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!