Thursday, January 31, 2013

Vintage Found Objects Bracelet

It's already time to mail out the round robin bracelet I received at the beginning of the month!  As I explained in this post, each participant chose a theme and this bracelet's theme is "Vintage Found Objects." As you can see from the above photo, Brigitte would like antique-y looking charms with a distressed brass or silver metal.  You can't buy vintage at the local craft store, but I went through my stash to see what I could dig up. 

I came across these packages of lace and trim that I inherited from my mother, and she from her mother - they must be considered "vintage," right?  (39 cents for 4 yards?  3 packs for $1?  Wow!).  I thought the bracelet could use a touch of antique lace somewhere.

 Then I went through this stash of old jewelry that my next door neighber left for the girls before she moved away last June.  They took what they wanted and I kept anything I thought might be useful.  There are some nice freshwater pearl, carved stone beads, and artful metal pieces.
 This rather large earring caught my eye because of the distressed finish on the silver.  I decided to remove one of the shorter dangles.

But this is an Art Charm, and it should have some sort of handmade element to it.  Remembering the lace, I decided to tea-dye a small piece, stitch it into a little collar and put it around the dangle, as you see below.  I actually  made this almost as soon as I received the bracelet, but waited to see if I could come up with any other ideas.  I did create another charm out of a flower-shaped button, but decided to stick with the heart, pearl, and lace.

I think it really blends nicely with the charms Brigitte already made.

Incidentally, I recently bought a spray sealer called "Preserve Your Memories II."  In the book Mixed-Media Art Charms and Jewelry, Peggy Krzyzewski mentions it as a great all-around sealer, especially for polymer clay, which can sometimes react to other sealers and become soft or sticky.  I sprayed the little lace collar with this to protect it from water, perfume or other elements it might come in contact with.

I'm finding that this PYM II is a really terrific product.  It's made in the USA, dries quickly, has a low odor, and can be used on many materials, including paper.  I resisted buying it at first because I can't get it nearby at a store and had to order it online.  The shipping costs (it must be shipped UPS ground) brought the cost to nearly $20, when I knew I could get something "similar" at Michaels with my 40% off coupon.

 I've ended up buying spray after spray, and either they smell really toxic or don't dry completely and feel sticky.  I'll have to find some project to use these up on!  If you need a good low-odor, all-purpose sealer, try the PYM II first!  (I bought it here - and watch the video, it's short but helpful).

Monday, January 28, 2013

Winter Reality, Spring Dreams

More wintry weather left us with another coating of snow and ice, early school closings, and a free afternoon.   I put a few final touches on the second layer of my tunnel book.  It's been fun dreaming of all these spring flowers while the weather outside is so nasty.  Here's what it looks like:

Here are a few close-ups of my favorite parts:  the ribbon irises, a row of daffodils, and an embroidered robin...

and a weeping cherry tree leaning over a birdbath fountain.  I found this thread-wrapped wire to use for the branches and knotted on some pink seed beads. The fountain is a piece of wire and a sheer fabric scrap.  I still want to add a little bird sitting on the rim of the birdbath.

Here's what the two layers will look like placed one over the other.  I need to create one more window-like layer and then a solid background.  How many months left til spring?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter Wonderland

It's been looking and feeling very wintry around here (after all, it is January).  Last night we got a light dusting of snow that was made up of fairly large, beautifully formed flakes.  I tried to photograph them here.  The camera's built-in macro isn't quite good enough to get a great shot, but at least you get a sense of the sparkle and shine everywhere this morning.  Here are some more shots of our winter wonderland.

The two below are from nearby Lake Mahopac, which finally has a good coating of ice.  Some winters it doesn't freeze up at all, and some winters it's completely frozen and people go ice boating and ice fishing.

Lake Casse finally froze over completely and we've been able to venture out onto it.  The dogs have a great time running around and slipping and sliding.

Our next door neighbors have a metal dock, so this afternoon my youngest and I hiked down there with our skates.  I cleared the snow from a small area so we could skate a bit.

It was still a bit bumpy and we only skated for about 15 minutes or so.  It always feels so good to take those stiff, heavy skates off and put comfortable, warm boots back on!  With all the hiking down there, clearing the snow, skating, and hiking back up, I've gotten my exercise for the day!

My skate tracks left a funny pattern in the snowy ice.

Here is the moon rising over the lake a few afternoons ago.  Tonight the moon is full:  I'll have to check out the winter wonderland at night!

Thursday, January 24, 2013


 Maybe it's just the frigid temperatures around here lately, I'm feeling almost frozen in time.  The days pass, but not much changes - everything is just creeping along.  It's almost like I'm hibernating in a way -  I get up and do what needs to be done, but I'm sort of sleep-walking through the days, just so I can get back in bed soon after dinner and cuddle under flannel-covered down comfortors with a good book or the TV remote.  Any of you feeling the same way?

Maybe it's partly because the girls had midterm tests this week, so they were not on their usual schedules.  This morning was the first morning all week that they all had to be up and out of the house by 7 (and of course, it's the coldest morning of all!).  Also, we're having carpet delivery issues so the completion of the bedroom-enlargement project downstairs is stalled and things are still somewhat in disarray.  It will be early February by the time the right carpet comes in (the manufacturer sent the wrong one last week), so we're making the best of it.  At the library, we are gearing up for the next session of Early Literacy programs, so things are beginning to move there.  I need to rev up myself up this weekend so I'll have enough energy to devote to my toddler and baby programs on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I signed up for a Kripalu Yoga class on Monday afternoons, and I'm hoping that will be a positive step towards better overall health and energy.

Meanwhile, when I have some spare time and energy, I've been working on my little "tunnel book," as you can see below.  I finished the first frame by gluing on the ribbon roses and leaves, and adding the wysteria vine along the right side.  I'm really happy with the way this part turned out...
so I started on the next layer.  This one was fun also, and I used fabric, felted wool roving, and embroidery thread to create it.  I still have some more details to add in the form of flowers in the foreground and hanging from the trees.  I think the tree on the right will be a weeping cherry.  The foundation for this is that thick, stiff interfacing (like Timtex) so it's a little hard on the fingers when I'm hand stitching.  That slows progress a bit, but I still hope to have it completed by the end of the month, so I can get moving on the next two projects waiting in the wings!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Snow Day!

 It was great to wake up to a surprise snow day today!  We knew the forecast called for snow, but thought we'd only get a 2-hour delay.  It felt so good to shut off the alarm clock and go back to sleep for an extra two hours after the district decided to give us the whole day, on top of which the library was closed too!   I pootled around the house in the morning, playing in the snow with Cassie, and then packing up the outdoor Christmas lights, which I took down earlier in the week while the weather was warm.  I also played around with some of the fabric and other craft supplies I picked up last week on a spontaneous trip to JoAnn's Fabrics.  I've already started on another unexpected project I couldn't resist....

An interesting idea in the latest issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine caught my eye this week.  They're calling them tunnel books, but they remind me of the type of children's book that looks three-dimensional, but changes with every turn of the page.  CPS is holding another reader challenge to create a mixed-media tunnel book, and I immediately started brainstorming on all the possibilities and sketching out ideas (despite the fact that I have two other projects I need to finish before April, and at least one UFO on my worktable!).
 The article gives a quick illustration on how to make one of these by taking several pieces of cardstock and tearing or cutting openings in them that get successively smaller.  These are then decorated with a theme or shape, like the trees and hearts shown in the close-up above.  The last page doesn't have a hole and serves as the back of the book.  They're held together with a fan-folded piece of cardstock along the sides, so the pages are not turned, but you can look into the book almost like one of those cute little panoramic Easter eggs.
When I started to imagine the possibilities, one of the first things that popped into my mind was a landscape or garden scene.  After doing a few quick sketches, I quickly took off on the garden idea.  It would be so much fun to use fabrics, embroidery, beads, and all kinds of fun mixed-media supplies to create a panoramic flower garden!  At JoAnn's last week, I happened to see these appropriate wooden sticks and fence pieces, which I cut, glued and painted to make a trellis as my first frame, below.
Next I made a wire skeleton of a climbing rose and wrapped it with embroidery floss.  I painted, stamped and cut up a recycled gift bag to make the leaves, and wrapped them in as well.  I plan to make a wisteria vine growing along the right side (the vine is the gift bag handle), and use the ribbon pictured to make some of those lovely purple flowers hanging down from the top of the trellis.  But first, I'm working on making a bunch of these tiny ribbon roses so I can glue them all over my climbing plant.
Here's a close-up of the rose bush so far.  Isn't it cute?
I'm having a lot of fun with this, and I really like the way it's coming out, but it already seems to be progressing very slowly.  I have several layers to go and I hope I can sustain the energy and enthusiasm to get them done quickly so I can get on to the other two projects that also have deadlines.  The good news is Thursday is my scheduled day off, and I don't have to be at the library this weekend, so I hope I can get in some time over the next four days.  Yay!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Goals? Who needs goals?

 It's only one week into the new year and I'm already stalling on my goals!  The living room is still topsy-turvy from the holidays (see below)
 and from the home-improvement project my DH started back in November, which is not quite finished yet.  He's enlarging his former home office so The Middle Child can have her own bedroom and one of a decent size, with a closet.  He's doing a great job - it's coming along nicely and we're nearing the end:  the carpet is scheduled to be installed on Thursday.
But meanwhile the family room/TV area looks like this:
My studio/play area is adjacent to this, so it's gotten quite crowded again and difficult to work in, even when cats aren't sleeping on the fabrics I've pulled!  So it's been hard to even consider coming up with new year goals!

And actually, I'm beginning to think I'm way too goal oriented as it is;  it makes me feel like time's a-wastin' if I'm not doing something constructive every minute.  After a busy fall and Christmas season, I feel a bit like I need some R&R, some lazy down time, some of "la dolce fa niente," as they say in Italy (from the movie Eat, Pray, Love , it means "the sweetness of doing nothing").

But last week, I did manage to review my goals from 2012 and I did pretty well.  I updated the look of my blog, made my 18"x 8' totem piece, persisted with Etsy and finally made my first few sales!  Those were good steps forward.  My website, however, is now defunct due to Apple changing their iWeb functions, so I need to add more pages to my blog to take the place of the website.  I think that will more than adequately serve my purposes for now.

I also approached two local shops in hopes that they might carry some of my charm bracelets, but neither of them took me up on it.  One was somewhat encouraging, but I'm not sure where I want to go from here.  When we were on vacation on the Jersey Shore this summer, I thought I might spend some time this winter making up some beach-themed jewelry and fiber art that I could photograph and print on postcards to mail to appropriate beachy boutiques.  Now that I've sold a few things on Etsy and I don't need to share my profits with a boutique, I'm not sure I want to go that route anymore.  I'll have to wait on that one.

I did revisit and resubmit my seahorse manuscript to another publisher this fall, with another rejection to my credit.  I know many authors who are being proactive by self-publishing.  That has always been in the back of my mind, but it means completing all the artwork for this book on my own, without the benefit of any professional guidance.  Could I complete several illustrations this year?  Could I find a way to simplify and speed up the process so I'm not a grandmother by the time they're all completed?  I don't know... another goal I have to mull over.

Some things that I'm still working on from last year are at the top of this year's list:

  • Continue to search for my authentic artistic voice in all my creations
  • Continue to experiment with adding words and text to my fiber art
  • Continue to replace all negative thoughts with positive ones
In addition, I want to
  • add two pages to my blog, one "about me" and one or two gallery pages
  • complete a piece for the annual FANE show at the Mahopac Library in May (due in March)
  • complete a "kimono" style piece of fiber art for our special exhibit of the Northern Star Quilter's Guild show, also in May (due in April)
  • experiment with my big Christmas present: a Silver Artclay kit!
But for now, I just want to:
  • Get the living room, family room, and new bedroom finished, clean, and organized
  • Be loving and patient towards my family, coworkers, and neighbors I encounter
  • Spend a few minutes every day in prayer or quiet meditation
  • Do less laundry; eat more chocolate!
  • Figure out what we're having for dinner and go cook it!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Year-Long Project!

Late last fall, I decided to join another round robin, this one with the ArtCharms yahoo group, so it's for bracelets rather than fabric.  The idea is that each participant starts a bracelet with a theme and one charm, then sends it on to the next person.  Each one adds a charm until it comes back to the originator with twelve handmade charms in December of 2013.  We were to include a small notebook or journal so each person could document what they made, as well as a box to protect your bracelet on its journey.  

Everything needed to be in the mail today, so I've been thinking about and planning for this for a while.   I chose the theme "Mother Nature: Goddess of the Earth" since I'm drawn to earthy colors, leaves, flowers, natural materials etc.  I had bought 2 different chain styles in advance (the top two in the photo below) but when I sat down to put the clasps on,  they felt too flimsy for such an awesome project.  So I quickly went onto the website and fell in love with the little leafy chain at the bottom, which goes so well with my theme.  Because of the holidays and the delays with the mail, it just came TODAY so I very quickly put everything together.
 But while I was waiting for it to come, I decorated my journal!  I had some leftover sheets from the Sketchbook project I did in 2010-11 so I made a cover out of an old gift bag (stained green with thinned paint and decorated with copper gel pen).
 I also painted the inside pages with shades of blues and greens.  This took longer than I thought, and I made a huge mess by spilling a dark blue ink, which I then didn't want to waste, so I tried to scoop it back up, and water it down.  My pages are kind of splotchy and random, but I suppose you could look at it as being "natural" and fitting in with the theme!
 Then came the box.  I picked this little thing up at the dollar store, figuring it's just utilitarian, not for show.  But then I saw all the cute boxes others in the group were making, and I also coincidentally had saved a round cheese box from a wheel of Brie.
 So I put two and two together and came up with the fabric-covered box below! I almost like it as much as the bracelet!  I hot-glued in a little batting cushion with a round indentation perfect for nestling the bracelet.  I used acrylic gel medium to adhere some lacy leaves I had in my stash.
Below is a close up of the bracelet with the clasp I selected and two charms (I couldn't settle on just one!).  One is a fabric leaf with painted edges and two little bead and bead-cap flower dangles, and the other is a polyclay seashell look-alike with a copper goddess symbol attached.  I can't wait to see what other treasures it will collect along the way!
Now I'd better get to the post office!