Sunday, December 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

Now that the New Year is upon us, and in a few days, all the decorations will be packed away until next December, I take more time to renew my connections with what makes Christmas special to me. The tree is full of memories with hand-made decorations hanging generously from all the branches.

Each year, mid-December, as Christmas drew near, my father would take the family out to choose a Christmas tree. We spent hours in the Mid-West snowy cold driving from one tree lot to another in search of the perfect tree. After much consideration, dispute, and anguished selection, we finally made a choice and tied the tree to the roof of the car, and drove our prize home. There it would sit propped up out in the cold, allowing the branches that had been compressed into a flat shape, to adjust into their natural shape. We would occasionally shake the tree and branches to help it untangle and shed dried needles.

One year, as I was going through the preparations, I dis
covered a perfect little nestdeep in it's branches, which I accordingly took it for a sign of good fortune. After all, how many times are we lucky enough to get a tree that had a nest too? And so, in its propitiousness, I have honored that same little nest in a conspicuous place at the front of the tree ever since. Now, many (many) years later, as my glance falls upon it, I am reminded of its origins and the circumstances that surround it. In remembering my father on this New Years Day, I celebrate his loving and creative spirit by sharing with you the miniature birdhouses that he made for me one year. I also honor all those family and friends who helped to create a variety of decorations to include felt snowmen, fabric covered balls, paper snowflakes, clothespin soldiers, and tiny paper doily angels. One year we got my sons involved and made bread dough ornaments of an angel, teddy bear and a even a fisherman holding a huge worm. (Boys will be boys!) When each of them got married, I shared some of these ornaments with them so that they also have memories on the branches.

My very best wishes to you all for a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Necklace that toyed itself into existence


My latest creative pursuit is a necklace that started with one of those ugly beads. It was elongated, and a drab shade of orangey-rusty-brown. Really an ugly thing. Lately, however, I have been looking at this sort of thing as a challenge to create something that exonerates it and makes it beautiful in its own way. To begin, the bead was added to a rosary type link and wire wrapped, continuing the wrapping to spiral about the bead. In the spiraling I added small orange seed beads to help hide it. It looked better, but what do you do with one rather large ugly bead wrapped with wire and decorated with seed beads. OK, being me, I made it the focal point. In my last necklace, the bead was the focal, but this time, the bead didn't carry enough design interest to make on its own. I set it aside, and was just playing with wire, created a triangular spiral that waved off at the end. ...Had no idea what to do with that either! Somehow, ...maybe they bumped together, and the idea of using them together began taking shape. Hanging off the lower edge of the triangle, the forming pendant was somewhat interesting, but was lacking still. The focus really needed to go to something else.

Rocks. I love rocks. A few weeks back, I had found a small egg-shaped river stone that was in the garden
path in my backyard. It was a stone that just told me that it was meant to be more than a part of the path, going unnoticed and anonymous. At the very least it would have been happy as a worry stone, residing in a pocket and caressed occasionally, connecting the bearer with a sense of Mother Earth and grounding. The desperate mind will try anything, and so the river stone found a new place to rest. Wrapping it was a little challenging because there were no dents or corners to hold the wrapping wire, but after playing around with it I finally came up with a satisfying result. The pendant was looking very primitive and somehow talisman-like.

Next, I searched through the diminishing supply of ugly beads to find the drabbest, dingy gray rounds I could find. They needed to look earthy and natural. Adding those and a few more primitive wire links, it began to feel important. However, it needed more prestige. How about some verdigris? Just like the beard of an old man, it got more credible in age. A homemade recipe, I used:
  • 2 parts white vinegar
  • 1 part non-sudsy ammonia
  • 1/2 part non-iodized salt

Put these ingredients into a spray bottle and mist the piece. The chemical reaction starts very quickly. Spray a few more times. Remove the piece to a paper towel and allow to dry and sit overnight. The "rusting" process will continue, and the next day you can see the results. Mine were a bit too green, moving the necklace into a different color range, so I washed it and rubbed some of it off. Once dry, I was able to move into adding the fiber part to the neck. Now, the Talisman came together quickly, and this is the result....

Mother Earth's Talisman Necklace

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Ugly Bead Necklace Finished


I did it! I got thorough my self-imposed challenge to create something useful out of the ugliest beads I have. There were even some very nice compliments on photos I posted in my Flickr group. One person said it looked like "a party on a chain." ...Love that idea, and as the chain grew, the party got more carefree. It became a friend rather than an opponent. My ugly friend encouraged permissiveness, ...an anything goes approach. After all, there was absolutely nothing to be lost, I was starting at the bottom of the barrel with this. All I was contributing was a little effort, and that was of value in itself because I was getting more practice. .

Starting at the Bottom

As I was creating this piece, I found myself going through an incredible thought process. Every so often, I would question the validity of
spending time on creating something worthwhile with such a sorry-looking batch of components: ugly, misshapen, unmatched, left-over cheap glass beads bought in bulk when I first got interested in beading, and crazy, imperfect forged metal practice pieces I had crafted of copper wire as learned in the BuildZone jewelry making course.


The Process

As the necklace grew, it took me through some interesting thoughts. Beginning with a lot of self-doubts (those Gremlins I blogged about a few posts back), I was not at all sure of why I took this challenge on. Why would anyone in their right mind start creating with a bunch of stuff that seemed to say "just put me in the trash!" Isn't is much nicer to think about having gorgeous materials and what the end result of silver and gemstones could be? What was driving me? ...stubbornness? ...a sense of frugality? ...a "way out" excuse for defeat? I am really not sure.

Yet the ugly bead necklace grew, and as it grew, I felt a sense of acceptance. It allowed me to free myself of any constraints that might have held me back. I gave myself over to the spirit of freedom, and creative energy flowed through my braincells and into my fingertips. I ceased to think so much and just did what felt right with each added link. It didn't have to be anything but ugly, and yet with each link I started to like it more and more. A strange sort of beauty was unfolding in my hands and although I knew each imperfection well, I felt like I was forging a life. Out of ugliness and pain came joy and freedom, and a thing of carefree beauty. It doesn't matter if it is of the basest materials because it has a spirit of the highest nature. Maybe it has a "face" that only a mother can love, but this is one child I love to look at.

The Sweet Finish

I may add a few more ribbon tails, and a random dangle here and there, but this child is birthed. As I look at this piece, I am thinking many thoughts so different than those that weighed me down at the start. It reminds me that beauty is only skin deep, but also that just because something isn't always beautiful by most standards, doesn't mean that it has no beauty or value in and of itself. It reminds me that beauty can be found wherever we look for it, and that we should do what we love never separating ourselves from the Creator within. In all things there is purpose, and that our intent and openness can lead us to a beauty that we are not always aware of. I feel a real sense of serenity in that.


May you find beauty and serenity in your day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Very Ugly-Bead Necklace

So, I mentioned a few blogs ago that I was taking a jewelry making course. As usual, I am slow starting to create, especially with the new skills I am learning. I watched all the videos and read the tuts, and did a few wire wrapped bead links, some "S" links, plain wire links, and twisted wire links, and then I did it all over again. I guess I should confess here that my practice results have often been less than successful, and perfection is (strangely enough) not even close. I am usually very judgmental and demand getting as close to perfection as possible. However, I am fascinated and very intrigued by the obvious flaunting of imperfection and breaking the ruling standards that mixed media art has as an outstanding characteristic. So, throwing rules and judgment to the winds of change, I am now creating without any set standards. My cheap and ugly beads that served me to practice with began to assert an unexpected charm and so they are becoming a necklace.
I started with an orphan bead that had no affinity to any other that I had. Why not make it the focal? It is so ugly it is perfect! I ran my wire through it and because it was too loose, I just wound some ribbon yarn around each end in order to help stabilize it. The ribbon did have some connection to some other 30 year old ugly seed beads I had. (Have I ever told you I have a "collecting" problem?) That led me to a thought to attempt to conceal some of its ugliness, and I decided to partially conceal it with a wrap of wire and ugly orange seed beads.
Orange? ...My very least favorite color! Then I threw in a few cheapo ill-formed jade glass beads to keep the orange from being so overwhelming.


Next, I began to add a dangle to the lower end. But why stop at just one? More! More! ...the more the merrier I thought! ...and why not? ...it is a focal! ...there are no more rules! Once satisfied, I simmered and thought about how I could get all my practice parts into this one piece. You know, be done with all the uglies in one fell swoop. So now, I am slowly crawling up the sides with my own very strange "S" links, that were looking so irregular and strange that I began to bend them into crazy out-of-control spirals, which are vaguely reminiscent of those Tree of Life spiral shapes that Gustav Klimt added to his paintings. His inspiration is hard to separate from! ...And do I now see a hint of those same colors from my sweater? I do not as yet have a picture of the growing chain, but will be sure to share with you in my next blog. Till then, be well and happy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Done, Da-Done Done!


Yes, it is done! I am so glad that this is now finished, and all those pesky little ends are tied off, tucked in and otherwise taken car
e of. I am already off to other pursuits and now it is a course in making jewelry. I spent the morning making S-links out of copper wire, and practicing torching wire to create little balls at the ends. It is a pretty cool way to make head pins, and a lot cheaper than purchasing them. At first, I was admittedly terrified of the torch, just knowing that I would set my self on fire the first time I used it. However, Fate is much kinder than that, and I have not had an unpleasant episode and do not expect to. I have unfortunately had a few wire go "dead" due to cooking them too long. A few of my beautiful little balls cracked off as I tried to curl the wire around my pliers. Well, practice and time will improve my efforts. Not always sure I have found the "sweet spot" at the end of the blue flame, I can tell that the metal is about to melt. There is a beautiful flaming rainbow of color that fans out behind the wire as it glows nearly white before it balls up. That part has me hooked. I adore rainbows, however they come to me.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A New Face: Mixed Media


I treated myself this week. There was a "So You Say You Can't Draw" Raw Journaling webinar posted on CreateMixedMedia. It was right in the middle of our lunch hour, but with a little maneuvering, I managed to work it out. Rather expecting it to be more focused on art journaling, I was surprised that it was more about being more creative, and especially interesting to me was that apparently everyone has "gremlins" that give negative voice to the creative experience. ...You know, the ones that say things like:
  • there's not enough time
  • ...not enough money
  • what will you do with it?
  • I can't find what I need
  • I don't know where to market my stuff
  • I'd have to clear off the table
  • I'd have to make a decision
  • I need to go shopping for supplies first
  • The house really ought to be cleaned instead
  • etc., etc
...There is always something! So it seems that it is important to just get over it and DO IT! After all, who cares about all that stuff? Being creative is so personal. Without creativity, the spirit shuts down and shrivels up. That's right! Use it or lose it. Being creative is a great way to relax and release stress. Many artists express a range of emotions through art that we all can relate to. If it were not for my creative pursuits, I would surely be drifting in a haze of uppers while watching soap operas on TV. Creativity expands the borders that confine my narrow world and lift me to the far corners of an infinite universe. My world abounds with all kinds of textures and color combinations, I examine tiny details of nature that most people pass unnoticed, and boredom is never an issue. Soon, the Klimt sweater will be finished. I am nearly done with the first sleeve, and I am looking forward to wearing it in a few more days.

What next? Well, I have signed up for an online jewelry making course called The Build Zone. It is about time I learned more and improve upon my techniques. I have gone far beyond simple beading and wire wrapping sometimes has me challenged. I have developed a love of mixed media art jewelry and want to push back the borders of convention even more than I already have. I am so looking forward to learning to use a butane torch, and other tools and supplies that I have had no experience of, and
how to give metal a patina as well as other useful procedures. In a few days, I will be able to start, ....so,

...Uhhhh, ...I guess I ought to clear off the work table first?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Klimt Limps On

Yes, ...limps. It feels that way anyway, I am naturally an impetuous and impatient person, and this project has been going on for months! Even though I can see the end in sight now, it still feels like it's dragging its feet! I have been thinking and planning for some design in the sleeves, but the little voice in my head is now saying K.I.S.S and lighten up. I think I will listen. Life has been throwing its challenges my way, and there have been too many interruptions. How in the world do other people keep a train of focus when one thing after another causes an interruption? ....Have I mentioned there was yet another kitchen ceiling leak? Yup, ...that too! Now there is a new hole in the brand new ceiling to be repaired, and I can't remember what paint I used this past spring, or even if I have any left over. Sigh. Maybe I will just paint a design up there, or a sign that says "ouch" or "c'est la vie."


Oh but back to the Klimt.
I hope to b
e finished in less than a week!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What next?


In between creative projects, there is sometimes a place of stagnation. Because I have a hard time not "doing" something, I have never liked this place. I get what I call "impatience anxiety." In spite of this, it is also a time for me to reflect and prepare for new pursuits, letting them line up and simmer in their formation. Most of the time, I get through these by having more than one project going at a time. After some creative simmering, I am back to knitting the Klimt again, but moving slowly. I needed to make another trip to the yarn store in order to pull it together. Klimt is known for his bold use of color, and I am needing more color to this piece. One might say "Use your stash!" but I don't have the color I am seeing in my head now, ...a bold limey green.

I am lusting after a stylish Henley garment that I saw in some internet shop-site. Clearing away the beads and other paraphernalia that I was using to craft some of my more unusual jewelry, I will need to replace it all with cutting board and sewing supplies. I have the perfect retro pattern by Betsy Johnson that will make the Henley nearly like I saw it. Now that the weather is turning cooler, I am eager to make this up so I can wear it with the "jeggings" (that's leggins that are also jeans) I made a few months ago and haven't worn yet for need of a proper top. Although I had converted my winter wardrobe to leggings and tunics, the summer wardrobe didn't catch up. Once the Klimt is done, it will be spicy great with these pants. ...You can call me "Spicy." ...Don't laugh, I may even pull off a Betsy Johnson hair-do. After all, I did tell my sons that when I turned 65 I would dye my hair purple. I really ought to get some practice
at wilding* before then.

*wild-ing: a plant, originally cultivated, that now grows wild; an escape.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back to "Work" and Into Fall!


The Stay-cation was great, but I fell down on my promise to share each days activities with you. Truth be told, I pretty much forgot about photo taking, and really, ...what is a blog post without a visual? On other days, we saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II and had lunch at a wings restaurant with my eldest son; another lunch was Mexican food; we got lots of movies that we had not been able to see in the theaters to watch on TV; I made lots of munchies, and we gained a few pounds. I did a lot of internet surfing and knit on the Klimt some more. Pretty laid back week. We also hung out at Barnes and Noble a few times and I bought the new Autumn issue of Belle Armoire Jewelry magazine. That, of course, led to hours of awesome surfing to visit the blogs of featured artisans and to all the resource sites.

Now, my head spins with all sorts of ideas for creative jewelry. I do love something
that is created especially for one of my original knit creations or an outfit that I have put together. I was inspired to give some polyclay a try. I can't say that I am loving it, as it looks and feels like a piece of hard rubber to me. What started out as earrings turned into rather hefty pieces and now they have become two pendants, similar, yet different.However, I am taking this as a challenge to explore new materials and I am including fabric and ribbon too. Not very satisfying and filled with frustrations, as it seems each step of the process is taking approximately 1/2 hour just to make decisions. My patience is being superbly tested.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Stay-cation!


We are off to a great start on our much anticipated stay-cation. Day 1 was on Wednesday, and we set out on a little raod trip to Pineyville, in the Charlotte, NC area, which is about a 1-1/2 hour trip. Our objective was food! Great food! A few years ago, we discovered Tin-Tin, a Chinese restaurant, that is so amazing. This place is a buffet. Now, I usually treat buffet restaurants with total disdain. Why would anyone want to pay for food that has been sitting on a steam table for who knows how long? ...And Chinese buffet? That simply sends chills up my spine because truly good Chinese food is flash cooked and presented piping hot from the pan still a little crisp and vibrantly colorful. However, Tin-Tin proves that a buffet can serve a great meal. We go with appetites blazing for everything from sushi made right in front of you to a freshly grilled steak. Not very Chinese, I know, but they have a broad range of authentic Chinese foods that even the Chinese fill the place for, and they keep replenishing the pans frequently. They have a huge selection of salads and fresh fruits, soft ice-cream that the kids love to serve themselves. They have cookies and cakes. Steamed fish, crab legs, 'butter" fried shrimp, egg-drop soup, freshly made-to-order soup, peach buns, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, ...you name it, they got it! My photos were not so good this time, but this blog says it all.


Of course, after a meal like that, one would be remiss unless one walked it off. Black Lion, just a half a block away takes care of that exercise very nicely. This BL is a joy to walk through, with colorful, gleaming and lux merchandise a feast for the eyes. BL is a huge store that is really composed of many stores, much like a very upscale flea market. I go with camera in hand because I know that I will see things that inspire me and there have been a few times I couldn't resist taking things home with me. Prices run the gamut there, and you will find shops that purvey jewelry, soaps, Christmas and all sorts of home decor, textile goods and furniture.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Who Me? ...Profiled!


Feeling a little like a celebrity, I just have to point you to Jane Thornley's blog. Jane has been profiling her many talented followers for a few weeks now, and now she has profiled me! Now what would you do if someone asked you to write a page about who you are? Not as easy as it may seem, this was an exploration into the inner side of myself, and I don't always check in with me as often as one should. Read about me here.

Count down!

Here we are with just one more day to go before the first day of our Stay-cation! Yay! I am not exactly ready to go, ...or shall I say "stay," but tomorrow will have to be a day to set it all up. Even as hurricane Irene is looming this way, I am making plans. Food in plenty is in the frig and pantry, and one of the things I have planned for the week is munchies. One special favorite is a spicy and crunchy recipe I was gifted years ago by a good friend who is a caterer. Because I promised never to give it away without forfeiting my life, I offer an alternative from popcorn.org which shares similarities.

Cajun Corn

Yield: 2 1/2 quarts

Ingredients


  • 2 1/2 quarts popped popcorn
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper

Directions


  1. Pour butter over warm popcorn.
  2. Combine remaining seasonings and sprinkle over popcorn; toss to mix.
  3. Bake in 300-degree Fahrenheit oven for crispy popcorn.
*Throw in some nuts or other munchie snacks to add interest.

Sweater a la Klimt

I have to admit, I have been remiss in my posting lately. Sorry about that, but I have had my mind wrapped about a certain knitting project. In the Jane Thornley group in Ravelry, we have been holding a knit-a-long all summer based on knitting a masterpiece. Though all of the completed pieces are masterpieces, we are actually knitting a favorite artist. Mine is Gustav Klimt. Klimt is an artist known for his wonderful Art Nouveau expression and his exhilarating style. He created art constantly and for the high he got doing it. I like that attitude.



Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Stay-cation


I was so tired I was literally asleep on my feet. No more late night "parties" coupled with weekend workshops for me! Now, catching up on much needed rest, I am again reminded that it will soon be time to take that "Stay-cation" I mentioned in a previous post. This is just a stay-at-home vacation instead of going away somewhere. We have been having extreme heat here, and I am trying to stay inside with the AC. Taking my mother out for adventure is out of the question unless it cools down. As promised, here are the various ideas that I have accumulated and plan to schedule into a weeks time:
  • Movies to watch on the TV, with seriously scrumptious munchies and beverages, good for a few thousand calories I would think
  • Catching up on reading at Barnes & Noble, hopefully not bringing home too many books and mags
  • Eating lunch out a few times
  • Quick and easy dinners
  • A few exciting creative projects
  • One short out-of-town outing returning the same day
  • Date or other quality time with the spouse besides watching TV together
  • Visit a local Farmer's Market
  • Visit a local museum
All of these are easy enough to do. With a bit of prior planning, the stay-cation will be just as fun as a real vacation. It will take the same prior planning, taking care of anything that might cause frustration or distract us from the plan. What needs to be done first? As with any vacation, there are a few things that need to be taken care of:
  • Bills all paid
  • Laundry all clean
  • House cleaned and Beds changed
  • Yard cleaned, mowed, etc.
Yet, there are additional considerations when staying home that make it more like getting away:
  • Creative projects planned and ready to play with
  • Grocery shopping done
  • Special little touches prepared, like the serious munchies mentioned earlier.
Oh yes, one more thing, ...Tell the hubby that I am not available for work, only lascivious living for the next week. ...Maybe longer. ...And maybe I'll have such a good time I won't come back!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Cobweb That Caught the Sky


COBWEB: A flimsy, insubstantial snare spun by a special breed of spider to entrap its prey

After weeks of repair and remodel, I needed an outlet for a gentler creative side of me. Picking up knitting needles once again after months of neglect, I vowed that I would just simply let them and the yarn take me to places I have never ventured before. I did have in mind something sort of Rodarte, who I have venerated ever since the sister's 2008 lines came out. Based on nature and totally radical knits, they represented for me a no-rules way of creating something out of nothing more than an idea. Characterized by loosely knit webs of fine mohair capturing bold areas of color and heavily textured, they have captured my spirit, which has always been a voice in the background begging me to give it a try.

The yarns seemed to just fall into my hands. Even though I had planned for another use of a wild diva that looks like bits of wool tied to hologram metallic thread and nylon cord scraps, it called to be a companion to the more sedate natural tan silk fingering weight that I have been hoarding from Artfibers for years now. Artfibers has the most gorgeous stuff I have ever seen in one place. All their yarns are spun to order. Amazing, yarn heaven, and it is worth a visit if you are ever in the San Francisco area. Then, a painted pastel nylon ribbon that had insisted on coming home with the diva (for some reason), entered the mix. And that was it. Just three yarns, ...quite a change of habit for me since I am usually working with anywhere from six to ten in any one project.

After trying several large needle sizes on the fingering weight yarn, I settled on a #13. At that point, I just began by casting on three stitches. The only thoughts for an end result were perhaps to make a cropped vest to go over summer tops for a little cover. From then on, all I kept in mind were basic rectangular shapes that roughly met my measurements. Free of regard for any sort of edge consistency, I simply knit until the pieces were relatively the same length. Individual stitches were another form of abandon. I threw in short rows, drop stitches, and varied knits and pearls to add more irregularity, and jigged and jogged the hems and edges. The yarns were picked up and dropped at will, creating shapes that drift like clouds of diva yarn and held by patches of ribbon that look like the sky. Yarn tails fly free like the tails of kites.

Once the pieces were of a relatively matched length, I cast off the back and fronts, and joined the shoulders as well as at the sides. To give a bit more shape and weight for a nice drape, I crocheted a single row of chain stitches to the edges with the ribbon yarn, and added a tie of the combined yarns braided together at the front.

I have written up a downloadable pattern/guide for those of you special spider types, who want to give this a try with more guidance than I have given here. You can find it on Ravelry as the Cobweb Vest, or my Etsy store, or by simply emailing me a message.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's Hot Out and I Am Too!


After a long blogging dry spell. I am getting back into the fun of it. I am also moving ahead with a list of great projects. I didn't get to do the Bootcamp again this year, with too much on a priority list of home repair/remodeling, and that was such a slow down for me personally. Sometimes life is just like that, but we have to keep on. Once the "Cobweb" was completed, I was inspired to write it up as a pattern. Pattern writing is a challenge. I have to keep asking myself what a beginner would want to know and did I include everything that is essential for success. Now that is scratched off the "To-Do" list, I am surging on to other things. Already on the needles is yet another Rodarte inspired top. That yarn I over-dyed earlier this year just kept telling me that it wanted to be completely free in a wild knit. Well, it is well on it's way to completion. In fact, I thought I was putting the finishing touches on yesterday, and then as I tried it on, it told me it wanted more. Now, I am planning to add a little skirting to it as soon as I get the side seams sewn up.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I'm On Vacation! (I Wish!)

That's right! I wish I was on vacation. I haven't had a vacation for about three years now, and I want one! The challenge is that it is nearly impossible to leave home now that I am the sole caregiver for my elderly mother. When I go anywhere, she goes along, and because this carries a number of risks, we mostly stay home. So, what I try to do is fill my days with new and interesting tasks and educational pursuits. I am fortunate to be self-employed and have a wonderful husband who supports me in all I do. He also helps out as best he can. He brought me chocolate last night, as I was probably showing withdrawal symptoms after running out. Now is he a "Keeper" with a capital K" or what?

But what to do about a vacation? Well, I do have a plan, and that is a vacation at home! I have been styling a home vacation for a while now in my head, and am about ready to launch for later this summer. I am not giving out my secrets yet, but will share as I go on a daily basis. I plan to go on my "staycation," as others are dubbing this growing phenomena, in late July. For one reason or another, there are a lot of us. Either too financially burdened to go anywhere, or for reasons such as my own, people are trying to get more creative about what they are doing, and to explore their own communities more. I have even heard of locals doing the "tourist thing" in their towns. I sure do wish that there was a chocolate factory nearby so I could tour it, or a sourdough bread bakery like San Francisco's Wharf district. Trouble is, I live in an area that grew from banking, university and military based functions. If I went to a bank and said I wanted a tour, they would likely call security; the University would send me to registration and admissions; and the post might consider me with suspicion. Its too hot and humid to explore outdoors until fall, and malls are boring, so I have to put my thinking hat on and do some research. I remember once having a visitor that my husband brought to town on business. We drove that poor man up an down Main Street several times before we gave up on trying to show him what a memorable town we have. We all joked about it and had a few laughs over it, but ever since I have wondered what else we could have done to leave a more exciting impression. So, my challenge for the next few weeks is to put together an interesting and exciting line-up of activities and experiences that will result in a memory as wonderful as all our vacations where we were able to get away and see the world away from home.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Can I Frog My Bathroom?

Can I "frog" the bathroom? Well, technically "No." Yet, I did nix the plan for "Cave Art," and go off in a different direction. I don't do this sort of thing very easily. I am like the bulldog that has a death grip on the bull's neck, and won't let go or let a project beat me. However, this was really turning into an example of Murphy's Law in action and it was snowballing and gaining momentum and power with each day. The issue that seemed to be behind it was that the paint was "re-wetting" and pulling off the walls. Although I left a fan running on the walls for days, and that helped some, it was not enough to do the faux work that was part of my plan. Besides that, my right wrist was having carpel tunnel fits and I was icing it several times each day. Being a massage therapist, this was a disaster. There were other problems too, like getting the tape off without pulling sheets of paint off with it. So, I decided that it would be in my own best interest to choose another decor style for the new bathroom. I allowed enough time for the present paint to cure (about a week), and then painted it all a chocolate brown. I was able to get the shower walls fauxed with some copper and bronze metallic, and left it to dry for over a week with no further ill effects. Now the other walls are done and the wrist is feeling better.

Life is just like this at times. We need to recognize when we are going against the flow rather than working with it. At least I can appreciate the experience for reminding me of this, and I am really loving the new look.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cave Art for the Bathroom

It was supposed to be inspiration for a knitting project, but as that was so long delayed, somehow the project that I had in mind exploded instead onto the new bathroom walls. How did I go from "serene and uplifting" to this? How will I convert the bright golden yellow named "grilled cheese" and the intense orange companion I chose into "serene?" Well, that waits to be proven. However, burnt umber in glaze will quiet it all down. Thank goodness.


What I am contemplating is how it came to this. The Creative Spirit that resides in me was actively planning a pullover sweater. Frustrated at what seemed an endless delay, it burst forth in paint colors instead. My plan for a soft green/teal/or maybe gray/and silver color scheme got lost in a moment of temporary insanity at the paint store. Now that plan is all about a brilliant gold that morphs into a burnt orange, overlaid with burnt umber to calm and age it. And true to form, I must include some metallic bling. Gold, bronze, copper, and ...oh what the heck, silver too.
I worked with a sample board to see how the layering would look, and make sure that I would get the look that I had in my head to create. I might have begun by painting the wall a dark brown and layering a wash of the gold and orange over that, morphing the colors into a gentle blending, lightening as I went along. However, I decided to lay down the gold as a base coat, and go darker. This is about as far as I got until other life got in the way. Things like going to work and a dental appointment will set me back til later this week but I fully expect to have finished photos to share by the weekend! YAY!!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Endless Noise and Mess


Yes, that is the way my house has been for over a month now. After weeks of a bathroom repair that required the shower to be rebuilt, I now have what the contractor termed an "industrial" bathroom. He said the whole house could fall down, but that bathroom is built to last. Through crashing hammers, saws, fumes and the layers of dust from pollen, dirt, and stone dust, the bathroom building is over. Even the week of scaling the popcorn off the kitchen ceiling and repairing that damage, and the entire mudding and plaster sanding experience is over. What is left is a lot of serious cleaning, but wait! There is painting to be done!

After those nerve wracking weeks of construction, it's my turn. I like painting, but it's not as easy at it used to be. I have to divide my work time with meals and other duties, and it is hard to get a good flow going. The kitchen ceiling is now completed, and I have been putting things back in place. I even have a resolution to be clutter free. ...If that is at all possible.

The bathroom is more of a challenge than a simple coat or two of paint however. After the DH and I first tried out the new shower, and I felt like a Greek Goddess, and he related to a Roman Emperor, I knew that this was a job not to be taken lightly. Much more than wall painting is needed. All the beautiful tile work deserved a freshly painted ceiling and trim. After 30 years, there was yellowing and surface marring. Even the door hinges and other hardware had become corroded, and the vanity light and switch-plates are seriously inappropriate. The cabinet is worn and tired, with knobs that were never even. Yes, this job may take a while.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Yes, It's a Hole In The Ceiling


...All because water began dripping from the ceiling a few weeks ago. When the plumber came and cut the hole, we could see the upstairs shower pan was not doing its job, and so the fun began.Since last Monday, a contractor with his one-man crew has removed all tiles from the shower, rebuilt a shower pan, and will re-tiled the whole thing. Looking at tile, and with a new look about to happen, I really am happy to have some choice in what is going to replace the 30 year old tile. This is exciting, and I happen to adore rustic, and this house is a "colonial" style as interpreted by middle America. So, the big question is ... do I go with standard middle American taste, or be daring and follow my own desires in this? I am dangerously leaning toward right-brain lately, so I am almost positive what the answer will be. ...And if I had a huge bank account, I would certainly be incredibly outrageous. The whole house would become artisan, all restraint gone!

The old square tiles will be banished to the past, and replaced with luscious creamy Travertine tiles. A softer natural stone cousin to marble, it has a rustic (yay!) quality that has become very mainstream. That is not the least of it however, as I have had in mind to update the bathroom for some time. Really, since I bought the house 9 years ago, I have detested the old faded red wallpaper, and the cracks in the floor, and mold in the shower. It was all an "UGH" look. A few years ago, one of my sons helped me along by changing out the vanity counter, and new sinks and faucets were put in place. Now, with the new tile, it is absolute that the walls, trim, lighting, and lack of medicine cabinets must be taken care of.

What has me worried is the hole in the kitchen ceiling. Because it has that nasty "popcorn" effect, a patch would be awful looking. The entire ceiling must be scraped (?) and repaired and painted. It will take over a week, and I have been told the room will be cocooned in plastic. Does this sound like I won't have access, and therefore not be cooking? I feel like I have somehow entered an alternate reality of getting just what I asked for.

Friday, March 25, 2011

It's the Pits

Tax time. Really, it's the pits. I force myself into my work corner that is now piled high with papers, and wear my eyes out, fry my brain and mentally berate myself for not having kept up with it all for the past year. Having your own business is wonderful freedom for anyone who rebels at any sort of confinement most of the year but for those who simply take their W-2 and fill in a few blanks on 1040 EZ, tax time provides a moment to be grateful for being an employee. Every year I vow that I will be more organized, and keep up with all the income and expenses. However, it is more my style to label a box with the current year, and fill it up with receipts and notes that in the end require hours of sorting.
This year, the inner voice is stronger than ever. It talks to me of creative pursuits to come, tantalizing and teasing as I struggle to focus on the tax software and endless numerical entries. As I engage more and more with the left side of my brain, the right gets more seductive as it tantalizes me with visions so enchanting that I make promises to pursue them once I am through and mail off the offensive papers, forcing my attention ever onward. Needing a time out yesterday, I decided to try something new and used some Procion Fiber Reactive Dye to over-dye and hand-paint some yarn I had on hand. I am going to make a totally organic vest that resembles the bark of a tree. Hopefully, it will not make me resemble a tree. It will be completely left brain: no pattern, no direction, random stitches, and no particular shape. ...And when I run out of yarn it will be done. ...Maybe.

Making my senses tingle and promising appeasement for my left brain appetite, I happened to discover that the Creativity Bootcamp that I had such good results with last spring is going to ensue again this May 15th. The new slideshow shows most of what I did for last years challenge. I promptly signed up so that I can create along with all the other artists. This time however, I am planning ahead so that my creations do not take me as long to do. This is a project per day challenge, and knitting a sweater is just not suited to that time frame. However, I will plan projects like shawl pins, buttons, jewelry, and anything else that can meet the 24 hour criteria. Perhaps even the acrylic paints will come out of the storage box, and it would be fun to creatively journal the process that will last for 2 weeks. I urge anyone who seeks to bring out and charge up their creative spirit to join in.
Just for fun, here is an easy visual test to tell you whether you are a right brain or a left brain thinker.

right brain vs left brain

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another shrug!

I adore sleeveless shrugs and vests. They are so perfect for keeping just cozy enough, allow for maximum movement, and I don't get my sleeves wet at the kitchen sink. My latest knitting project was a runaway color scheme. I blame the wild artsy side of me for that deviation. What I began to be a variety of mossy greens and shades of gray, suddenly took off with an outrageous will of it's own to become jade when I tried a row (just a row, LOL) of that seducing color to add some "pop." "Pop" is a term which describes bringing out the character of the piece by contrasting and activating the other colors and textures that accompany it. How could I have known that jade would be so addictive and satisfying? Well, when the creative spirit is tapped into and turned on, there is no telling what can happen. Letting go of a plan and trusting to intuitive guidance is where it's happening!

This shrug is yet another following the Woven Woods pattern from the Winter Forest Evocative Guide by Jane Thornley. The pattern is easy to follow, as it is made of of simple basic shapes, and relies on ombre technique to build character. I do mean build!!! This technique utilizes yarns held together to morph from one color into another, bleeding the colors into each other like a watercolor painting. At times, I had four yarns working into fabric at once. The fabric becomes more dense and textural. This is where the uniqueness and beauty of the fabric grows. Done all in seed stitch, ombre plying tends to break up the "knit, purl, knit, purl..." stitch monotony. Rows build up quickly for a fast knit. ...Now I just need to create a pin that it as special as the shrug!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Might Just Be A Jewelry Artist When I Grow Up, ...Too


I am so entranced with a new mag I got at B&N a week ago! Hey, Susan Sark, I am juiced! Belle Armoire's new wire wrapping magazine is making me itch to try more techniques. I certainly do like the fact that I can create jewelry without buying a kiln and taking classes (being a self-taught sort of person). I had the interest many years ago in college, but it never amounted to much, and ended dismally with a hammered project that was far too ambitious. I attempted a copper bowl, and the sheet metal was so thick that it took all my strength and didn't make a dent. I even enlisted the assistance of a few athletes, and it simply served to embarrass their male egos. All I ever did afterward was to string a few beads during the 70's like everyone else. What I especially like are the new outrageous designs that are coming out now. Call it "alternative art" or "upcycling" or "indie," it is all very creative and it doesn't require being a serious artisan or any cultural standard of perfection. Wire wrapping which used to really turn me off as looking "Mom's and Pop-sy," ...is an alternative to real metal working. Now, it is coming into it's own as expressions of inspired design. I have a special love for the little nets that are made to hold something precious and dangle as a pendant. To me they speak of infinite possibilities. In the meantime, as I hone some new skills, I have made a little something with a Valentine's theme. This being my first try, I hope to get a lot better at manipulating the wire and using the hammer to forge the metal. It might even be in line to buy a few tools. Some people think copper is too amateurish, but I like the earthiness and warmth of copper and it's yielding qualities. It is also far less expensive than silver and gold, and is perfect for budding jewelry artisans to play with. This project is all about fun, and I do not pretend that I am original with it. In fact, I saw a very similar design in my Googling explorations, and after analyzing the techniques and how I could go about doing this too, I made my own attempt. There were a few mistakes I made along the way, but I let them simply create a new design. It was all about learning something, and that part was a big success. In case you have the itch to create something beautiful to adorn yourself or to gift to others, here is a fabulous site, The Beading Gem's Journal. Here you will find endless info and has helped and inspired me.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

DO I have resolutions?!!!


Do I ever! I always do though. Every year I start with great plans to be more creative, find an outlet for what I am creating, get rid of clutter, be a better person, follow my dreams, make more money, lose a few pounds, etc., etc. Trouble is, I think I got fried during the holidays, and now I just want to sit around like a frog on a log, ...just making a comment now and then. Rib-bit, rib-bit, and rib-bittttt! Being snow and iced in for the past few days, hasn't helped a bit. That's hibernation weather. So, I am going to step out today and get myself juiced again. Juiced in the Susan Sark sense of "living juicy." That's just another way of saying that I want to do and live with passion. If there is a project to be created, I intend to do it passionately. This makes a huge difference in the outcome. Too often, we are pulled into doing things just because we have to, and we simply go through the motions. The results are mediocre. Just think of it all: meals thrown together, or a meal made with passion for flavor and visual beauty. The sight and consumption of the latter makes one feel as if they are very special. It is the same with whatever we do, even if it's just housecleaning. Any creative endeavor made with passion and inspiration is bound to be a work of art. So, this is where I want to be in life, ...making every moment count and lived in a sense of passion. ...Not in abandonment, like the grasshopper who was only living in the moment and never planned ahead, but with purpose and inspiration. So, it is with a sense of greater purpose that I plan to be more passionate than ever with my blog. Why? ...Because I want all of you who stop by to read to feel special!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Raggedy Revisited


The holidays left me feeling just a little drained, and yet the creative urges have had me pacing the floor at times. Nervous energy with no place to go and express itself. Out of desperation for another quick project, I created another raggedy scarf. I love these things because they are perfect for keeping the base of the neck cozy without even being aware of them. This is the one I made to wear with a tan tunic. So easy to put together with leftover jersey scraps and whatever additions you feel the urge to use to spice it up. This time I used a little jewelry making and wire wrapping to hold it together and pretty it up. After making this one, I am now thinking of challenging myself to do a daily creation out of something that I might think was too worthless to bother with. Why? ...Because I have been noticing that there are many very creative and inspiring projects done with what I would consider a throw-away thing. Another bigger reason is that it would really challenge my creative nature and send it to another level.