Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Birds Sang and Then They Didn't...

Today began with the birds singing and progressed to running into the saddest news in the worst way. Via Facebook, I learned that a friend of mine had a severe stroke. Details emerged on my friend's Facebook page. People posted prayers and requested  updates. One of the most heart-breaking updates was that my friend's condition only became apparent when she did not show up to work. 

People were wishing her a safe passage and explaining that she wasn't able to swallow on her own.

It's too much information and too little information. I want to know more, and I can't bear to know more.

I'm a soft heart. I cry. I ache. I worry about her dogs and who will care for them. I think about how long it's been since I've seen her in person. I think how life works in such a way that time and distance make friends mere blips on the screen. "Keeping in touch" amounts to seeing Facebook updates. I tell myself I don't have the time or money to call people or to visit.

And then things like this happen.

I spent the day alternately crying and laughing. When I began to cry, my husband would play a funny movie.

We went for a walk in the sunshine and knocked a full 3 minutes off our typical route.

We cuddled.

I worked with color and paper and glue.

I made these houses.

I made this postcard with the scraps.

And I finished this week's DLP layout, whose prompt happened to be writing to a friend. I rarely write on my stuff, but this week the words poured out.

Friday, January 23, 2015

How a Happy Mail Round Robin Works

I'm participating in a Happy Mail Round Robin. I received the package yesterday.
 This letter came with the package and explained the content requirements. Basically, I can take some or all of the envelope contents, but I must replace what I take.
 Unfortunately, I wasn't really sure what was what....
 I selected these items.
 I also chose these items.
 I ended up putting in way more than I took, but I tried to keep things in the same category.
 I also included these things.
And these...

And these!

I will mail it off to another person tomorrow. It will arrive in the mailboxes of 7 more people before it makes its way to the originator--the woman who came up with the idea.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Busy Hands Are Happy Hands

Sometimes I just don't have it in me to create something. Yet I feel unbalanced if I'm not doing something creative. During those times, I engage in maintenance-type activities. I do things with materials and supplies that will later make it easier to create something when I'm feeling more up to snuff.
 In the last few days, I cut out vintage images and recycled the magazines they came in. This reduces clutter and makes it easier to sort through types of images. Thus, rather than flipping through dozens of magazines to find the right image, I can look through smaller pools of data until I find a beautiful lady or a mother image or a little girl with a dog.

I got these out of a magazine called Nostalgia. Most of the issues are from the 1970's. The pages are yellowing. The pages of the magazine aren't the slick texture of most magazines. They're more....cardboard-y...more like children's construction paper. I'm not sure if, in their raw state, they'll survive several more decades, so I am scanning the images. With this pile alone, I have scanned 60+ pages. I can now print them out on acid-free paper or take them to a copy center, so I can do photo transfers with them.

I also have amassed strips of watercolor paper. I can't throw them away. So I spent an evening coloring them. I'll distribute them into my color-coded storage system for scraps. The white and boring scraps assume a new identity this way. They suggest a project. I might sew on them or print words on them or stamp images on top. They have new life.

What do you do to wrangle your ephemera and scraps?

Friday, January 16, 2015

"Arty" Time

Occasionally, I feel guilty about taking a "gift" from a business only to repurpose it. I understand the business is offering magnets and calendars in order to advertise, and when I deface those things, it's defeating the company's purpose.

In all fairness, however, I don't need the company's address, phone number and e-mail. It's 2015, and it's easy enough to look up that information using my cell phone. Some day these bits and pieces will be obsolete. Businesses will realize they're wasting money. When that happens, I'll be a bit sad. 

I often go to Postal Annex for help with color copies. It's not a DIY kind of place. It's not me fiddling around with settings and making a million copies before I get what I want. Instead, the owner and handful of employees take the time to do the job for me. They even color correct. And I feel good for working with local businesses that likely struggle to compete with places like Staples or Kinkos or Office Depot, etc.

Around Christmas, Postal Annex began giving out these calendar magnets.  Yesterday, I altered one. I began by peeling the shiny paper away from the backing. Adhering papers to a glossy surface is an invitation to disaster. 

I'm participating in a time/clock-themed swap. I've gathered a number of interesting papers and tidbits for my partner's package, but I wanted to add some things I made. I cobbled this character's body out of random bits and pieces. I stamped the edges with a hand-carved arrow stamp, which echoes her angular body parts. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sending My "Imaginary" Friends Mail

I'll admit, I have more imaginary friends than I do friends in real life (IRL). If one were to count my Facebook friends, I would look like the most extroverted person in the world. Of course, we all know that we need the IRL people--the ones capable of hugs or doing lunch. We need them to come to parties (or host them). We need them to help us move. Obviously, the effect of those IRLs is much deeper and many more blog words than that.

But the truth is, I also really need the ones I've met via Facebook and various online art groups. I need the artists I've "friended" so that their art could feed my soul on a daily basis. I need to carry on conversations about techniques and supplies. I need to share my artistic successes and failures. And frankly, my IRL friends aren't interested. 

One such person I've "met" is Nancy Gene Armstrong. I'm a bit of a fan girl. I love everything about Nancy's work. She belongs to that group of artists who love vintage and its textures: the old black and white photos, the book papers, the sewing notions and various ephemera. She also knows the value of white space.

Nancy recently expressed interested in receiving some art mail. She tossed it out to her virtual friends. I raised my virtual hand as high as it would go and squealed, "Me! Meeeeeee!"

She said sure, and she sent me this: 
It came looking like any other letter, but when I opened it, it waterfall-ed down to my shins. It's long and lovely accordion-fold art. I love it and can't wait to hang it.

Meanwhile, I had been working on my own offering. I like to work on several things at once. Lately, I've been working within a particular color scheme, just to keep things cohesive. I chose copper, white, black, kraft, and any nearby shades.

This measures 8 1/2" x 11." I didn't send her the original, but I scanned it and created and envelope out of it.
 While working on larger projects, inevitably I find myself using scraps to make ATCs (Artist Trading Cards). These will be sent to another lady with whom I'm in a "Tick-Tock" ATC swap. [Side note: The moment I wrote that sentence, I had an 80s-90's moment and thought of the Color Me Bad Song...Remember? Anyone? Anyone? Never mind...It's a naughty song anyway.]
 I ended up making Nancy 4 postcards. Sadly, I was silly and got excited and sealed them up in their package before I took individual photos of the postcards, but I did scan them for future use. So you see the swank lady postcard and the butterfly postcard below her.
 Again, here's a second scan. Ignore the two ATCs you've already seen. Here are the other two postcards I sent Nancy. The top one with the star and the other featuring sewing imagery.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Truth About Cats, Dogs, and Gum Wrappers

Ever happened upon a McGuffey's Eclectic Primer at an antique or thrift store? These come in sets, with each book geared to a particular age/grade. Reproductions are available now pretty cheaply. The copyright on mine says original copyright dates were 1881, 1896, and 1909. Curiously, the reproduction has no copyright date. These books have lots of Godly lessons, but I'm not really interested in those. However, I am interested in nods to rural and natural settings. Likewise, these book have some of the best cat and dog images I've seen. 

Not long ago, I joined a cat swap and dog swap. I neglected to take photos of the dog project I sent out, but I did want to share what I sent out for the cat swap.

 This is an 8 1/2" x 11" collage. The cat comes from McGuffey's Eclectic Primer. Among other things, the collage features a Gelli print, clock imagery from magazines, tissue paper from a dress pattern, and lots of signifiers of time. I'm also currently obsessed with embossing and cutouts made by machines that are way too expensive for me to ever have. Instead, I trade "happy mail" with my swap groups and always request the die cuts. Here you see the diamond /fence-type shape, the days of the week, and the leaves.

I always like to send bits of related ephemera along with the art I send, so this is the cat package I sent along with the collage. As you can see, I'm a fan of vintage images, and most of these come from McGuffey's.

 I also sent off another package today, but the art I sent out is sort of a secret right now. Instead, I thought I'd share the cute little packaging I made for the tiny art. This is started life as a gum package. I took it apart and covered it with washi tape and black vinyl adhesive.
 Here's the inside.

Here's the final little package. I couldn't figure out how to secure the flap, so I took the easy way out and simply tied some black and white floss around it. Now that I've mailed it, I can see that I could have done a button closure or even a velcro closure. Oh well! Next time!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Remember to Floss Daily

I tried a new form of book binding today. It's not an original idea. I think I watched a video awhile back by  Internet sensation, Jennibellie.  My creative process often works in delay mode. I'll see something on Pinterest or watch a Youtube video, and then months and sometimes years later, I'll apply what I learned to a project I need to get done. 

So today, after I added a packet of cocoa to my coffee, I looked at the box and thought how perfect it would be for creating a book.
 I began by cutting the flaps from the top of the box. Then cut down the seams on both sides and removing the side panels. At that point, only the bottom seam and the largest panels were left--basically a book shape.
 Next, I determined how many signatures I wanted. Signatures are inside pages. I think I had some oddball number like 16. You use as many signatures as will loosely fill the spine. The photo above shows the testing for how much space my signatures would take up. at that point, I also cut notches on the top and bottom of the spine.
 Then I covered the outside with canvas. In this case, I had some Ranger self-adhesive canvas I'd been hoarding. It comes in 8 1/2" x 11" sheets, with 5 sheets per package. I used 2 sheets.
 I wanted to make sure the spine was pretty strong, so I reinforced it with a bit of duct tape. I wish I had a more discreet color of duct tape, but all I had on hand was purple...
 Next, I added cardboard shapes to the outside of the cover. I then brushed on a coat of gesso.
 After that, I went to town. I painted several different shades of metallic gold over the shapes. I dry brushed black over the pieces to make them stand out. Finally, I used white, black, and gold pens to create patterns on the shapes.

Next I attached the signatures to the binding. This involved driving to the dollar store to buy some waxed floss, as I could not find my book binding linen anywhere. The strands of floss are tied outside the spine. 

Finally, I spruced up the floss by tying in assorted ribbons and fibers in the color scheme.

If you aren't a fan of the fibers, I can see modifying this binding by tying the floss (or book binding linen) to a sort of false spine and then gluing the false spine inside a book you've recycled. I've got many, many book covers waiting for this sort of treatment, and I intend to experiment.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

In Search of a Single Butterfly...

I joined an ATC swap with a butterfly theme, and as per usual, I can't seem to make just one. I basically grabbed the box of red scraps and went to town. The result is 11 ATCs, some that have nothing to do with butterflies. I will give my swap partner her choice and then offer the remainder to the other people in my group.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Embracing The Winter Palette

Winter has a way of bleaching what it touches. If I look out my window today, I see a pale palette: the white of snow, the straw colored vegetation, the gray of tire marks and what little cement I can see. It seemed perfect, then, that the first challenge for DLP (Documented Life Project) was to create a neutral background.

This "technique" isn't new to me. Heck, it's not new to any of the collage artists I admire most.

In fact, it's the basis of most of my work. I've long been a fan of using old books in my work. I'm also a fan of the variation in color. Book pages aren't white. They're ivory, beige, tan, ecru, and endless other shades.

I often make these sorts of backgrounds, only to cut them up into smaller pieces for use as card fronts or ATCs.

While fascinated by the process, I think I will hold off on the other part of the challenge, which is to cover over these backgrounds with gesso, paint, etc.

Instead, I think I'm going to continue with the meditation. That is, after all, what this was for me. Limiting the palette and stripping away content--the need for a focal point--allowed me to focus on texture, pattern, and simply organization. It allowed me to revel, for a moment, in the bits and pieces that I save. 

These are 8 1/2" x 11", but I think I'm going to apply the winter palette to some larger canvases to see what emerges.