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.