoo!
So I pulled out my scissors and cut up the cover of my sushi container. I sanded it in two directions with a fine sanding block (one of those spongy thingys) to help the ink grab and stamped it using pigment ink.
Yea....that didn't work so hot. The ink started to travel and pool, not sure why. I just let it dry then grabbed a Sharpie marker (these work GREAT!) and filled in the areas--which was easy since it was a simple diamond pattern stamp.

Then I just doodled and messed around with more Sharpie markers and some colored pencils. This was an experiment so I didn't have too may expectations. I used Staz-On ink to stamp the face but even that tended to spreadout. Maybe I didn't sand it enough. But it still looked kinda cool. After I was done "doodling", I cut out my design and zapped it with my heat gun.
It sure didn't take long to start curling up and at one point I thought, "yeah....right....this ISN"T going to work" since it was curling up fairly tight and was a bit of a mess. But I decided, "when in doubt, just keep heating" and you know, it DID finally start to flatten out! I kinda thought it would melt before that happened but it didn't. I did flip it over and heated the other side to get it really flat and when I was done, I even put a book on it to make sure. The neat thing is that if you flip it over to the non sanded/colored side, it has a really nice gloss to it. Wow!
I'm pretty excited that it worked! There is a minor wrinkle in the face but it shrunk to a bit more than 50% of the original size so it's not very noticeable. Wouldn't you know that I completely forgot to punch anchor holes in it before I heated it so guess I'll have to get out the Dremel tool and drill.

But the REAL reason I'm so excited? Yet another reason to order take-out!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Great Lengths

Yesterday, it became painfully clear to me to what lengths I will go to to procrastinate doing something. I'm not a hopeless procrastinator--I don't have mountains of unfinished projects waiting for completion and I don't wait til 5 minutes before my dentist appointment to find my car keys. There are just times I manage to find very creative ways to avoid doing something.

I'm supposed to start work on a new project -- designing and creating a book cover--but I'm experiencing one of those wretched conditions known as "creative block". Auugghh! Those stealthy little beasts tend to hit me when I least expect it and when the moment is least convenient! And wouldn't you know, RIGHT when I have a deadline to meet.


So yesterday, I decided that maybe I just needed to get into the studio and pull out some supplies to get the ol' juices flowing.... It was a nice, sunny day and the light was pouring into my studio making it so nice & warm despite the 38 degree day outside. The first thing I did was head to my work table but decided that before I could start anything, I simply MUST tidy up since I still had remnants of Christmas projects piled up. Mind you that usually I just brush stuff aside and create a hole to work in---but not today. Today it just HAD to be clear before I could work.

I started clearing & putting stuff away and at one end of the table were a pile of drapes that I'd bought over a year ago for our living room. There were 5 pair (that's 10 separate curtains--yeah.....10! what WAS I thinking?) that needed altering, hemming & stitching. There is nothing more tortuous to me than the thought of sitting at the machine and straight-stitching seams & hems on anything, much less ten 95" curtain panels. Do the math....that's 950" of straight stitching!


Now you know why they have been sitting on the end of my work table for the past 14 months. And during that time, I've moved them from table to chair and back again at least 30 times (and even sat on them for a couple months while I worked on other stuff), never getting any closer to finishing them and getting them out of my studio and into the room they were intended for.

Well, I'm happy (and relieved) to report that as of last night they are not only stitched & hemmed, but they are now hanging on my living room windows! What fueled this amazing feat, you ask?

that wretched little imp called "creative block". *big sigh..........

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pulp Fashion

When I was a kid, there was nothing more thrilling than when my mom would let me pick out a new book of paper dolls at the local Woolworth. Oh! the hours I would spend with my tongue firmly planted on my upper lip as I painstakingly cut out the outfits-- being ever-so-careful not to cut off those crucial tabs which held the cashmere sweater & pencil skirt set (complete with jewelry and accessories) on Peggy Lennon or the psychedelic floral mini-dress & white Go-Go boots on Twiggy.

Even though I’m a grown up now (some might even say “mature”----ugh…makes me sound like a wheel of cheese) I still like to get out my scissors and snip away. Gone are the books though (even if you could find them anymore---heck, you can’t even find a Woolworth anymore!). Now I just gather up some heavy watercolor paper, inks, markers, rubber stamps & a few brads and see what my imagination can cook up. I’ve even started to carve my own rubber stamps to create my own paper doll “components”.

For the past year, I’ve been doing private “paper doll” trades with my online friend, “Peggy”. She is very creative and I love getting mail with her surprises inside. We came up with some monthly “themes” and created a paper doll with that in mind. The paper doll up in the far right side of my header (see left) was one I created for September’s “Indian Summer” theme. I don't remember what the theme was, but "Pippi" (right) was another whimsical one I made for Peggy.

Now, we’re beginning to move on to other themes and challenges like altered Formica tiles, altered dominos, using Shrink Plastic, etc. I've never tried any of that so I'm really looking forward to "playing". Peggy is so generous, she even sent me a package that contained tiles, dominos, shrink plastic & other stuff for me to try---it was like Christmas! She's such a gem. It’s so much fun to challenge ourselves and try new techniques and, best of all, trade our creations. And getting fun stuff in the mail is pretty neat too!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Mashed Potato files

You hear a lot about journals these days. You can’t open a mixed media magazine without seeing them: wildly unique books with artist-designed covers where creative people record all their experiences, observations and ideas. Seems everyone is keeping one these days—well… everyone except me. I do keep a “sketchbook” which I don’t consider to be the same thing since I don’t use it to record my thoughts or other insightful musings of self-discovery. Nope. I just sketch in mine and usually with whatever writing implement I have on hand: pen, pencil, crayon, dry-erase marker, eyebrow pencil…whatever.

I’ve also been known to write down phone numbers in my sketchbook when I can’t find a piece of scrap paper. And write notes to my family like the ever profound “gone to the store—be right back”. Between the pages of my sketchbook you’ll also find grocery lists, appointment reminders, flight confirmation numbers & directions to the airport. I think there’s also a page with the brand & style number of my favorite bra---you just never know when you’ll need that information.

My sketchbook doesn’t have a fancy cover made from handmade paper or embellished fabric either--- it’s just a generic black cardboard cover that has multiple ring stains from all the glasses of iced tea that I’ve set on it (makes a great coaster). It doesn’t lie flat anymore from all the additional pages I’ve paper clipped to the inside: various napkins & post-it notes holding sketches & ideas for new projects that I’ve accumulated from time spent in assorted waiting rooms. And at present, about a third of the pages are stuck together from the time I was eating dinner in front of the tv and accidently tipped my plate over on it. Now it just smells like a hot turkey sandwich which is oddly comforting. Btw, mashed potato makes a really good paper glue if you’re ever stuck. (pardon the pun)

In retrospect, I guess even though the pages of my sketchbook don’t contain poetry or imaginative writings or very detailed water-colored drawings, they show my rough sketches and small snippets of my life portrayed in a way that is very me. Seems I always have a crumpled piece of paper sticking out of my pocket and a gravy stain on my shirt. I tend to sacrifice organization for spontaneity and my book certainly reflects that. Years from now, when I take out all my old sketchbooks and start pulling apart those stuck pages, I’m sure I will be reminded of my everyday life and smile.

Especially when I detect the faint scent of a hot turkey sandwich.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Getting "Purse-onal"

For about the past 8 years or so, my best friend Cate and I have been exchanging handmade gifts we create especially for each other. It's alot of fun and one of the highlights to our holiday since we're both pretty creative and neither of us knows what the other will conjure up. One year, she gave me this giant pair of Aboriginal-esque painted snake earrings. Good grief. I nearly wet my pants when I opened the box!! (she knows I HATE snakes). Yea, she got a great laugh with that one. (I didn't sleep for a week.) Another year, she gave me a beautiful lapel pin made from vintage silk ribbon roses & beads which is still one of my favorite pieces of jewelry--so you see, it's always a fun surprise.

Of course, every year I try to think of something special to make for her and usually I will design something that gives me an excuse to try out a new technique. For instance, last year I decided to make her some type of small purse so I started pulling out different fabrics to layer together and then pulled out my burning tool and went to town. Here's her finished "evening bag".

I started with a piece of lime green felt (the cheap stuff--nothing fancy), layered a piece of Lumiere-painted fusible on top (Steam-A-Seam II, I think), then a layer of magenta organza followed by another layer of turquoise organza. Originally, I had intended to put a piece of purple cotton as the bottom layer (in case I accidently burned through the felt), but my creative juices were flowing and well....when that happens, I tend to get so excited I forget stuff.

Anyhoo, after layering all the fabrics I took it to the machine and sewed a meandering grid pattern using a contrasting metallic thread. In retrospect, I think it would have been neat to sew the grid using a double-needle which have added a bit more texture and surface interest. After sewing, I fired up the heat tool and gently, EVER-so gently started randomly burning through the various layers inside the squares that were created by the grid pattern. Since I had forgotten to add the cotton layer, I was VERY careful not to burn through the felt. Then I just sewed it up envelope style, added a hand-braided handle I made from about 5 different yarns, and some beads. Oh, and btw, I added a neat piece of varigated red/purple silk for the lining. It is really eye-catching and I was really happy with how it came out. Cate absolutely loved it so....

This year I decided to create another special bag for her--only this time I wanted to do something using my new needlefelting machine. My inspiration for this bag was a gorgeous remnant of a deep amber-colored silk dupioni that I received from one of my trade partners on FAT. Honestly, I don't remember who sent it to me (sorry!) but I'd been hoarding it for something special. Using that as a stepping off point, I started ripping through my fabric & fiber stash and pulled out different colored rovings, curly mohair locks, organzas, twisted silks, velvets, yarns, cords & threads. Again, I started with a piece of brown felt (only this time it was a wool felt) and just started needlefelting bits & pieces of all the different fabrics/fibers to the wool. After the first couple, I could see a bit of a pattern emerging so decided to just go with it. I just kept adding bits & pieces to cover up the felt. When it was covered, I freemotion-stitched in a leaf pattern using a green metallic thread. I ended up with an irregular, scalloped-type edge and decided to go with it---so I added a lining and stitched it following that pattern and ended up with the irregular edge that you see, which I love. This is also an envelope-style bag (so easy!). I had to get creative with the lining since I didn't have enough of the silk left so I combined a printed silk and organza. With the small scraps of the silk dupioni left, I whipped up a couple Yo-Yos and added some beads to embellish. The handle is made from a leftover piece of thick upholstery cording I encased in a silk tube and ruched it. Cate was really thrilled with this bag--and I absolutely love it too. In fact, I just snagged some more silk dupioni in some fantastic colors from a local fabric store that is going out of business. It was $14/yd and I got it for $3. WOW! Gawd, I love a bargain.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Woo Hoo!

Ha! I did it! For a long time now, I've been threatening to start my own blog and with the start of a new year, I finally decided to take the plunge. I have many creative friends who have wonderful blogs and I love the idea of peeking over their shoulders at their creative spaces, thoughts, ideas and art work. It's so inspiring! And I invite you to do the same here.
Welcome & Happy New Year!