Thursday, December 28, 2006

Colour Me Happy

This is a pocket I created for Shakti's color Me Happy journal. Instead of sending a completed journal around, she sent all participants a pre-cut pocket to work with.

The background for my pocket is done in watercolour crayon (Caran D'Ache Neocolour), which I scribbled on then "painted" and fixed with baby wipes. I love this technique. It'S so simple. but the colors are stunning and you can achieve lots of gradients and effects with next to no effort. Over that I stuck scraps of lampmaking fleece left over from another project.

I then punched some holes around the edge of the pocket and sewed on eyelash yarn and big, bright leafy sequins.

My leftover box contained a few sentiments from a paper pad, so I painted over some cards and stuck them on before popping then into the pocket, so it wouldn't seem so bare.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

So Long Since Summer

A while back, a friend (Ursel) from Berlin visited her mother, who lives in a village not far from here. While she was up north, she dropped in for a couple of hours one evening and, among other things, told me about her summer holiday and events she'd experienced. She had a sheaf of photos to document it all, too, but no album in which to stick them.

Well... as you can guess, that's a state of affairs it takes next to no time at all to change. While she was here, she admired a little envelope journal and a tag booklet, and as I know here tastes and color preferences quite well, it was easy to create something similar that will be to her taste.

Ursel has been on dutiful daughter detail over Christmas, so I think she deserves a little something to remind her of more abandoned days of summer long gone. I'll be popping her journal in the mail tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Altered Tin

Shakti recently hosted an altered tin swap. Each of us received two tins, one of which is to be altered and sent to a swap partner. This is the tin that will be on its way to Pascale later today.

I sanded the tin and painted on black gesso, inside and out. I was really pleased when I discovered black gesso in a store in Rendsburg, but it transpired that the brand (Bob Ross) is too runny for my purposes. It's probably wonderful for priming canvas, which is what the manufacturer had in mind, of course, but too thin for creating textures. Luckily I was in Hamburg at the end of November and picked up a super special offer on some Lascaux, my absolute favorite gesso.

Once the tin was dry, I glued a plastic doily to the outside lid and applied Dark Gold Rub n' Buff all over the exterior.

I collaged pictures, papers, and found objects into the tine and painted the left side over with a wash of fine glitter paint. As a final touch, I added a slim accordion journal.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Blank Albums

With Christmas approaching, I've been making lots of little accordion fold blank journals/photo albums -- so called "exploding books". As as it turns out, they are in demand. This year I made some in a larger (approximately six-inch) format, as well as the smaller (four-inch) size, and I can barely keep up with requests. I had to make a couple of quick and dirty album/scrapbook examples, as scrapbooking is not widely known or popular here, but when people saw what they could do, they were interested. Here are a couple of blank six-inch albums. The great thing is that the cover paper is from a luxury brand wallpaper pattern book, so it cost me nothing.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Book of Me

This is a little blank journal I made for Diane in New York.I hope she'll find a reason to write in it.

There is nothing particularly arty about the journal -- onthe contrary. I'm easing myself into the habit of usingscraps of paper and other materials rather than hoardingthem for some possible future project. One of the best waysfor me to do that seems to be to create journals for people.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Crone Journal

This is a spread I completed in Lee's Crone Journal. The spread plays on forms of trinity. Among other things, the maiden looks out from within the heart of the mother. The mother is represented by a torso with a red sash tied at the waist--a widespread wedding custom in many cultures--and tiny red roses. The maiden appears to possess no body of her own, and the mother's body seems both to stand out and to be incomplete. The scraps of sewing pattern and the rich fabric and bead border reinforce the idea of body and dress.

Click to enlarge.

The black and white crone at the bottom right seems to be leaving the page. The pop-up in the center of the page opens to reveal crone wisdoms watched over by angelic figures -- messengers from a different dimension.

Monday, November 20, 2006


While working on the Sacred Space spread, I felt an overwhelming need to create a mermaid. The mermaid will be integrated into another of my works in progress, which--and this will probably not amaze you in the least--is a tower shrine.

There exists a lot of folklore about mermaids, some of it positive, some less so. Much of the folklore speaks of mermaids as innocents led by love to a mortal to leave their home and live outside their element. I could tell you a story that spans decades, no, aeons, and involves two people and a long journey and a ruined church tower, but I think you'll get my drift, even without the details.

Sacred Space

This is a spread I completed in Jill's "Sacred Spaces" travelling journal. The photo shows the ruined tower of St. Helen's Old Church on the Isle of Wight. When I was a girl, the tower was still open to the elements. I used to climb up the inside of the wall to sit on a window ledge on the sea-side of the tower and either read or gaze out across the water. So this particular space was "sacred" both by design and by usage.

As always, click to enlarge the image.

The tower has since been stabilised and closed off and integrated into a "new and improved" seafront. It no longer looks as wild and inviting as it once did, but then again, I'm no longer there, so it doesn't need to, does it?

The colors and journaling style reflect the early teenage me who used to clamber up walls, cliffs, trees, and more or less anything else that offered three-point contact hand- and footholds.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Spirit House

One of the women I art with (Claire) has the following quotation on her blog: "There is an Indian proverb that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, an emotional, a mental, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but unless we go into every room everyday, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person." (Rumer Godden, 1907 - 1998) This quotation prompted the October "Spirit House" challenge.

Here are two of the facets of the Spirit House I made for Jill. Spirit is on the upper left and body on the right. (Remember, you can click on any image to enlarge it.)

Claire's blog

Friday, November 03, 2006

Vintage Ladies

This is one of the spreads I made in a travelling journal (in the group of the same name). This particular journal belongs to Sab (Germany) and is called "Vintage Ladies".

Travelling Journals Yahoogroup

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Quest - Slide Frame Box

I'm still trying out (craft) projects that use slide frames, and this is one of the latest. The box is recycled. It originally held thin chocolate slices. (If you're in Germany: Penny Markt - "Karina" Hauchduenne Taefelchen. For around 70 cents you get a boxful of it's-not-Lindt-but-it's not-bad-either soul food plus some useful material.)

I covered the box sleeve with a layer of newsprint followed by a second layer of plain white tissue. I tend to leave the ridges and crinkles in, as they add a little bit of texture. I then painted half of the box with a gold wash and the other half with a bronze wash. When it was dry, I dry brushed the ridges with the contrasting metallic (gold on bronze and bronze on gold). The degree of effect that creates varies, depending in the height an density of the ridges. In this case the ridges are low and widely spaced, so the effect is subtle.

The marbling on the frames was done with Ranger Alcohol Inks and blending solution. The letters on the sleeve are from a child's game, and the images on the inside are Zetti images printed in transparency sheet. You could use photos instead, of course, and you could add a little handmade journal to the box along with, or instead of, the pictures.

The paper on the inside of the tray is by Basic Gray. The card from which the tray is made is fairly glossy, so I decided to dab Ranger Ink onto that, too, and was impressed with the outcome.

These boxes can be quickly and easily made. I'll probably make a few as Christmas gifts. Other than that I'll be more likely to make artified versions, of course, with lots of stuff stuck on, like bits of wooden or metal rulers, beads and wire, game pieces as turrets, and so forth. I think this project would be a lovely project for a relaxed afternoon arty party with friends. Even kids could do this successfully.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Our Lady of Departing Sorrows

The body of this doll is an overdimensional slide frame. I printed out a transparency (an architectural drawing of a renaissance cathedral) and stuck it in the frame. Only the foundation was still visible after I finished adding the rest of the elements. Strangely (do I hear laughter?) the elements had all gathered around the table over a period of weeks and months: the bloom, the lily, the lilac colored wire for the spiral, even the face. To friends of signs and imagery, the doll speaks volumes.

I suppose you could say the doll comes with a subtitle of something like "paper revelations". There were/are a few things heavy on my mind as I made her, and she shows them to me. That's what I love about doing art angelix (I mean the act, not just the name of the blog): things manifest, and the lady speaks.

Just yesterday, as it happens, I was watching a children's TV programme in which the presenters explained that up until the renaissance, most people understood the language of symbols (because, of course, few could read). I remember this from India, too. Hmmm... This month I received an invitation to stay with a friend in Madras. I have a little bit of a hunger for temples statues that speak (don't take everything western-style literally, especially in connection with India) a winter in India and idlis with green sauce for breakfast... for a riot of color (ok, and beggars and squalor and...) . I shan't go, of course, but what a thought it is. I've not felt the pull of that in years.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Birthday Message and Honours List

Birthdays are supposed to be great days for opening up and taking risks. So,just for today, I'd like you to think of me and my life as an artwork in progress (so it fits my blog, theme-wise). What you are about to read is a little progress report I'd like to share with you all. Let's start:

Some of you know, and some didn't until now, but today -- October 24th -- is my birthday, so I'm going to enjoy the luxury of a little bit of plain talk and a touch of fun. (Only a "little bit", because I'm English, and we don't do things to excess, you see.) I'm too quiet as it is, and I spend way too much time alone, so it's more than ok for me to say what I think once in a while. This is it!

Interim results

First off, today is NOT the big five-oh: it's the four-nine, as in seven times seven, an important number in many religious and spiritual traditions. It's said that a 49th birthday marks the end of a complete life cycle (seven times seven, or a complete journey through the chakras) and the entry into a new one. Well... if that's the case I'm all for it. A new life sounds like just what I've been needing, or at the very least a decent altering job on this one. Yes indeed. On a scale from one (sadly wanting) to ten (fantastic), and taking the (too) few highs and (way too) many lows and losses into account, the old one rates below five. That's sad (that's an example of typically English understatement).

Pimp my life

So, for my birthday, between this one and the next, I want a new life. Well... maybe we shouldn't get overly radical--let's say I want some help to pimp this one. But I can't do it alone, folks. Everyone has always thought Susan could do everything on her own and then fix their stuff too. If only they knew what Susan thinks about that... Well, this time it's everyone else's turn. I'm going to say what I want and the Universe and its helpers can start delivering right away. A lot of the new has to do with people, so let's start with them.

I have, if you like, a few job spaces open in my life. Here they are. The order of presentation is not significant.:

- One (or more) "every girl should have one" best friend(s): male, intelligent, educated, well-mannered, may be gay (has many advantages), should be able to cook, all else negotiable.

- One (or more) "every Artangel should have one" playmate(s) for face-to-face arty parties, Bollywood nights, girl talk, swapping books, setting the world right, and so forth. Ideally, at least one should be English. (You may not be aware how hard it is to be a foreigner all the time and to constantly have to explain everything or risk being culturally misunderstood... ESPECIALLY because I speak the language and look like everyone else.)

- One (only) life partner (used is fine): male, intelligent, educated, well-mannered, openly caring, ABSOLUTELY NOT gay, more or less functional on all levels. Should be able to cook (alone or together), talk (with me, not at me), read (owns more than one book), discuss politics, history, religion, computers, you name it... The lyrics at the end of this link provide a very (very) basic description of what I have in mind. Change "she" to "he" as you read, of course. Let's get together and talk about the rest. (And when you find out what you're getting...)

Try this lovely quotation for orientation, too: The mind I love must have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in the heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two, a pool that nobody's fathomed the depth of, and paths threaded with flowers planted by the mind. (Katherine Mansfield)

Got the direction? Good...

- One dog: large, friendly, intelligent, well-behaved, affectionate (order negotiable). Must love long walks in natural surroundings and... me, of course. Tip: the dog might currently be living with one of the above.
There is more, but I won't get greedy. Now to the other changes I want. I want:

- A good, decent job, as in one that gives me the scope and freedom to use my interests, experience, and qualifications and in doing so provide others with useful skills, knowledge, and some enjoyment, too. I'm actively working on this, and I have a proposal ready to roll next Tuesday. Pray that it works out. I have a plan B, too (and a B/1, B/2, etc.), but plan A is best. If the Universe has something better up its sleeve (which is what the positive thinking brigade always claims), it should manifest it now, thank you very much. I've run out of patience.

Contrary to common wisdom, love and creativity do not flourish in adversity, financial or otherwise. I want to earn enough money for me (and my life partner -- see above and my/our family) to be able to live comfortably. My/our lifestyle does not need to be ostentatious, but it should be free of existential anxiety. I want to experience deep job satisfaction -- including sufficient money to live from and some to spare -- that flows into all areas of my life and enriches it for all involved.

- A house... preferably free-standing... preferably out in the country. I'm sick of living in flats (apartments). I'm fed up of listening to neighbours fighting or, or ... , or playing Rammstein and co. at a volume designed to wake the dead. I'm beginning to understand why normal people can run amok and smash things to bits.

- I want a garden, because I have a deep need to plant some things that will grow. It has nothing to do with money. I want to grow a few vegetables for the taste and so I can surprise children with spaghetti squash, start-to-finish pumpkin soup, and fresh raspberries. And I want to grow flowers, because they are good for the senses and for the soul. (My partner will understand completely when I use words like "soul" and say things like this.)

Ok. That's enough for now. Onward to the rest of the fun.

Artangel's Birthday Honours List

Every year, as part of her birthday celebrations, the Queen of England compiles an honours list to acknowledge various people's works. As part of my personal ongoing Eccentricity Development Project (EDP), I've decided I shall do the same. So here we go (sometimes with pictures!):

The Postman - The Daily Friendliness Award

Just in case you haven't heard the postman story , here it is: Until February this year I lived in Berlin, which, like most big cities is loud, aggressive, and anonymous. For example, I bought my bread at the same small bakery for ten years, but if they acknowledge my presence at all, the salesgirls still looked at me as if they'd never seen me before. Imagine my surprise, then, when I finally escaped from hell (Berlin), moved here, and on day two the postman greeted me by name as we passed each other on the stairs.

My postie cracks me up when he comes to the door to hand me my packages. He presents them to me: first he tells me which country they come from (German senders are almost always bills and other boring... with exceptions, of course), and then he tells me who the sender is, and only then does he hand them over. From time to time I tell him what's in the packages, or I show him something that arrived on an earlier occasion. He likes that. In the meantime, many of the ladies who send me mail have taken to decorating the packages and envelopes beautifully, not for my pleasure, but so the postman has something nice to look at.

Dirk - The Enduring Hobby Award

I picked up this (purely platonic) little hobby a few years ago when we were still in multimedia and doing what we thought we'd be doing for years to come and earning good money by doing so. How wrong can you get?

These days Dirk lives about as far away from civilisation as you can get without falling off the map. He shares his life with a small flock of Indian runner ducks. The ducks have names. Dirk could almost be considered eccentrically English on this point. (That was a compliment, Dirk.) His current life ambition is to own a gardening empire.

We don't see each other very often (and not at all since February), but when we do, he's a wonderful companion for "normal" things like walking a borrowed dog and cooking together and eating good ice cream.

Fred - The Good Neighbour Award

Fred is my neighbour. He's the kind of neighbour everyone should have: friendly, helpful, and knows where you need to go or who you need to speak to if you need to ... (add whatever).

He also has "sources", not the least of which is the one that occasionally provides us all with piles of fresh fruit, most of which is organic. Imagine: no money to speak of, but we all eat the best fruit available. Sometimes the fruit comes in daunting quantities, so I started making jam again for the first time in about twenty years. I've been having great fun doing it and am getting quite adventurous now, branching out into marmalade and chutney. I give most of the goodies to family and neighbours, so everyone wins.

Kimberley - The Cool Companion Award

Ladies: get yourselves an eight-year-old granddaughter each; they have to be the coolest thing since computers. Eight is a wonderful age: they can ride bikes for miles (with grandma) and do interesting art projects with a fair degree of skill (she's busy making a paper doll with her own face on it as I write this), dress up in a real sari and dance along to Bollywood films (like grandma), watch TV till midnight (with grandma) and read a while before putting out the light (she's a bookaholic, like...). At eight, they're still convinced they can do and be anything they could ever want to be. Wouldn't it be wonderful if they could hold onto that feeling forever... Best of all, they are genuinely thankful to know that not all adults are boring (like their parents and teachers).

Diane - The Hands Across the World Award

If you follow my Bicycle Bliss blog you'll know I keep it mainly for Diane. Diane and I have known each other for quite a number of years now. She's been my friend and confidante through ups and downs, including the death of my soul companion four years ago. Having had someone one like that in her own life, she knew what it meant.

On a more mundane note, Diane finds the coolest websites and shares them with me. She delights me with details of her visits to various places, shops, and museums. I photographed the wrapped up Reichstag a few years ago. Last year Diane photographed Christo's Gates for me and sent me a swatch of the orange fabric from which the flags were made. If you ever want to go to New York, let me know, and I'll ask Diane to tell you useful things, like where to eat real Chinese in Chinatown for a couple of dollars, or when the best street art markets are, or other things you'll want to know.

I can think of a lot of things I'd like to do together with Diane, but most of all I wish we could don flowing skirts and extravagant hats decorated with fruit and feathers and net veils and ride the carousel in Central Park. What a wonderful sight we would be....

Diane also sends me books she's read. I've just finished reading "The Secret Life of Bees", by Sue Monk Kidd, which she sent this summer. It's going to be my personal book of the year. It was so, so beautiful. There were places and images in the book that took my breath away.

Michael K. and kids - The Thank You For Making Me Smile Award

This award almost ended up being addressed to "the man without a name". As luck would have it, I learned yesterday that his name is Michael. He also comes with a side act of two little boys, one of whom will probably grow up to be a journalist or quizmaster. Anyway...

Some people don't know the good they do, but they should. A few weeks ago I encountered Michael (I'm choosing my words: we encountered each other, but we don't know each other), and he's someone I think is amazing. I know three and a half things about him, and each of them makes the fact that he does what he does and that he makes people feel good, or at least better--and that he can make ME smile--more and more amazing. Thank you.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dollmakers: The Next Generation

This is Britney Superstar, created by my granddaughter Kimberley (8). She's caught the paper doll bug. In fact, she spent around three solid hours this afternoon making the doll and sewing various clothes for her, mostly by herself.

Here is a photo of the artist at work. I think you can see the flow.

As you can also see, the artist and the model are one and the same person.

She took my "Wild Girl" doll as a model and worked from that. She figured out most of the steps herself and only had me running around at the start to help her find the tools and materials she needed. She's already planning her next project: a mermaid doll based on the one Maria sent me as part of the Secret Self challenge.

Kimberley also took the doll photo herself.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sidney the Tattooed Skeleton

This is Sidney. Rather, it was Sidney. Well, to be precise, it was part of him.

Sidney and I met the other day when I was in the euro (dollar) store. He was, as I discovered, hiding out in a barrel of Halloween stuff. Walking down the aisles I heard a little voice whisper "help". (It's unbelievably hard to shout when you don't have vocal chords, or any of the other paraphernalia you need in order to speak up.) I looked around, and then I heard it again: "Help me!"

All I could see was a skeleton hand gripping the rim of a bargain bin. Bravely, I dug down and uncovered Sad-Eyed Sidney... all 150 centimetres of him. He looked decidedly lost, dejected, and cold, which was not surprising, as he was, as skeletons are wont to be, stark naked.

"Take me away from here," he pleaded. And since his price tag was only 20 cents, I did. Actually, I took his brother, too, but that's another story.

As carefully as I could, I packed him into my bicycle basket and carried him home. That evening I sat him at one end of my sofa, and we had a little heart to heart. Ummmm... ok, we had a little heart to where a heart would normally have been. It quickly became clear that Sidney was totally depressed, so I decided the only thing I could do was try to bring a little color back to his life. I slaved away with gel pens for two evenings.

As you can see, it worked. Sidney now looks decidedly brighter. He's changed his name from Sad-Eyed Sidney to Sidney the Tattooed Skeleton and is now contemplating a new career as part of a travelling circus. He's thrilled to bits! (I'll fix that in a day or two with the help of a few grommets.)

Just in case you're wondering, Sidney's brother, Boney Brian, now lives with my 8-year-old granddaughter. She thinks he's scary, but guess where she's hung him? At the end of her bed -- that's where. Go and work that one out....

Completed Doodle

As promised, here is the completed doodle.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Playing With Pyramids

I worked hard yesterday, so I had to take some time out to play hard, too. I wound up arting around on stuff I'm doing for a craft site. And before you all go into shock... it's a means to an end. I'm trying out concrete ways to ease people into altered art via more craft-based ideas. My testers found it easier to start out with items that seemed to have a traditional use of some kind.

Anyway... I like pyramids, so I played with this idea, which can be scaled up or down size-wise and used as an ornament (think Xmas) or a gift box, or, if you see things through my eyes or those of the ladies I play with, a journal or journal box, or home for an art doll, or ... You tell me!

Tomorrow you get to see the completed version of yesterday's doodle. I'll also introduce you to my friend Sidney.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Shakti, Shakti... What have you started? Yesterday afternoon I cycled up to the el cheapo (euro/dollar store) and bought a pack of gel pens. Twenty-five for a euro, half of them glittery. I was actually amazed that they all seem to work. Anyway... This is the doodle I started last night while CSI (blasted repeats, of course!) was keeping me -- ahem -- entertained. I thought I'd get in a little bit of practice (and fill a page in my journal) in readiness for the doodle art project, and what happened? Go on, guess? Flow happened. Hours and hours of flow. It happens often anyway, but this was something else. I'll probably finish this tonight, because the TV program is even worse than yesterday's.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Slide Frame Journal

This basic form of this little journal couldn't be simpler to make: A couple of slide frames, acrylic paints, cardstock pages, plus fibres and embellishments to suit.

I used plastic slide frames for this, but paper ones would work fine, too.

It's a quick and easy project that would make a wonderful take-along gift for a friend.

Fill it with collage or ephemera, or stick in small photos or parts of photos, or use it as a party guest book, or...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Green Lady

I can hardly believe it's been so long since I last posted a photo! I've been incredibly busy... and yes, part of what I've been busy doing is making art. I promise to upload more this week.

A couple of weeks back I agreed to take part in a materials challenge offered by Maria in the Altered Art Europe group. The outcomes will eventually be posted as gallery examples on Maria's craft supplies website. The Green Lady is one of the objects I created sign materials sent to me by Maria.

This is the Green Lady. As you can see, she's another of my matchbox altar dolls. My main focus is this challenge is on objects that use slide frames (big scrapbooking thing at the moment). Of course, I don't normally do scrapbooking or use many scrapbook materials, except when making albums for family and friends, but this IS a challenge... The Green Lady box could easily house a small album, along with the torso doll.

The matchbox is larger than standard. It's 8 x 5,5 x 3 cm, which is a nice size and depth to hold quite a bit of stuff or a bulky gift.

I painted the box gold (acrylic), inside and out, then collaged on a scrap of gorgeous green and gold paisley-patterned mulberry paper. Then I dabbed two shades of green onto the slide frame. Later I stamped on the last of the ink off a stamp. As a result the frame looks marbled. A scrap of bodhi leaf on one side adds interest, too. I attached the paper rose by winding the wire stem around the slide frame. I couldn't be any easier, could it? The ribbon scrap is simply threaded through the loops and tied in a loose knot.

Inside I did the usual torso covered in bodhi leaf then painted gold. The poppy seed head is one of the many I gathered this summer. I wound a little paper covered wire into a spiral and tucked the poppy stem inside. It looks like a sceptre. I also like the contrast between the green as a symbol of growth, the white rose as a symbol of purity and beauty and the dried poppy seed head as a symbol of death (and other altered states of existence) and the promise of renewal.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Artangel Friday

The AlteredArtsEurope group is in the process of completing a "Trash to Treasure" swap. Most of the swappers have already received their booty. Mine arrived the other day, and I've been playing with it, adding bits and pieces to some of my little works in progress and allowing myself to be inspired by the materials to create new objects.

This was a playful little doll I made today, just because... It's an Artangel, and the scraps I used from my treasure box were the star punchinella on the halo, a scrap of fabric on the dress, and a piece of skeleton leaf.

Click the image to see a larger version.

It really is true that one artist's project leftovers (the trash) are another person's treasure. We all have access to different things, and by swapping we help each other try out new stuff we might not have been able to find or wouldn't have thought of using.

All you need to do is find at least one swap partner. Each swapper takes a shoe box and cuts a narrow slit in the lid. The idea is that you can slip stuff into the box but can't pull it out again. The lid is then taped shut. Over a period of time, the boxes fill with project leftovers (and usually also the occasional RAK). The boxes are swapped out after the agreed period. You don't miss the scraps, because you'd either have thrown them away or hidden them in a drawer in any case. They haven't' cost you loads of money. You don't have to give away good stuff from your stash. You give what you probably wouldn't use again.

The usual reaction when a box arrives is the kind of joy people say they last experienced as kids at Christmas. I know I tend to find just the right scrap for...

Secret Heart Poem Doll

Challenge materials sent to me a while back included poem pages from Brian Andreas' book "Still Mostly True". I used one of the poems (Secret Heart) in the making of this doll.

Secret Heart picks up a truism we've probably all had tossed our way at some point, about the secret being in your heart and not in your eye. (St. Exupery packaged it best of all in "The Little Prince".) I collaged the poem onto the dolls' body.

Click on the images to see larger versions.

The doll gazes off into the distance. Both her faraway gaze and the space between her head and heart are intentional and underline the schism many people experience between the desire for personal authenticity and the need to bow to outward demands.

The arms and legs are covered in sheet music and vintage book text. As well as being among my favorite materials, they also help express another truism: that each of us is composed of words and music (and art and emotions and desires) that define who we are but that we can't always show, or are not always seen. Another truism? The safest place to hide something can be in full view. People rarely look at each other to see who is "at home" in a body, and they don't expect the truth to be visible.

Contemplating the doll made me wonder what would happen if we were to write our thoughts on our skin or on our clothing -- if we were to use our bodies as a changing canvas, which we do in ways, of course, but not as intentionally as I mean it. Maybe we should create a day to do just that (but for heavens sake, don't tell Hallmark).

Brian Andreas - Story People

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Spiritual Warrior

This doll is for the AlteredArtEurope September challenge. I'll send it on its way to Claire in England sometime this coming week. (As always, you can click to enlarge the photos.)

I've called the doll "Spiritual Warrior". To make it simple, the back to back dolls show what's up front (though hidden behind an everyday mask) and what's behind what's up front.

The foundation for the double-doll is the Mirkwood paper doll template. You can download the template at:

I enlarged the doll before printing and cutting out the parts, then used the torso as a template to draw the body of the primordial goddess doll.

For the goddess, I painted the torso in four shades of blended acrylic (buff, yellow ochre, pale gold, and copper), then stamped on the spirals sign a small spiral stamp and three shades of yellow and brown inks. To complete the image, I decorated the body with various tribal transfers.

The torso on the warrior side is painted blue. I then applied a transfer and topped it with a paper tribal pattern. The legs and arms are covered in a layer of raised pattern wallpaper to give them depth and dimension. I then dry-brushed on blue and gold paint to highlight the raised elements.

One of the things I like about this doll is that when it is viewed from the goddess side, the warrior is invisible, because the legs are tucked behind the torso. The warrior's arms and legs are movable, though, so she can take a firm stance.

If you are an altered artist living in Europe, feel welcome to join the AlteredArtEurope group. You can use the link in the "links" section on the right of this page.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ocean Journal

This 12 x 8 cm journal has been awaiting assembly and embellishment for a few weeks. Yesterday I pulled it out and completed it. The journal feels like a final glimpse of summer before autumn takes over completely.

Like the Summer Journal I posted in July (link below), the covers are made of heavy card and the pages of 180g watercolour paper. The basic colours are blue-greens.

The cover embellishment is a scrap of corrugated cardboard covered with gesso and then painted in various sea colours. I used watercolour crayons and touches of Lumiere. The photos don't show it too well, but it has the weatherbeaten look of wood that has been subjected to the elements.

After painting the pages, I also applied dashed of gesso and spread it thinly and randomly with a serrated spatula. The white of the gesso suggests sea spray or coral formations, the original page colour shows through in places on each page, thus binding the gesso visually to the page, and I've also added strokes of sea colours here and there to add depth in some places. The ridges are highlighted with gold to suggest sunlight on the water.

I bound the journal by running pale green paper-covered wire, transparent ribbon, sea-green feathered yarn, and a length of emerald green effect wire through holes I punched with a setting tool. I looped the binding loosely, so the journal can be opened flat to write entries. A few tiny shells strung onto the wire round the binding off.

July Summer Journal

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I've been working with tiny scraps and leftovers for the past day or two. Then I came across a tiny matchbox I was given as an advertising gag a couple of years ago, and I decided to make an amulet. It's about domino size. The matchbox is covered and then smeared with embossing ink and dipped in clear embossing powder. While the powder was still hot, I dipped on another layer and heated that too. The box is covered in around six layers of melted powder, which gives it a deeply lacquered look, quite unlike paper, now.

Africa Again

After I completed the African Journal for Lorna (below), I started work on three smaller African theme journals. This one measures 12 x 6 cm (4,5 x 2 inches). Though it may be small, it's no less detailed than its larger counterpart. Each of the pages is tinted and edged and contains an African image.

Tip: If you want to colour small surfaces like the pages of this journal, try swiping an ink pad directly onto the page. You can achieve different effects, depending on whether you hold the paper in your hand or lay it on a flat surface. For even more variety, try patting swiping, swirling, working lightly or firmly. Try using two colours or three.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Prayer Boxes

I'm mulling over an idea for an extensive prayer box project, and these are a couple of the try outs I did. If I go ahead with the project I'll need more than one hundred individual objects, so I'm experimenting now with a view to choosing materials and techniques that are not too expensive and won't take an eternity to carry out.

Experimenting is important. Not all experiments work out, and not all work out in their entirety, but some do, which is nice, and you can also make serendipitous discoveries in your failures. I know I do. That was the case with these boxes. I was trying out a halo approach, in which the result didn't suit my taste, but in doing so, the slip of a Pitt pen and my attempt at correcting it led me to the verdigris you can see on the face. Now, that I liked a lot!

I also experimented with painting, stamping, and embossing background boards. These are abachi wood (inexpensive but apparently not available where I live), which I like to use, but I also have a series of balsa (cheaper, lighter, slightly easier to obtain) tests in various states of preparation. The board behind the box on the left is unpainted, and the board behind the box on the right is painted black and stamped and embossed in gold.

When I'm through, I'll know which combinations of materials and approaches I want to use, which will save me time in the execution of the larger project. But the experiments are anything other than wasted time: I'll jazz them up a little, and they'll make lovely eyecatchers and raks.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

African Notes

Lorna from South Africa sent me a package of challenge goodies last week (see "Balela Buttons" below). The combination of gorgeous buttons, bright African fabric, and Lorna's location helped me pull up some ideas, root out some materials from my stash, and create this "African Notes" journal. As always, you can click on the images to see larger versions.

The cover measures just over 20 x 20 cm, the pages exactly 20x20 cm. I like the square format, because I think it invites us to play and write. Maybe that's because it's more of an album- than a book format.

For the covers I cut two squares of thick cardboard from the back of a sketch pad. Book board would have been ideal, of course, but learning how to substitute what you have for what you don't have is part of the art game.

The orange cover background is watercolour paper (180g/m2) washed with layers of yellow and orange and stuck to the card using gel medium. Gel medium is stronger than glue stick. There's less risk of the heavy watercolour paper coming loose again. Then I glued on the zebra-stripe tissue with glue stick.

The frame was part of a rooibush tea packet from Lorna. I cut out the centre using an xacto knife, stuck a scrap of the African fabric behind the frame, and mounted the result onto a scrap of corrugated card, to give it dimension. I cut a semicircle from the remaining orange background, to represent the African sun, glued it down and attached a sunny eyelet. Then I selected some of the Belala buttons as focal objects and glued them onto the assemblage (gel medium), too. The four copper buttons (painted wooden dots) were afterthoughts that I feel helped balance the section and add further dimension. The outcome was then glued to the cover.

The word definition above the frame is "brighten", which I felt suited the colours and my intention. All I did was cut a scrap of background card slightly larger than the definition, edge it with chalk pad, then stick the card to a scrap of foam board and onto the cover. The wording on its own would have been lost in all the dynamic colours and patterns, but raising it this way makes it stand out without screaming for attention. I ran a walnut distress pad (Ranger Inks) around the entire cover edge to finish it off. You could do more or less the same with dark brown paint (think burn sienna or burnt umber) and a stiff dry paintbrush.

The inside pages (180g/m2 watercolour paper) are colored with a thin wash of yellow and buff acrylic paint. Just squirt blobs onto a plate, grab a piece of sponge, pick up the paint and swipe it onto the page. Don't mix the paint on your palette, mix it on the page as you go.

I edged all the large pages with strips cut from an African theme paper napkin. The black line drawings are packing tape transfers. I added some simple geometric hand lining, too (Pitt Artist's pen).

In between the full size pages I used page stubs to add variety and more compact illustrations. The idea is that Lorna can write or draw around the starter illustrations and can also add more pages as she chooses.
Lorna... this will be on its way to you next week.

Friday, September 01, 2006


This is one of a series of "Prayerbox" objects I have on my workbench this week. The "prayers" are not strictly the religious kind but reflect some of the spiritual needs people have in other ways. This one stems from my thoughts on the link between spirituality and beautiful things.

The matchboxes I'm using for this project measure 11 x 6 x 2 cm and are therefore larger than standard boxes.

This box is covered with a scrap of thin floral design paper and part of a page from an old Bible, sent to me in a challenge materials package. The front is embellished with a strip of colour co-ordinated satin ribbon and a small paper frame around an image (colour copy) from my cabinet card collection.

I covered the inside of the drawer with a scrap of ivory paper with a gold scroll pattern. The basis of the object in side the box is a torso. One side -- the side you can see -- is covered in scraps of bodhi leaf painted gold.

The goddess face is black and gold, the paper flower white, and the band around the torso red. Together these colours represent the ancient three-fold goddess.

The back of the torso is covered in a scrap of vintage advertisement. I sandwiched a scrap of punchinella in between layers to suggest wings.

A very basic interpretation of the piece is that the ancient goddess, the vintage girl, and the modern day artist/owner share the same delight in loveliness.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Box of Secrets

Art doesn't have to be big. This is an example of something you can do with a matchbox. It's the same size as a regular matchbox, but just a little deeper.

Start by painting the outside of both the drawer and slip cover. I used two shades of acrylic: dark for the drawer and lighter for the cover.

Line the drawer with a scrap of nice paper. Make a knob by poking through a paper fastener (brad) or a decorative stud. You can also sew on a button and attack a length fibre as a pull, or you might prefer to punch a finger-size hole instead.

I decorated this box with leftovers from other projects: a scrapsheet image, a transfer sheet postage stamp, a couple of real postage stamps. I also used a scrap of corrugated paper, painted on gesso, added a swipe of acrylic paint, and stuck on a strand of tiny fake pearls. The gold elements are something I salvaged from a cheap paper mache treasure chest a while back.

This is small and it was inexpensive to make, but even so, it's the kind of beautiful little gift you can give to your friends and know they'll appreciate it. And it's just perfect for those tiny summer treasures.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Torso Tags

These three ladies are among the many small items I worked on in minutes scraped together here and there over the weekend.

The green lady is already packaged up and ready to embark on a flight to the USA later today. Her companion, the red lady, will remain with me. The royal lady with the legs (below) will also be making a journey soon, as a RAK for one of the artists in my Mini-Journal project.

I'm often asked where I find the time to do so much art. Well... come in closer and I'll tell you. Here's the "secret": you don't find time, you make it. My day has 1.440 minutes, just like yours, and just like everyone else's, and the only difference is in how I manage them. You can be just as productive as you think I am, if you are prepared to claim your time and use it to your advantage and if you're ready to make choices. For example, a lot of art is about waiting for things to dry, or about piecing collage elements together on a trial basis and waiting for them to say "yes" or "no" to you, and other stuff like that. So, while your art projects are bonding and jelling, you can get on with other tasks.

I'm also lucky in that I can leave some of my projects lying out on the workbench, ready for when I have a few minutes to take a next step. But before you start with "yes, well my situation is more difficult because of kids, pets, husband, space, or whatever...", you also need to know that I work with and around restrictions, too. I just make choices that differ from other people's. For example, space-wise I work in what other people would call a kitchen. Me? I just cook in my workshop from time to time.

Here's an article I wrote about making time for what matters to you. The article is written for would-be writers, but it applies equally to artists.

Make Time to Write!