Thursday, May 31, 2012

Artfully Drifting...

Look at all the lovely charms I received in the mail this week!  These are from the "feather your nest" swap and each one is a treasure!  It's obvious how much time and care went into the making of them. (Click on the picture to see a close-up view).  It's a nice coincidence that so many people used similar shades of blue, because a bracelet will look so much more cohesive.  I may combine them with the charms I received in the Spring swap; they'd probably look great together.

Meanwhile I've been kind of drifting a little aimlessly lately, when it comes to art.  I've been playing around with various materials and ideas and trying to complete something - anything!  I pulled out an aqua bracelet that I put together late last summer and decided to vamp it up a bit with some crystals and glass beads I picked up recently.  I also added some copper charms - the seahorse on the right and the sun which is slighltly right of the center.  It looks fuller and richer, but not so crazy overdone that you can't see individual charms.  I'll be adding it to my Etsy shop soon.

It occurred to me recently that one of the reasons I like playing with these charms so much and combining them into a piece of jewelry, is that it's so similar to a collage.  There are lots of elements made with a variety of materials and each one is a clue about a theme or about something the artist might be trying to say.  In this case, the colors, shapes, and materials all relate to the sea.  In addition to the seahorse, there are seashells, a glass fish, pearls, and round glass beads resembling bubbles.  It would make a great beach vacation souvinir!
 The next swap charms I have to work on are for a blue & green color swap with copper findings.  I came up with these three samples, below.  The first is a polymer clay flower strung with an acrylic leaf and glass bugle bead for a stem.  I may add a little copper bee charm to that, if I can find them (or maybe I'll make them out of shrink film?).  The one in the center is actually a piece of 5/8 inch tubing cut to just under an inch long.  I put some green yarn and blue metallic fabric inside, along with a tiny cutout of a seahorse.  Can you see it?  I'm not sure if I'll send those for the swap - they're slightly longer than 1 1/2" with the end caps and beads, which is the size limit.  Maybe I'll add them to some of my own creations, and make some with shorter tubes to meet the size requirement for the swap.   Finally, I made some quick dangles with some other blue and green beads I picked up.
When these are done, I may need to take some time to reorganize my creative space downstairs.  Right now, it works for me pretty well - I can find what I need and have room for just about everything - but the open shelves I have make everything look so messy!  I'm thinking of moving my fabric stash into white cardboard storage boxes and putting them in the open cubbies and moving the jewelry and other craft items to where I currently have my fabric (if I get braver in the future, maybe I'll post before and after pix!).  I'm hoping it will make the room look neater without making it any more difficult to find things and put them back in the right spot.  If I can reorganize my space and getting it looking more inviting, maybe I'll be able to reevaluate my goals for the year and figure out what I want to start on next.  It's hard to believe the year is already almost half over!


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cassie's 3rd Birthday

 Yesterday was Cassie's 3rd Birthday!  For a fun change of pace, I walked her to one of her favorite places early Friday morning:  Lake Casse beach.  The beach juts out into the water and is fenced off on one side, so it's pretty safe letting her off the leash to run and roam.  This time of year there are not a lot of people around and she's able to frolic, splash, and play.  (I always have some treats in my pocket to entice her to come if I need to get her back on the leash.) The morning was sunny and a bit crisp, just beautiful!  I didn't have my camera with me, but I had my phone and was able to snap these shots.

We found this beautiful spot off to one side where these irises are in bloom.  It was a perfect Spring morning.  Happy Birthday, Cassie!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More May Showers

Yesterday was another very wet day.  I only work at the library until noon on Mondays and I usually end up spending the early afternoon running errands.  But yesterday I left Cassie outside and it started to pour, torrents of rain, buckets of rain, miles and piles of rain!  I did my three most necessary errands as quickly as possible and rushed home to let her in and towel her off.  She seemed very glad to see me!

After all that wet, I was in the mood for a hot lunch.  I dug out some zucchini I've had in the fridge and fixed a little hot, low-cal, vegetarian Italian meal.  The girls are not wild about zucchini or stewed tomatoes, so I get to enjoy the leftovers the rest of the week!

While I was using up produce, I spied these bananas way past their prime in the fruit bowl.  Maybe some low-fat muffins would be good on a wet day!  I found a nice healthy recipe here and went to work.  The recipe calls for egg whites as well as a whole egg, and I always feel like it's a waste throwing away half the egg.  I had just picked up a small carton of homogenized egg whites on my errands, so I used those.  Perfect timing!  The recipe also calls for applesauce, old fashioned oats, walnuts, cinnamon, whole wheat and unbleached flour. 

I decided to add mini chocolate chips too, for a little extra yumminess.  Here's how they turned out:
They were delcious!  I ended up eating three (!) and then taking it easy the rest of the afternoon.  Rainy days are good for reading and napping!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Recycling Fun

Once again, I'm trying to plan my summer classes at the libray.  For the last three years or so, I've done a jewelry-making class for teens and tweens.  I've done typical crafts like macrame`, making polymer clay beads, and shrink film charms, but this year I wanted to try something different.  I've been seeing a lot of supplies in the craft stores for making charms and pendents out of bottlecaps.  I had even bought this book put out by Klutz a few years ago for my daughter for her birthday.  It came with clean, new bottlecaps, cut-out circles you can glue inside, and cute little figurines like horses and penguins, shown here.  It came with a small bottle of a glaze much like Mod Podge's Dimensional Magic.
I bought some magnets to glue on the back of the bottlecaps so they can be used on the refrigerator or in a school locker.  You could even put a magnet on a cord and make a necklace with a bottlecap pendent that can be changed out. 

But this all seemed too complicated and expensive to do at the library.  How could I simplify it?

Well, while I was out shopping with my youngest daughter on Mother's Day, I came across this cool tool on the wall at JoAnn's jewelry department.  It punches holes in metal!  If it works, I could punch a little hole at the top of the bottlecap and simply put a jumpring through it to make a charm or necklace!

I tested it out this week and it works great!  It goes through the metal like butter and leaves a small, neat hole!  I dug up a few old beer bottlecaps I've been saving and came up with these:
I used old National Geographic magazine photos for the backgrounds and printed up some inspirational words.  I took little silver stars out of the stash of sequins at the library.  I added the glaze and let them dry overnight.  Aren't they cute?  I'm not sure if we'll use recycled beer bottlecaps for the kids at the library (kind of condones the use of alcohol, doesn't it?), but it's a pretty inexpensive craft all around!

At home, I played around with some old postage stamps for a swap I joined called "Going Postal."  I decoupage the stamps on small, flat wooden shapes as well as on oval and round beads.  Here are the finished charms:

Finally, I got ideas from a swap the yahoo group held that I did not join, a swap with the colors blue and brown.  It didn't sound very appealing to me until I started to think about denim and suede.  It seemed very 60's and 70's, and much more fun than I originally thought!  I may make up a few "bohemian" style bracelets and try to get them into my Etsy shop.  I began playing with any blue and brown materials I had.  I made a peace-sign cane out of polymer clay, rolled it smaller, and sliced it up into 1-inch charms.
 And I played with other wooden beads, denim, ultrasuede fabric, shrink film and buttons.  Here's the results:

I think it's going to take some time to gather materials to make enough charms to fill this bracelet.  I want it done yesterday but I'll have to be patient with myself.  They're forecasting a beautiful weekend and I'm not sure how much time I'll want to spend indoors (hey, maybe I"ll truck some of my supplies out to the deck... after the housecleaning and other chores get done!)  Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Around the Wet Garden

"Rainy Day"

I do not like a rainy day.
The road is wet, the sky is gray.
They dress me up, from head to toes
in lots and lots of rubber clothes.
I wish the sun would come and stay.
I do not like a rainy day.

-William Wise

We've been getting an awful lot of rain lately!  Now that I think about it, it seems that this year, we got all our flowers in April and all the showers May!  But dogs need to be walked, so this afternoon I put on my raincoat and took Cassie out for a wet tour of the garden.  The grass is getting long again, so Cassie is doing her part by nibbling off the tops.  Lots of dogs and cats I've known do this; it must taste good!
And look what we found near the ferns:  Robin eggs.  I do love that particular shade of blue.   I think Cassie would have eaten them if I'd let her!  Maybe the robin parents appreciate the rain for bringing out all the worms so it's easier to fill the gaping beaks of their hungry babies. 

Yes, everything is growing and swelling and bursting with the rain.  Here are some daisies coming up in a corner of the walkway, where plants shouldn't be growing.

 The apple blossoms are already gone, but here are the little apples, already starting to swell.
 And soon the irises will be blooming.
 The strawberries are filling out too.  I guess there are some good things about rain...

"April Rain Song"

Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night.
And I love the rain.

-Langston Hughes

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Charming Around Again!

 Last week I mailed in my charms for the "feather your nest" swap.  In addition to the shrink film bird houses I made in April, I also made a bunch of these out of polymer clay.  They were a little labor-intensive, but I find it's relaxing to just sit and work with my hands for a little while each day.  I made the little birds separately and attached them with a small chain, as you can see.  Aren't they cute?

So ever since I finished my large totem piece and now that the two shows are over, I have a break in the action!  It's very nice not to be committed to any large projects with deadlines for a while!  But I couldn't resist signing up for another swap, this one black & white with silver findings.  The first thing that came to mind was cookies:
 They should be a big hit!  I made 11 of those, and 11 of each of the two styles below.  The top row has a shrink film dangle at the bottom.  I used the black film with a white marker.  The marker looks kind of pale when it goes on, but after it shrinks, it darkens up a bit.  I did a kind of abstract Greek-key type of design all over a piece of the film and then cut it up into random rectangular shapes.   For the hearts, I played with a new stamp I bought recently.  I'll mail these out soon and look forward to the returns and putting together a black, white, and silver bracelet or necklace.
Speaking of necklace, that's what I made with the "springtime in Paris" charms.  All the returns were really beautiful and well made little works of art!  Some were large or heavier than I'd like to have on a bracelet, so I hung them on this gunmetal chain as a necklace.  I may still play with the placement of the charms to spread them out more so each one can be seen.  Tah-dah! A Mother's Day gift for myself!
Hope everyone had a lovely, fun, relaxing day!  It's nice to be appreciated once in a while, isn't it?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

More Highlights from NSQG show

Here are a few more pictures from the World of Quilts show last weekend in Somers.  Above is a beautifully detailed bedquilt.  The embroidery and hand quilting were just exquisite, as you can see in the detail shot below.  It must've truly been a labor of love - I think it was made by a grandmother and mother for a daughter.

There were also several award-winning pieces by a former FANE member, Debbie Bein.  I think the one below is from her "Roots" series.
 This one was very interesting to look at and may have won "best of show" (it had 3 ribbons hanging near it, but I only had an hour to go through the whole show, I was in such a hurry, I didn't get the details!).  It's titled "Oh Say, Can You Cell."  Her works often have a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, but also have a lot of textural detail that is interesting to look at. This one was given the founder's award at the Infinity Art Gallery's "Lay of the Land" show.  Click here to read more.
 Here is another of Debbie's award-winning abstract quilts.
 From down one of the rows of quilts, this one of a peacock caught my eye.  I think I've seen it in publications such as Quilting Arts magazine and on the cover of a book, possibly.
Upon closer inspection, I found that the artist is Barbara Barrick McKie and she uses images manipulated in Photoshop as a tool to create these pieces.  The stitchwork was amazing, as you can see below.

 Very impressive!  Apparently, Barbara is giving a talk at the next NSQG meeting on the 15th!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Red and White Quilts

I didn't get to see the display of red and white quilts at the Park Avenue Armory in NYC last March (click here for more info) but many of the NSQG members did, and they decided to do their own red and white show at their annual World of Quilts show last weekend.  As I stepped into the gym last Sunday, I was struck by the vibrant contrasts of all that red and white!  See for yourself:

 The variety was amazing!  Some chose to make full sized bed quilts, some used traditional patterns, and some made smaller art quilts.  The one below immediately caught my eye, and after a closer look, I realized it was made by my friend Joyce Sullivan, a talented member of my FANE group.  Isn't it great?
 There were so many, and they were so well done, it was hard to pick a favorite!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Totem Exhibit at World of Quilts

My FiberArts Northeast group had a special exhibit of our "totem" pieces at the Northern Star Quilter's Guild's annual World of Quilts show this weekend.  We hung our "Spirit Flags" in the hallway to attract attention to the classroom where the 8' long pieces were hung.
 As you turn into the room, this is the first glimpse you get.  That first piece, made all of various circles of fabric stitched together, really catches your eye with all its color and movement.  The artist, Andrea Schedletsky, titled it "Still Circling."
 Then you walk into the room and between all these lovely columns of color.  Each one was a work of art and further evidence of our group's outstandingly talented members!  Front and center of the picture below is Nike Cutsumpas' piece and to the left of that is Joyce Sullivan's "Creatures of the Sea and Land and Sky."
Below is a close-up of Nike's, which was made with lace paper as well as fabric.  It was one of my favorites.
 Barbara Drillick, who created the colorful abstract piece below, used window screening as the main background of the piece.  She painted other pieces of a screen-like material, cut them in geometric shapes, and artfully arranged and stitched them in place.  It's so fun and different, I just love it.  Behind that is a tropical piece by Ann Louise Lyman.  She also made use of sheers for a portion of it.  And to the right in the background is Cecelia Leiseroff's colorful totem, on which she fused paper she had collographed.
Below, you see pieces by Nancy Mirman (left) and Claire Oehler (right).  They are both very experienced quilters and took a similar approach to the 8-foot length by dividing it up into sections.  Nancy likes to use unusual found objects, as seen by the pressed leaves she used on a subdued silk background, while Claire chose more traditional appliqued blocks and bright cotton fabrics.  Both were stunning to see.
 In the foreground on the right is Natalya Aiken's piece.  She often uses architectural elements in her pieces and chose windows for her totem.  She used a lot of recycled materials like dryer sheets as well as gold foil or paint, which is why it's so reflective in this shot.  In the background you can see Kathi Jahnke's piece which also incorporated windows.
Here is another shot of Kathi's windows.  I love the colors and the way they turn independently.  Another totally unique approach!

 Here is a shot of the other side of Natalya's piece.  I should've taken some close-up shots of hers.  As usual, the detail and workmanship were gorgeous.
 Vivien Zepf chose a more political theme for her piece.  I love the traditional red, white, and blue color scheme in combination with the block piecing and the text.  It was hard to get a shot of the back of hers, which was also striking.  You can see a piece of it by clicking here.
This is an underwater-themed piece created by Norma Schlager.  I love the way she used two 8-foot long sections and hung them back-to-back so the fish on the other piece look like they're swimming in the distance.
And finally, here is mine, hung in the back corner of the classroom, near the clock.  How do you like the "waves" at the top of the piece?  I used a stick from the backyard to hang it from, to look more natural.  I also tried to create an illusion of depth by layering the sheers and other components.  Unfortunately, it was hung so what I considered the back of the piece was more visible than the front.  On this side, only two of the three seahorses are visible.

I tried to turn it around, below, but it kept rotating back the other way.  It must've made a good enough impression though, because apparently, someone was inquiring about buying it!  That's a good sign!  Will I be able to part with it?  And for how much?
Tune in for more from the NSQG World of Quilts this week!