Sunday, December 30, 2007

Art in a Carton

"Art In A Carton" is an artsy little "Pay It Forward" idea I dreamed up over Christmas, while hunting around for something small and sturdy in which to package and send out an item of art. While surveying my kitchen-come-art-studio, I picked up an empty milk carton. All of a sudden, my mind went "click!", and an idea was born. Standard milk- or fruit juice cartons are a perfect way to package and sent small items of art, and they can be turned into art objects in their own right, too!

One thing I love is making small art and craft objects. Another thing I love is sharing what I make with other artists. If you're like me, you'll know the thrill of the postman handing over an art package, the anticipation of unpacking it, and the delight at holding another artist's creation in your hands.

With all that in mind, I decided to launch "Art In A Carton" as one of my 2008 art projects. I'd like to invite you to take part. Just click on the lin kto the right to visit the Art In A Carton blog.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Word Stones

I needed a quick and cheerful little gift for someone today, so I made these stones. I'll call this batch "meditation stones", but you might as easily call them "journaling stones" or an "oracle", depending on the words you choose and the recipient's special interests.

I found the clear glass stones at the euro (dollar) store last week. They are the kind of thing I pick up when I see them. because I know they will always come in handy for something. These are quite large, approx. 4 x 2 centimetres, which is a rare find. Most of the stones on sale are smaller.

I printed the words onto a sheet of Basic Grey 30x30 cm. paper, cut down to A4, to fit the printer. Then I used gel medium to glue the glass stones to the sheet. Once the gel medium had dried, I trimmed the extra paper from the stones and then glued them onto a strip of hessian ribbon, as shown in the photo. (Gel medium again.) Once that dried, I trimmed away the extra hessian. The point of the hessian was two-fold: one, to give a cleaner look and feel to the underside of the stones, and two, to make sure the stones won't damage any surface upon which they might be placed. You could also use felt, as I've done in the past.

So.. if you need a last minute gift for someone, you might give this a try, too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Box Shrine

Some of the members of the Travelling Journals group (the usual suspects...) recently did two gothic arch swaps on the topics of Samhain and the Divine Feminine. The challenge then was to figure out a way of binding or otherwise displaying the arches. Yesterday, Shakti posted pictures of a box she'd made to contain and display her arches, and after considering other options, I decided that her approach was the one that made most sense, as it avoided the need to punch holes in the arches or otherwise lose some of the images by adhering them to a binding of some description.

This is the box I made today. Luckily, I had a cardboard box of exactly the right size and depth for the arches. I painted the box inside and out, and I made this arch frame from card and some lovely textured gold art paper I purchased at a sale in a local craft store. (You'd get a similar effect by painting woodchip paper.)

I cut a circle in the peak using a nifty little circle cutter that looks like a compass. I picked it up quite cheaply in the craft store a couple of years back, and it's proved itself one of my handiest tools, over and over. I backed the cutout with a scrap of printed vellum. The other embellishments are plastic "jewels" and circled of brown card stock and scraps of the gold paper. To finish off, I used a small star punch to make star-shaped holes.

What I'd now like to do is find some little trinkets like holy medals and milagros to attach to the art, to give it even more of al altar or reliquary feel.

The cards fit nicely into the box and can be changed at will.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Another Advent Wreath

My youngest daughter was so taken with my advent wreath that she asked me to make one for her, too. This is the outcome. I'd wanted to include more holly, but, out on a foray, I discovered it's not all that common hereabouts. I spied a few bushes, but they were all in people's gardens. In the end I found one wild-growing hedge with a few spindly leaves and clipped a few to use. At least there is a hint of it in the wreath.

Index Card Alphabet

I made these for an Index Card Alphabet journal for one of the members of the "Travelling Journals" group. Participants received a handful of standard index cards and were asked to make cards that used and illustrated letters of the alphabet. My cards show N for Nikolaus, H for homely, L for light, and T for "tempus fugit" or "time flies". What'S not so easy to see on the photos is that the letters and some of the other elements are raised off the page.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tree Hearts

This week I needed a lot of favors as thank-you gifts, so I decided to use up some of the bits and bobs of paper from my stash. I created a large folk heart template and used it to draw and cut two hearts for each favour.

I first embellished the front heart with scraps and with punched flowers, stars, or hearts. Then I sewed two hearts together (sewing machine), punched holes close to the top and threaded through some coiled wire as a handle. I coiled the florist's wire (which comes in many colors) around the handle of a wooded spoon. To finish off, I added some fluffy fibres.

Each heart contains two little tags, for personal wishes, and a miniature bar of chocolate.

These would look good on a Christmas tree. All you need to do is cut a template a size that suits your needs.

Advent Wreath

I have the feeling that everyone and her dog can do this, but for me binding an advent wreath this week was a first time experience. I still have to buy the candles which are in short supply now, as I left it rather late.

It was fun fiddling around with all the glittery doo-dahs and fixing them to the wreath. I dare say a florist would roll her eyes, but I got everything attached and it's holding nicely.

In the meantime, I've made a couple of wreaths and a long centrepiece for other people, and I can tell it won't be the last time I do things like this.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Exploding Box

It was one of those moments... I was browsing around in a website gallery yesterday when I saw something that made me look twice: an "Explosion Box" card. So, I spent the evening making a prototype, without embellishments, just to test the process, and am very pleased with it. I've several projects on my workbench that I must finish today, but I'm already itching to make more of these, both as Xmas cards and/or gifts, or for other projects. My granddaughters simply love to have little albums with pictures of themselves, and I can already see their faces when they find one of these among their gifts on St. Nikolaus Day (6th December).

St. Nikolaus Day is a custom celebrated in many German-speaking countries on December 6th. On the evening of the 5th, children leave one of their shoes outside the door. When they get up on the 6th, and if they have behaved well throughout the year, St. Nikolaus will have filled the shoes with sweets, nuts, apples,oranges, and sometimes a small gift. Traditionally, children who have behaved badly get a lump of coal or a switch made of birch twigs instead of goodies, but that rarely happens, except as a parental joke.

St. Nikolaus Day

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Home Crafts Fair

I woke up to a world sprinkled with snow this morning. It won't lie once the sun rises, but even so... There will be no cycle tour for me this afternoon, that's for sure.

Today I want to work on some ideas for the cards for the little arty party I'm planning. I'm trying out ideas for cards that can be completed in 15-30 minutes each while still looking good --as in more than just a square of card and a sticker. I'll make (and time) the samples and show them to the women tomorrow.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours at a home crafts fair here in town. The fair takes place twice a year and it quite amazing. Some of the vendors are professionals, but the majority are people like you and me, who sell the art and crafts they've made at home in their spare time. You might imagine it as a huge bazaar on three floors with around 150 stalls and booths.

Most of the work on offer is crafts rather than art, and yesterday most of it was geared to Christmas, as you might imagine. Even so, it was a delight to see how creative and productive people in the region are.

I lived in Berlin for twenty years, and I visited many bazaars and fairs there, but the fair in Rendsburg is larger and more diverse than any of them (and the prices are far more reasonable).
I didn't buy much, because most of what I saw wasn't my style, though I truly enjoyed seeing the items. It was a feast for the eyes and senses. One woman had sewn the most loveable cloth and string "rag" dolls. I almost gave in, because one of them tugged in me, but the one thing I don't need is more stuff lying around. Ha! I produce enough of that myself!

What I did buy were two gingham hearts to give to my two younger granddaughters, some lengths of ribbon, a pot of delicious homemade spiced "Christmas" jam, and four heart ornaments that I'll either hang in my flat or use as gift decorations.

On the way out I picked up an application for both of next year's fairs. I'm considering my own stand, but need give the idea a little thought and do some research before making a decision.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Scrolls and Flowers

With Christmas in mind, and because I wanted a flower and leaf stamp, too, I purchased this stamp sheet from Aud Design in Norway a couple of weeks back. I'm so pleased, both with the stamps themselves and with the wonderful, speedy service, that I wanted to share the site with you.

I received the stamp sheet two days after ordering. Aud offers to cut off the edges to save postage (which is very high in most of Europe), and I think that's a great example of thinking of the customer.

The stamps are deeply etched into high quality rubber and make crisp, clear impressions. I've already used them in a couple of projects and am delighted with the outcomes. I've uploaded one of the projects as a show and tell in a separate post below.

Aud Design

Doodle Shapes

Although I don't usually do "crafts", I'm going to show a group of women how they can make Christmas cards themselves, so I'm playing with ideas at the moment.

One approach I came up with is to doodle in shapes and then apply the shapes to cards. I apologise for the quality of the images. I was simply too lazy to do them again when I saw how dark some of them were.

I tried the technique on some 8 x 10cm cards I'm making for another project (which I'll post a few days from now).
I started out by drawing or tracing shapes -- hearts, circles, and ovals, on watercolour paper scraps I had left over from a different project. Any heavy paper or thin card will do, though.

I then "took a line for a walk" across all the shapes. I found it made nicer patterns if I was able to make wider sweeps. All I did was draw random loops, scrolls, and circles, going over the lines. The scribbles outside the lines of the shapes are simply cut away in a later step. I got the nicest outcome when I drew the lines with a cheap gold gel pen. Euro/dollar store gel pens are plenty good enough for this project.

I colored some of the fields within the shapes with gold gel pen, then filled in the remaining fields using two or three tone-in-tone colors. I used a gel pens and watercolour pencils or a combination of the two. When the shapes were filled, I first went over the watercolour pencil with a damp brush to make the color more arty and to blend away the pencil marks. When the shape was dry, I rubbed lightly over the colors with a baby wipe to blend.

The next step was to glue the shape to a piece of light card for stability and then to cut out the shape. This removes the "over the edges" lines.
The final step was to attach the shapes to the cards, which I first stamped with one of the scrolls from the Aud Design stamp sheet I mentioned in the post above. It's not easy to see in the photo at the top of the post, but I used sticky foam pads to attach the shapes, so they are raised.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tribal Journal

This is a little album/journal I made as a surprise for a young woman called Franziska this weekend. She saw photos of a similar journal I made around a year ago and was so enamoured of it that I decided to make this book for her. It's a very simple affair with a single signature and bookboard covers. I'm also going to give her a pre-sewn signature and pre-cut boards, so she can make a second journal for herself.

I cut four pages and colored them using Caran d'Ache Neocolour II, my favorite water soluble crayons. The pages were edged using torn strips of brown transparent paper and strips of leopard tissue. I had a pile of laser jet (self-printed) acetate transparency tribals in my stash, so I painted the back of some of them with copper metallic acrylic paint and left the rest unpainted. The tribals were glued on using gel medium, and I added more detail using a couple of tribal stamps.

After edging the pages with an ink pad, I folded them and sewed the signature.
I prepared the covers by painting them with gesso and drawing a comb through it while still wet. After the gesso dried, I painted it using deep yellow, burnt umber, vermillion, and copper acrylics. I cut a strip of corrugated card and painted it copper metallic, then applied a larger tribal on top and glued it to the cover. Once dry, I glued the signature to the rear side of the boards and inked the edges of the boards. The spine is covered with a strip of bookcloth painted copper.

As a final touch, I threaded yarns through the holes on the corrugated card.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Divine Feminine 3

Here are the final three arches I made for the "Divine Feminine" swap. The arches destined for others are already in the mail, and I'm now eagerly awaiting the arrival of those intended for me.

The idea we had was to combine the "Thirteenth Month" arches with the "Divine Feminine", so, once the arches have arrived, I'll need to consider how I want to bind them. I can already tell it is going to be an awesome book once it's finished.

This has been an extremely satisfying project for me and, I gather, for the other participants, as both themes spoke to us deeply, and the arches created by all participants were rich, deep, and evocative.

I'm also looking forward to the outcome of the "Seasons" doll swap which will be on their way home soon, as well. I've already seen a photo of all the gorgeous dolls that were made, and I can hardly wait to see which of them will be mine.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Divine Feminine 2

Here are three more of the arches I made for the "DivineFeminine" swap.

The background for the image on the left is part of a strip collage. I took paper remnants and cut them into wedge shaped strips that I then glued onto a background sheet. The entire sheet was then painted green, to pull the scraps together and make them homogenous. Here, I stamped leaves and blooms onto the collage background and embossed them with clear embossing powder before applying the images. I made the wire embellishment in the peak using a pegboard.

The little girl looked divine to me. She is probably around eight or nine, which is a magical age: they have such confidence in the life ahead of them and still believe they can do and be anything. I imagined her writing her life in the book, and I added the wings so that she would always know she could fly, whatever....

This card contrasts with the girl card. Here, the divine woman is a young adult, crowned, but embedded in a life from which she looks out into the world.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Divine Feminine

These are some arches I've made for a swap on the theme of "The Divine Feminine" for the Travelling Journals group. I have several more arches in production, and I'll upload the photos as I complete them.

Most of the arches I've been producing in response to this idea have some texture to them. As well as scraps of fabric or ribbon, I've used wire, micro beads, gesso, and random threads of glue from a hot glue gun. The glue gun texture makes interesting backgrounds, but as the threads of glue are fairly raised, it can be difficult to work on top. Once I have the feeling I've completed enough arches, I'll finish them off by adding fibres and beading, too.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dimensional Paper

This is a variation on a technique I learned from Shakti a couple of years back. You'll find the link to Shakti's blog in the list on the right. The result is a highly dimensional paper that you could use to cover an altered book, for example.

Start with a sheet of black construction paper -- sometimes known as sugar paper. Crumple the paper well, then flatten it out an little and glue it to the center of a background sheet, preserving the folds by pushing and scrunching the paper together as you glue.

When the paper is dry, set up a palette with three shades of one color. I used bronze, copper, and gold acrylic paint. Using a dry brush, dab into the darkest shade and begin whisking the brush in one direction (for example, left to right) across the ridges to pick out the contours. When you've done that, turn the paper a quarter turn, then take the second color and repeat the dry brush whisking process, using the same direction you used the first time. In my case that would be left to right again. This highlights the same ridges you highlighted the first time from a different angle, and it also helps make more ridges visible. Repeat the process, turning the paper a further quarter turn and using the third color. Again, some ridges will be highlighted from yet another angle, and more new ridges will appear, because your brush will pass over more surfaces.

The paper and paint I used left me with a piece that looks like folded metal. Other colors of paper and paint will produce other effects.When the paint was dry, I cut off the protruding background paper, so I was left only with the dimensional paper.You can use the sheets as they are, or you might cut them into strips and squares and create a pattern by turning some of them.

If I get around to making another sheet today, I'll post a pattern example tomorrow or Monday.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tinnie RAK

After seeing tinnies on Lisa Kaus' website, I wanted to try making one myself. I immediately ran into a problem in that I don't use tinned food often, so I had to go begging for an empty tin can (the ring pull kind, as they don't have sharp rims).

I made this tinnie with an aquaintance, Angelika, in mind, so it's decorated to her taste rather than mine. I really enjoyed the process, though.

I sanded and gessoed the tin, then painted it with acrylics in sand and pink. Then I cut scalloped strips of print and topped them with colourful paper, ribbons, punched hearts, and fun foam flowers.

After punching two holes near the top of the tin, I strung through a length of wire and threaded on painted wooden beads and a paper bead before adding bows. I glued four more painted beads to the bottom of the can with a hot glue gun. As a final touch, I cut some tags to pop into the tin.
I have a hunch Angelika will like her tinnie. It's also the kind of idea she can take further and use in her work as a kindergarten teacher.

I'll definitely be making more of these when I can lay hands on more suitable tins.

Monday, October 08, 2007

CPS Birthday RAK

Cloth Paper Studio (CPS) is one of the "artsy" online groups to which I subscribe. Each month the moderators post a list of birthdays, so members have the opportunity to send RAK to the birthday girls. This month I noted that three other women have birthdays on the same day as mine, so I decided to make a little something for each of them. These are the first two gifts; the third is in the making.

As with the booklets I posted a day or two back, these are fairly simple, so the recipients can add to them as they please.

I'll pop them in the post in the next day or two, even though they don't have to arrive until late in the month. Mail from Europe to the USA can take time, so the earlier the better.
Making these items was a wonderful way to use up my scrap paper collage sheets.

Cloth Paper Studio

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Eight Wishes RAK

This is a folded tag journal I made for a woman I met (in face to face life) a couple of weeks ago. There are eight pockets, each with a tag. I deliberately kept the style, format, and materials simple, because I wanted to make something she can easily reproduce using basic techniques and supplies. (I guess you all know my ongoing groans about the lack of interesting materials where I live, by now.)

The general idea is to enable constructive art and journaling in small steps, even at a time when little seems possible. One side of each tag is decorated, the other is blank and can be used to write a short journal entry. In this particular case, I'm going to suggest writing about wishes for areas of her life, for example: self, others/friends, relationship/lover, vocation/calling, earning/work, home, higher things, and future.

The pocket backgrounds are partly blank, so she can add her own art and embellishments. The different sizes of tag are a way of prioritising, and are completely replaceable at any time.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Four Arches

These are the remaining arches for the Travelling Journals group swap. Now I've completed these, I shall be making more for myself, so I can create a nice, full book when the time comes.

The image of the bird (of all the birds I've use in these particular cards) is from an old nature book (published in 1887) I picked up recently. Overall, the book was in poor condition, but I was able to salvage parts of the covers, the endpapers, and the color plates to use in my work. The images are simply gorgeous, and the paper on which they are printed has a texture that adds depth to the images.

The dead bird is one of my favorite pictures. Though the bird might have died during any season, in theory, the withered leaves seem to suggest autumn, and through that they emphasise the impression of endings and approaching decay.

The girl and the (I think) crow seem to be waiting at the veil, each on their own side. The girl is lost in thought, possibly sorrow, and the hands in her lap suggest patience to me. She accepts the inevitability of her loss, but she also appears at the veil and waits for the promised brief touching at the appointed time.

Two angels stand at the portal of the death realm. The door is set against a starry sky,whichto me suggests that the door is also an entryway into eternity. Above the door is a Celtic rose or cross with four directions and a mid-point, and, like many Celtic images contains single, eternally circling lines.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A House For Her Dreams

As you can see, this is a case of "and now for something completely different", in contrast to the rest of my work.

Earlier this year, I was overjoyed to find these little birdhouses in the euro (dollar) store. I picked up six, and now I'm just getting around to working with them. To do that I started by pulling off all the tacky deco and painting the equally somewhat strange background colors over with gesso, to create blank walls.

This weekend I wanted to make a house for a friend, Nati, as part of her birthday gift, so I pulled out her favorite colors (blues) and started off. I've been trying out some ideas based on the work of Lisa Kaus (link below). I reasoned that Lisa's "crafty" style is something Nati will like much more than my usual approaches and colors, so I chose to work on her house in that way.

I used a pencil to mark out grids on each of the surfaces. The lines remain visible n the finished product, but that only adds to the appeal. My next step was to color the spaces in the grids using water soluble pencils in shades of blue, lilac, and french grey. Then I spread and blurred the color with a paintbrush and water. Once the paint was dry, I drew spirals and dots in the squares, using the same color as the (now lighter) base layer in each case. After that I collaged scraps of printed paper and corrugated card onto some squares and went over the grid lines to bring them out more clearly.

I used buttons, tiny seashells, netting, rub-on transfers, and word stickers as embellishments on the outside. Then I thought it might be nice to raise the house off its flat base, so I painted four half circles and glued them to the underside.

To finish off, I punched around thirty little tags for Nati's hopes, wishes, and dreams, tied various blue yarns to them, and popped them inside the birdhouse. The gift tag, translated, reads "a house for your dreams", and has blue glass beads and shells threaded onto the tie.

Lisa Kaus

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Three Gothic Arches

Just to make you drool.... I'm sitting here listening to the new James Blunt album and scoffing Lindt mini pralines (but only one of those little tins with six in them).

These are first three of the gothic arches I've made for the Travelling Journals "Thirteenth Month" swap. I cut the arches from sturdy card stock then painted one side of each arch with gesso. The next step was to paint the backgrounds and then stamp some of them, too.

In the gargoyle arch, I used a diamond background stamp and part of a skeleton leaf I found last year, then I glued on the main image and added part of an line drawing of a bare branch.

The lady image is painted and stamped and incorporates a transparency and some painted netting.

The magpie arch is painted and edged with scraps of print and what I believe is called "German scrap". (It seems to be called that everywhere except in Germany.). I colored the edging with watercolour pencils. The image also incorporates a scrap of wallpaper and a little fabric braid.

Magpies are said to be messenger birds of the faeries, and once a year they can carry the souls of the dead to the edge of the world, where the veil is thin and lovers parted by death can almost touch. This, of course, takes place during the thirteenth month.

All the cards are edged with a scraping of bronze acrylic paint.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Collage Postcard

This is one of the collage postcards from a series I've been working on in connection with an imagined journey. The ship is from a flyer for an exhibition about the "Titanic", which took place in Kiel this summer. The map fragment is from a newspaper search game. Both items go to show that material is everywhere, even though German advertising material is traditionally boring to the extreme. I'll admit I can get a little envious when my US-based art friends enthuse about AOL CD tins, fake credit cards and the like! Other items used include scraps of patterned papers and lacy cellulose paper.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blessing Doll

I've been challenging myself to use up as many little scraps and images as possible, recently. Making collage paper is one good way of doing that; creating ATC and decorating paper dolls are others. Here is one of the "blessing dolls" I made last weekend. It's relatively simple, as I was away from home and had only my travelling box of supplies with me, so I had no way to add stamping, beading, or sewing. Even so, I enjoy the pleasure of knowing it is possible to create even if we have only limited resources.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Puzzle Pieces

A year or two back, it seemed that everyone was crazy about altering children's puzzle pieces. Somehow I never got around to them. Recently I found a handful of pieces in my "jumbled materials" box and gave it a whirl. Despite my initial skepsis, I found altering the puzzle parts was a nice play-around for lazy afternoons, and a wonderful way to make good use of scraps too small for much else.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


On a recent expedition into the deep lands of Imagi-nation, I excavated these artifacts, which were identified by an expert as muse devotionals. Each of the reliquaries contains a much sought-after sacred bone from the hand of an ancient muse. Legend has it that an artist who possesses one of these bones will transcend all creative barriers and rise to express her artistic potential to the full.

The first (above left) is mine, of course, but the one with the golden crown (right) is waiting to find its true home. If you think that home should be with you, let me know. The object is approx. 20cm (8 in.) high, including the flame crown, and around 10 cm (4 in.) wide). You can contact me via the email address link in my profile (below on the right). I'll be happy to exchange for art or materials.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Summer and Winter

I completed the remaining paper dolls for the seasons swap. All that remains is to make a doll that represents me. I'll do that next week.

The red doll is "summer", and the cream/blue is "winter". It occurred to me that they could easily have been switched, particularly as the winter doll contains shore and water elements. On reflection, I think I made the winter doll as I did because I love clarity of the seashore in winter. The red and glitter of the summer doll represent the heat and flamboyance I see in some types of summer. Of course, another explanation might be that summer and winter have been highly confusable here this year. We had summer for a couple of weeks in April, and it has rained a lot over the traditional summer months, with only occasional -- and generally unpredicted -- fine days here and there.

The centre panel of the summer doll is embroidered and also features glass beads and mirrors. The winter doll is beaded, too, and she also features an ancient and highly traditional form of embellishment: fishbone. (My neighbour caught me a carp recently, and I thought the larger bones too interesting to toss away, so I dried them, with a view to including them in one or two art projects.)

I'll be putting the ladies in the post to France tomorrow, so here they are together for the last time.