31 December 2011

Not a lot of blogging in 2011

So I didn't blog much this year.

I have to admit that my reasons for blogging got confused in my head, and I thought I might automatically pick up friends & deeper relationships than ultimately happened.  That was foolish of me, and a good lesson--even if a somewhat sad one--that I need to blog for *me*, not some imaginary audience.  Same with my art.

I did some good things this year that I am pleased with.  Also, I learned some things about myself that I don't like so much but that I need to learn to deal with--mainly, that while I may used to have been organized pre-children and possibly pre-marriage, it ain't that way now!  Facing facts, I realize that I have become very adept at passing time but lost the ability to use it to my advantage.  I have lost the ability to plan because I don't have any confidence that I will actually be able to carry out a plan.  Those days are gone, though, now that my children are older, and I ought to be able to regain that skill.  But as my holiday card making endeavors showed me this season, it is going to take some serious work on my part.

That, I guess, would raise the question, is that work I really want to do?  And the answer is yes.

I *like* doing things.  I like having something to point to that says, this is how I spent my time.  But I have got to learn what I need to do in order to stop just "passing time".

I will think about that more later.  For now I am just going to say to myself that this blog will be a chronicle for me and me alone about what I am working on (or just completed!) and what I thought about the process and the outcome.

This year I started packing a "kit" (really a roller-cart full of just about everything) to take along to my children's taekwondo classes, which can stretch to 2-1/2 hours at a local community center that is just a little too far to drive back home to . . . plus my husband would be there so I wouldn't get anything done anyway :-).  I did a journal spread on found poetry based on something from Quinn McDonald's new book, and it was a lot of fun.  The words were taken from a New Yorker review of a play.

I also found that my favorite thing to do on my holiday cards that I sold this year were the monoprints with alcohol inks on glossy white paper overstamped with trees embossed with marcasite and hematite EPs.  I could do those all day long.

Doing the holiday cards was deeply rewarding, and not only because I got paid for them :-).  I also enjoyed packaging up the orders and including a gift for the customer inside (gift tags, bookmarks) as a thank-you.

At the beginning of December, with some of the money I had already received from the holiday cards and with the help of a fantastic Thanksgiving sale, I was able to purchase a Cinch 2 machine, and I took time out from helping my 7-yr-old daughter with a rainforest diorama to put together a quick book for myself using cardboard packaging that I'd been keeping on hand for just such a purpose.

And as one of my holiday presents, I got to sign up for the online workshop Texture Town, by Julie Prichard and Chris Cozen.  Having already taken Complex Collage and Super Nova Journaling, I know this one is going to be a lot of fun and great inspiration.

But all these ideas floating--rather, flying around madly--in my head mean that I have got to get a plan together about what I want to do and how I am going to accomplish it.  Otherwise the summer will come along and I will have dibbled in this and dabbled in that but not done much of anything.  In some cases that would be okay, but it is no longer what I want.

Being able to say that definitively makes all the difference in the world.

So I am going to list the things I want to do, figure out which times I could do which things (during the day when kids are in school/husband is at work, while waiting during ballet, while waiting during taekwondo, after kids' bedtimes), and then figure out a plan for each.

I do think that knowing what I am going to do when I wake up in the morning is a good idea, because it is hard for me to get stuck in to stuff in the mornings (after getting kids off to school) when I don't have a clearly defined objective, particularly since I am NOT a morning person.  But once I get started, I'm good--getting started is the hard part for sure.

07 August 2011

Creating a thank-you card

I actually just had some fun today instead of pressuring myself to "work" on my projects.

While the kids watched a movie, I got out the Martha Stewart Scoring Board that I have never used and followed the directions to make an A2 card and matching envelope. Both could be made from 8-1/2 by 11 paper, which I think is brilliant.

This was not truly a bad way for me to spend my time because it does give me info for my Xmas cards this year--now I know I can make custom envelopes for my custom cards. It's real hard to sell someone a card when you don't have an envelope to offer with it.

I used natural kraft paper from Archiver's for both the card and the envelope. I had to be careful not to press too hard when scoring, but once I got a feel for it I have to agree it was easier than scoring against a ruler.

Simplicity was my goal for the card, and I decided to make a thank-you for the aunt we stayed with last week. It was going to need some bling but not too much so as not to clash with the look of the kraft paper. I used some golden angelhair from England as a midground panel and cut another panel for the sentiment from some of the scrap. This I embossed with colotBox gold ink and Ranger's Queen's Gold embossing powder, then I used the deco Corner Chompers punch on the corners. Mounted the angelhair with double-sided tape and the sentiment with foam tape.

This was the first of two cards + envelopes I did, and I scored it in the wrong place so that one side was longer than the other. Oops! Rather than cut it off, I decided to decorate it instead so it would add to the card and turn out to be a feature instead of a mistake. I used the Tim Holtz ruler to poke evenly spaced holes, worked out a plan for two different colors of gold seed beads, and sewed them on with gold embroidery thread. Ta da!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

26 July 2011

Finding my way

I find that I can't do much in the summer when the kids are off of school, nor can I do much exploration when at my parents' (I was there nearly a month this time), but I have found time to make some baby steps towards finding out what I have to say rather than frantically absorbing techniques and tutorials and then not knowing how to make them mine.  This has become an intensely personal process of discovery and frankly one that has not been terribly comfortable--but if not now, when--right?  So I have persevered, at a slower pace than I might wish, but a realistic one given the circumstances (children ages 7 and 12).

I am making good progress writing a little something every day.  I found a great--free--app for the iPhone called Momento, and it has allowed me to meet that goal.

I am taking the advice I would give to someone else:  identify my long-term goals (if I even have any--just playing is a perfectly valid choice) and then figure out how to manage my short-term and mid-term time to achieve them.  Using the Weekly Shaper tool has really helped me be realistic about what I can accomplish over the space of a week or two, and I love the way it divides the day into three sections.  Simple but very effective.

Hopefully I will find something that lets me add pics from my iPhone.  When I can do that, without the hassle of hooking my camera up to the computer and transferring images, running them thru Photoshop, importing them into Blogger, I think I will be a lot more likely to blog again.

But I am very clear now about why I am blogging.  It is for me to document what I am accomplishing and what I am trying.  Looking back on entries from months and years ago is beneficial and rewarding.  I am not expecting Followers or commenters or even making friends.  That's nice, of course, but not my expectation.  That way I cannot be disappointed.

05 May 2011

Cracking a Shell

Well, I took off a lot longer than just February from blogging.  Part of me found that it was just something else to do, like a chore, and it took up time (taking pics, uploading them, running them through PSE, etc.) that otherwise I could have spent actually making something or playing with some new medium, and at the time I was not getting enough back from it to make that worthwhile.

Now, however, I think I am at a place that I need to do this again.  And I am not going at it this time with the thought that anyone is ever going to come to my little space and read this stuff.  That just leads to dashed hopes, and there's enough opportunity for that without going looking for it.

This is about my place to figure out what is going on with me and learn to bring myself out into the open again.  These last few months have brought me to the very painful realization that I have allowed myself over the years to retreat so far back that I no longer feel I have the ability, the right, the confidence to make an impression on my world.  Between being married to a strong personality and wishing to avoid confrontations (after losing so many of them), and also not believing that divorce is an option (not for religious reasons, just personal ones), the only way left for me to accommodate the situation was not to express opinions.  Motherhood on top of that--no time to get anything done that took longer than five minutes--leached me of the will to make plans, to make lists, and get things done.  It was too depressing to make lists that never got anything crossed off of them.

So I stopped.  And in doing so, I shut myself down so far that I have no idea who is in there now.  I'm 41 years old but I feel like a child.

Having acknowledged all this, I am treating myself tenderly (except for those few minutes when I despair at the fact that I let this happen at all) and gently.  I am honoring and owning my vulnerability.  I am fighting my tendency to seek others' approval and instead learning to go after my own.

I am Becoming.

21 February 2011

Taking February off from blogging

There has been so much inspiration and thoughts and examples and just plain overwhelming information that I have swum through lately that I decided I'm going to take off this month from blogging.  Not getting any comments on my last post made me realize that I was losing my focus on why I blog, for one thing, and I am also still figuring out what I'm doing this year.

I have made great strides though, by no means is this a bemoaning of losing my way . . . but I need some space to think and not get caught up on the conveyor belt for a little while.  Just the process of taking pictures, uploading them to the computer, running them through a quick edit, uploading to Blogger, then writing the post . . . that takes up all the time I have sometimes.  Right now I need to DO things, and the picture-taking needs to wait a while.

I do miss my blog and putting my thoughts down about what I'm working on and doing.  I think that when I come back in March that I'll be able to focus more on why I'm making the things I do and go a little deeper with my entries, and that is one of my objectives for this year.

27 January 2011

pay it forward~

Through stealing a quick moment to peek at Lisa Wright's blog with the intriguing title of "pay it forward", I was led to this beautiful post at ~serendipity~: pay it forward~.

I decided, what better time to jump right in and play with others? Please leave a comment and repost the entry on your own blog to receive something (I have no idea what but will certainly think of something!) handmade by yours truly.

Have a wonderful day!

25 January 2011

Reorganizing; Fixing a Perfect-Bound Book; Watercolor Journal with Beaded Spine

As mentioned, I turned my stuff upside down last week to put it back together in a new and pleasing way--then I've spent the last week looking for stuff I cleverly put somewhere new and now can't remember where it is.  I'm getting there though (the last ten percent of stuff is always the hardest!) and am very happy with the effort.

Of course I know I'll do this all again next January, but that's okay--it's a valuable reset for me and an excellent opportunity to think about what I want to focus on for at least the next six months (or rather, until the school year ends for the kids) and arrange my stuff in order to best facilitate that.  I get a chance to be reminded of supplies/tools I acquired during the year and to remember things I got longer ago and had forgotten, plus I look at things in new ways every January since I am still learning and discovering so much each year.

I am nearly done with my journal that I keep talking about here but haven't shown any pics of yet because it's just not quite finished.  Yesterday during my kids' taekwondo lesson I messed around with different ideas for the pockets, and I think I've come to some decisions.  Sometimes I feel so paralyzed with what is, I suppose, ultimately a lack of confidence.  I just want to be so sure before I cut anything, but I am learning that even the mistakes or things that just don't work out can always be used in some other fashion, and reminding myself of that helps break through the weight of inertia.

One other thing I started working on this week is fulfillment of an obligation to my son's school.  They contacted me back in October, saying that one of the Harry Potter books in their library had sections coming out of it, and did I think I could do anything about it?  I said I'd be happy to take a look at it but couldn't get to it until after the holidays.  Well, that time is here, so I hauled it out and examined it.  At first I was hopeful as it looked like the pages were sewn signatures, but I soon realized that unfortunately, what I was looking at was a perfect binding.  I got on the internet and confirmed that the HP hardbacks are just that.  Bummer.

Spine after pages had been separated
and most of the perfect binding glue removed
So I looked through all my books that I have on binding, and nearly all of them said to kiss it goodbye as there wasn't anything to be done to rebind a book originally done with perfect binding.  However . . . Manly Banister did offer one method to try, so I am giving it a go.  Basically, you clean up the spine of the pages, glue them together lightly again, then separate into sections and whipstitch them together.  If there's enough space left in the gutter then it might work.  I figure it's worth a shot since the school has no other options, and it's an interesting challenge.  So far I've cleaned up the spine and glued the pages back together in preparation for separating into sections.  Later this week I hope to separate into sections and punch holes for sewing, then on a long day, I'll settle in and do the whipstitching.  I should know by about halfway through if it's going to work--those Harry Potter books got big towards the end.

Spine after trimming off the ragged edges using my
Purple Cows guillotine, four pages at a time
Finally, today I found myself beset by the paralysis described earlier.  I need a journal with 140 lb. watercolor paper in it so I can finally get around to doing the Pam Carriker lessons from the Strathmore site (I don't think anywhere in town sells the Visual Journals, and I'm too cheap to order one online--plus I thought it would be nice to make my own).  At first I thought about doing the longstitched cover described in real life Journals by Gwen Diehn, but that just looked like too much work, and even after poking through my papers I still couldn't find ones I wanted to use for the covers.

A four-signature book made with Strathmore 400 Series
watercolor paper, 140 lb. (finished size 7.5x11")
So I ended up going with the multiple-signature binding described on pages 88-91 of Alisa Golden's Expressive Handmade Books.  I didn't even put a cover on it--the paper is so stiff that I decided it didn't need one, and it's just for me to play in anyway, not for show.  

(Forgot to mention the paper--yesterday I picked up on 40% off sale at Michael's a 12-sheet pad of Strathmore cold press watercolor, 400 series, 140 lb., 11x15".  I cut the sheets off the spiral binding and then trimmed with my guillotine before making 4 signatures of 3 pages each.  Before folding the signatures, I did turn the middle page of each the other way, so that every spread has the same side of the paper rather than one side being rough and the other smoother.)  

I did add some beads along the spine, just because I wanted to.  Very pleased with the result and looking forward to finally doing the lessons now that I have somewhere to glue my cut-out copies! 

Middle section of spine sewing with beads

Top section of spine sewing with beads

18 January 2011

Semi-stalled but still doing things

My time has been very productively spent doing both arty things and practical things--still cleaning up the house and our stuff from the holidays, and reorganizing my supplies to better accommodate all the crap (excuse me, valuable materials!) I've acquired over the last year and to facilitate the things I want to focus on for the next few months . . . book-making and journaling.  So I haven't posted anything because I don't want to take the time to take pics, upload them, edit . . . next thing I know an hour's gone by that I really needed to be doing something else.  But I think this week should see the end of that and I can get back to a more regular schedule.

Part of my problem moving forwards is that I apparently haven't fully committed to a decision about how to  put in the pockets to hold the tags/slips of paper that I jot down my ideas on.  Do I use library pockets with an extra accordion fold to hold plenty of tags?  Or just a little envelope?  And what size tags do I want to use anyway?  I was thinking of making the holders/envelopes out of Graphic 45 paper--am I going to want to do something to more fully incorporate that paper in with the hand-painted papers I used for the book pages?  And if so, what is that going to be?  (I did get some Glimmer Screens and an enormous Tattered Angels dragonfly stamp today with my Archiver's coupons with the thought that might be part of the solution.)  

As you can see, there's plenty whirling around in my head at the moment.  I feel sure that within the next few days, I'll realize what the answer is and get it sorted.  And here I thought sewing the book was going to be the toughest part!

In the meantime, I have gone through all my supplies/materials and reorganized between my public space in the dining room and the overflow space in our utility room; made thank-you cards using my new sewing machine for our English family that we can all sign and send off this week (it's not too late as long as they arrive before the end of January, right??); installed Photoshop Elements 9; done some experimenting with the masks and various sprays that I have; continued to mess around with the 1st workshop of Pam Carriker's through Strathmore online; and generally felt that I am getting my life in order so that I am free to devote some hours to these pursuits without any guilt whatsoever.  It's all good here!

08 January 2011

Creating a Booklet from Blog Entries

This morning I had high hopes for finishing my Book of Lists That Does Not Have Any Actual Lists, but I have a headache (it's cedar season here in Central Texas) and cannot bring myself to poke holes & sew things together.  Instead I have been having a very pleasant, relaxing time visiting others' blogs and seeing what everyone has been up to in the new year.

I haven't posted before now as my dad was here until just three days ago, and I also spent the days when the children went back to school rearranging the house for all our new stuff.  So that was two days spent on my daughter's room, and then a day and a half reorganizing my own play area.  I still have more to do, but the public area is mostly sorted now.

Yesterday I did (finally!) get the chance to indulge myself a bit and made great progress on the aforementioned book.  As per Gwen Diehn's suggestions in real life Journals, my book type is a Coptic-sewn book with an accordion spine.  Because I used 115 lb. acrylic paper (from a Daler-Rowney paper pad) for the pages, I needed something pretty stiff for the accordion, so I used watercolor paper.  The accordion had to be 34" long, so I had to join two pieces of paper together.  I can see it would be less noticeable with lighter paper, but I am all right with how it came out.  Very easy to do.  I sprayed the paper with Zia's custom sprays before scoring, folding, and attaching.  I also made the cover boards using artwork by Isabelle du Toit that was on a Merck calendar given to me by one of my aunties.  (I can't find any examples of the type of paintings included in the calendar to link to, so you'll have to wait until I finish the book and post pics to see!)  Very pleased with the outcome so far and looking forward to finishing it so I can show it . . .

Right, onto the stated subject of this post.  I hosted Christmas dinner this year (my cousin in town had a five-week-old baby--their 3rd daughter, oldest six and second daughter is 2-1/2, so it seemed only fair) for 11 adults and five children.

One of the things I love to do is a tradition of my husband's family--I assume it's an English thing and not just them but I suppose I don't really know.  Anyway, my lovely mother-in-law always has little table presents that she places at our spot, and we get to open them before tucking into the food.  She does it for Xmas Eve, Xmas, and Boxing Day meals, and they are always something like emery boards or a little hair clip.  Naturally, as is my wont, I like to be a little more extravagant than that, so my mom got an Ampersand assortment of panels, my son got a mini light saber with different crystals, etc.  For my cousin's wife, I thought it would be nice to bind her blog entries for 2010 (there were only six, but they were lengthy and full of information about their son, who turned 2 on New Year's Eve) into a pamphlet.

It turned out to be a little more involved than I thought, but I was thrilled with the results.  I found a free program for Word on the Mac that does all the work of paginating, and who knew?  Turns out my printer prints on both sides of the page.  I didn't know it could do that.  I don't even think I know how to make it do it now--the program did it all by itself.

So, that took care of the text block, but I needed a cover and didn't have much time.  I took a sheet of kromekote and stamped a sand castle on the front cover, then added some seashells on the back cover.  Using a lid and a permanent marker, I added a sun behind the castle.  Then I did an alcohol ink background, using colors to make it look like a beachscape:  caramel, terra cotta, and ginger for the sand; shell pink and butterscotch for the castle, sunshine yellow and sunset orange on the sun, and cloudy blue with sailboat blue for the sky.  The inside I scribbled to make it look like a little kid's drawing, and I added a sheet of tracing paper on the outside of the single signature to protect the paper from what I used to scribble with.  The end result was very serviceable, I think, although I'm sure not as nice as what Diane received from her children--but it was free and handmade, so hopefully there's something good to be said for that :-).