Sunday, January 31, 2010


Don't you wish you could hibernate? Lately, napping is my idea of fun; must be the single-digit temperatures and list of chores and errands that are decidedly NOT fun. Just give me a flannel comforter and good book... Ahh! That's what I call fun!

Perhaps now would be a good time to elaborate on my theory about the differences between cats and dogs. They are very similar, both being furry, lovable, popular four-footed pets. But I am discovering the differences are vast.

The first major difference you may notice upon meeting a dog or cat is the way they view another's personal space. Cats have definite physical boundaries that they will cross when they know you well and feel comfortable with you. A cat may not wish to have her physical space invaded the first time you meet her, and may appear standoffish, unfriendly or shy. Dogs, on the other hand, have no qualms about jumping all over you and enthusiastically licking your face even on the first meeting. They gladly sniff your shoes, hands, and private parts whether you want them to or not. Dogs don't seem to get the idea of personal space.

The second thing you may notice about how these animals differ is their eating habits. Cats can be very particular about what they will ingest, from how it smells to the texture, to whether it's hot, cold, or room temperature. Dogs will eat anything, regardless of whether or not the item is even considered food. My vet told me he saw an x-ray of a dog who had eaten an entire string of Christmas lights. I have seen our dog eat some pretty disgusting things and she will happily chew on dirty gray socks that have been sitting in the yard for weeks, other animals' excrement, even days-old mice that have been lying on the driveway in the rain! (I actually had to pry open her jaws, reach in, and grab said decaying animal by the tail to prevent her from actually swallowing it!). Yuck!

The final major difference I'll highlight here is their sociability. Most wild cats, with the exception of lions, are solitary creatures, and I find housecats to be the same. They take care of themselves and prefer their own company. Dogs, on the other hand, love company - especially yours or another dog's. They let you know that they enjoy being with you by following you around from room to room and greeting you enthusiastically when you return from being out. Dogs are highly sociable.

Other differences? In general, dogs: loud; cats: quiet. dogs: large; cats: small. dogs: dirty; cats: clean. Which one do I identify with more? Definitely cats. But do I love them both? I guess I do!

It's the last day of January and I have not finished my first monthly collage. I think if I can finish 3 or 4 by the end of the year, I will have enough to present to a publisher. I can have sketches for the other eight or nine and the poems to go with them. I am finding the writing is easier, probably because you can do it anywhere and don't need any special supplies. Also writing is not as messy as collaging!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Fun Workshop!

Yesterday I spent a good part of the day at Jane Davila's sunny studio for a workshop on Image Transfer. Above are some of the photos I transferred to fabric using various methods, including transparencies, transfer artist paper (TAP), and lutradur. Many of these methods require purchasing special (and often expensive) products like printable transparencies or specially treated fabric. But I did learn one cool trick: images printed on a regular toner-based copy machine can be transferred onto fabric with Citrasolv, a citrus-based solvent. All you do is lay the photocopy face down on the fabric, paint the back of the paper with a light coat of Citrasolv, burnish with the back of a spoon or burnishing tool, and pull off the paper! (This indirect transfer method will reverse your image, so words would have to be printed accordingly - I'll have to play with my Word documents to see if I can manage that!). According to Jane, this method produces an image that is very long lasting and durable and can be used on any fabric. The only special product you need is the Citrasolv, and a little goes a long way. According to their website, Citrasolv is available at natural markets such as Mrs. Green's right here in town (I've read nail-polish remover and Goo-Gone will do the same thing, but I hear Citrasolv is less toxic). I found a nice blog tutorial on how to do this process here.

I also got started on my January collage; here is a sneak peak of the background. Unfortunately I start working four days a week beginning tomorrow, which means one fewer day per week I have to dedicate to art and fun, but I hope I can squeeze in a little time in the afternoons while the girls are doing homework, or after dinner. There is only one week left in January!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

An added goal?

I am considering taking on a new personal challenge. I've always said I wanted to write, or write and illustrate, a children's picture book. I've written and sent out a couple (with some nibbles but no bites) and have plenty of ideas for others, but have been looking for just the right project for me and my current (busy) life.
My idea is a book of poems and collages, one for each month of the year. The title would be something along the lines of "A Year of Color" or "A Colorful Year." I have always thought of the calendar year in terms of colors; each month seems to have particular hues associated with it (is that just me, or does everyone picture months and seasons this way?). If I could write one poem and do one corresponding collage per month this year, by the end of the year, I might have my book. Poetry is not typically a big seller, but I think this might be worth the risk. Dare I take on this ambitious challenge?
Here is my first attempt at a poem for January:

January's wintry light
shines on every shade of white,
from dazzling pure to pearly gray,
the twilight of a snowy day,
the silver sheen of icy lake,
the sparkle of a crisp snowflake.
A clean, fresh start, the chance to seize
a year of possibilities.
Through new-fallen snow, the path is clear:
Start anew - January's here.

Now all I have to do is make a lacy white collage to go with it - in the next ten days!!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Having some fun now!

As you can see, I persevered on the fabric mosaic and I'm quite pleasantly surprised! I like how the small scraps of fabrics are in a variety of shades of green and blue, which seem to lend a sense of vibration. Kind of a pointilism, impressionistic kind of thing going on maybe. The little pieces are fused down, but must be stitched for security, so I tried to make the stitching imitate the air or grass, which maybe gives the piece more motion, detail and interest. I have yet to do stitching on the tree trunk and leaves. I like the way they come forward a little now, because of all the quilting behind them, so I'm not sure how I'll proceed, maybe by hand instead of machine. I kind of like this style/technique; too bad it's so time consuming and tedious to cut and arrange all those little scraps!

Another project I did purely for fun was crafting this little purple felt purse. I love rick-rack and had fun doing the embellishing and decoration first and then quickly stitching up the sides. I also like the daisy button closure. It was fun going through my stash of ribbons, buttons and rick-rack. Maybe I'll give it to one of my neices for a birthday present...
Finally, a third fun thing I did recently was visiting the blog of Grace Lin. She is a children's author and illustrator who began her career with picture books but has written three middle-grade novels in the past few years. I just finished reading The Year of the Dog, her first, which was quite enjoyable and fun, but her most recent, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon just became a Newbery Honor book this morning! I'll have to scout that one out at the library. More fun!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Are we having fun yet?"

This is Sophie, Cassie's best friend from next door. Cute, huh?

Yesterday, after making two trips to the vet with the cats (we only have one carrier), I decided to treat myself to an outing at the fabric store. I couldn't resist the softness and colors of the lovely fleece below. Do I usually use fleece for for fiberart? Nnoo, but, it was just so soft and yummy looking! I've been planning on playing with some fleece and coming up with some characters similar to the "ugly dolls" that are sold in toy and specialty stores now. But these will not be ugly dolls, they will be squishy dolls or cutie dolls or something like that. Buying the fabric was fun, and I think playing with it and making stuffies will be fun too!

One of my character flaws (I'm discovering) is that I have SOOO many project ideas I want to try, and I go to the fabric store so infrequently, that when I go, I have to buy with several projects in mind. Then I come home not knowing which one to take on first or where to begin! Sew many projects, so little time!! That said, I also picked up the swatches below, with the idea of making a duvet cover for our bed. We recently painted the walls and installed new lighting and I will be ordering new carpeting this week. I think a new duvet cover would be in order, but I can never find any that I like. I actually ordered 2 yards of something not pictured here (all home decor fabrics were 50% off,!!! Even special order!!!) so when that comes in, I will have another large piece to work on (I generally avoid large pieces when I can, but I will try to keep this simple).

Speaking of small projects, I started this little (~5"x5") piece last week when I was trying to play more and have fun. It was fun for a little while, but then all those little pieces started to get tedious to deal with. I do like the effect of the mosaic using fabric, and I do plan on completing this, but it is already becoming not-so-much-fun. As I said before, "sew many ideas, so little time!!!!" Sometimes I even have trouble finishing the little projects!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

First full week...

...of the new year! Since I've chosen to PLAY and have more FUN as a goal this year, I've been more aware of how I play and define fun. Of course, my first impulse is doing anything creative with my hands, so one of my first fun activites was making the pendants below. In the latest issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, they are holding another swap, similar to the charm swap I had so much fun with this spring. This one is for a single pendant, so I again pulled out scraps from my first few attempts at "paper-cloth". I stamped the seahorse and seashell on the scraps, did a little stitching and embellishing, and edged the pieces with copper tape. I also used my newest gadget, an eyelet setter and hole punch, to accommodate the jump ring. I like them all, but they are not due until early April, leaving me time to decide if I should continue playing, or choose one of these and send it off. The center one is my favorite, but it is 2 1/2 inches tall, a half-inch longer than they request for a pendant.
Another fun activity was photographing these flowers, given to myself and my daughters by my husband. I guess I'm still stuck in macro-mode! Don't you love the center of a rose and how it uncurls so beautifully as it blooms? Lovely colors too. And Valentine's Day is still more than a month away... what's gotten into him?

Another way I've been playing this week is with the dog. Although the last thing I want to do at dawn on a frigid winter morning is throw on clothes and stand around outside, as you can see, doing so has its rewards. There are many beautiful sights to see as the sun rises up over that frozen lake and sends sparkles on the snow between the long shadows of the trees. The air is usually very still and quiet, except for a few birds beginning to wake up, and the occasional tinkle of a neighbor's windchime, or the hammer of a woodpecker. Cassie roams around, sniffing in the snow, following deer or squirrel tracks, and digging up sticks to chew. It is a very peaceful and beautiful time of day and it has become fun for me to be out there with her once or twice a day in all kinds of weather. Isn't she a beautiful dog?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New year, new month, new day...

A clean slate, a fresh start. Time for looking back and planning ahead. Last year, my main goal was about balancing all aspects of my life, and that was surely a challenge this year, considering my husband's travel schedule, the girls attending camp this summer, and our new puppy! Since I can't separate out my art from all other facets of my life, I have started including all of it in my blog posts and added the subtitle "The collage of my life: a work in progress." I intend to keep balance in mind permanently as I continue on this year.
My other vague goals were "to sketch more and play more (both with my family and with art materials) ... to blog more consistently and to put comments on other artists' blogs, to begin building an art network for myself and to continue to create and submit and be open to any possibilities..." I did blog more consistently, comment on others' blogs more often and attend local meetings in order to be part of a community of other artists. I think that goal worked, considering the group show at the library in March and my participation in Fiberart for a Cause and Art Every Day Month, as well as the charm swap through Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.
So on those goals, I guess I did fairly well.
I did play a bit more, although I noticed that I often call it "experimenting," as you can see by a few blog entries with that name (I think "experimenting" is a left brain activity; play is more right brain, no?). I played (or experimented) with the paper cloth and what I could make out of it, like swap-art, bookmarks and coasters. But I think I need to make play a more prominent part of the process; I need to have more fun and not be so concerned with the outcome. I tend to be extremely product-driven and goal-oriented, so this year I am going to take a step back and try to focus on enjoying the creative process and not be in such a hurry to see the completed creation.

To that end, I have just started working through a book called Living Out Loud by Keri Smith. I've been looking for a creative book, but not necessarily one that tells how creative others are, or teaches a certain creative technique. This book has prompts and activities that are open-ended and designed to get you to play, without being concerned with the product. I think it is exactly what I've been looking for and I hope it helps to loosen me up a bit, get my creative juices flowing, and helps me to find my own style. I may sign up for some local art workshops too, just for the fun of it, and to widen my horizons. I am contemplating taking part in some other projects as well, but my formal goal for the year will be to PLAY!