Monday, March 21, 2011

A Little Respite on the Journey


Sometimes it is necessary to take a day or two to replenish the well.  Lately I’ve been feeling burned out to the point of just wanting to stay in bed some mornings.  That’s not an option, and I know it wouldn’t help in the long run (I tend to get down on myself for indulging in such non-productive behavior), but sometimes it is ok to take a day to play with something I love to do.  Yesterday, it was drawing with my beloved Caran D’Ache Neocolor II water soluble crayons.

drawing march 2011 four

Since the point of this activity was to have fun, I didn’t sweat setting up a large still life or anything complex.  Instead I went to my jewelry collection, and drew one of my favorite necklaces. I chose to focus in on one of the floral beads and the wonderful little coral pieces.  Since I am using a smaller drawing pad (Strathmore Artagain black, size 6” x 9”), this filled the space quite nicely.

drawing march 2011 two

Last spring I purchased this happy little bluebird at a local nursery, and today he made a nice subject for a second drawing.  I love the contrast of the bright blue against the sunny orange.

drawing march 2011 three

I actually drew this picture a few weeks ago.  I was inspired by my bird of paradise work, and wanted to do something similar with another flower.  A trip to a local florist yielded this beautiful iris.  And yes, it is in process as a stitched image. 

I really enjoy working this way, and have a few more drawings planned.  And tomorrow I will return to the studio refreshed and ready to get back to work.

What do you do when you need to recharge?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

And the Winner Is…..

Monday I put everyone’s name in a bowl (it’s from Fenton Art Glass)…

miss scarlet drawing 1

And the name Mr. Art drew was….

Miss Scarlet drawing 3

Thank you to everyone who left comments!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mamaw’s Magical Jewelry Box

When I was a little girl, I always loved visiting my Mamaw.  Mamaw’s home was filled with treasures, from the lighted display case filled with my Papaw’s pipe collection, to the white and chrome formica table with the red vinyl chairs, to the plates decorated in soft pink and green dogwoods.  I could explore her house for hours and always find something fascinating to play with.

My favorite item was Mamaw’s jewelry box, filled with all kinds of exotic treasures.  I would take the aqua colored box off the dresser and climb onto Mamaw’s brass bed.  Sitting on the appliqued tulip quilt, I would reverently take each item out, trying it on, imagining just what occasion Mamaw might have worn this piece for, or where she had found a necklace like that.

mamaws jewelry box

One piece which really intrigued me was a necklace made of garnet red beads, with a pendant made of a ceramic heart and some kind of animal foot.  I would play with that piece for hours.

alligator love detail

One day after she had finished the dishes, Mamaw found me playing with this necklace.  She got a small smile on her face, and she said “You like that necklace, don’t you?”

I nodded, cupping the necklace in my hand.  “It’s different.  Is this a lizard foot?”

She laughed and sat on the bed.  “No, it’s much more interesting than that.”  And then she proceeded to tell me the story.

“A long time ago, there was a little girl, quite like you.  She had big brown eyes and curly brown hair that her mother would pull back and braid every morning before she could go out to play.  Her favorite thing to do was to go down by the creek and play with the salamanders that lived along the muddy banks, and she could spend hours there, listening to the rushing water and feeling the warm sun on her face.

One day, a dragon was flying over the woods, and he saw the little girl playing by the creek.  That morning her mother had put a jeweled butterfly in her hair, and the greedy dragon was enchanted by the sparkling colors of its wings.  Without a second thought,  he swooped down and picked up the girl, carrying her away to his cave.

The girl was afraid, of course, but she also knew how to take care of herself, having helped her mother around the house .  So she looked around the dragon’s cave, marveling at all the treasures there.  In amongst the piles of jewels, she saw a gold hilted knife.  She slipped around the cave, and picked up the knife, slipping it into the pocket of her overalls.

“My, what a lot of jewels you have, Mr. Dragon,” she said, looking into his glowing yellow eyes.

His voice came back, deep and rumbly “But none so sweet as that butterfly in your hair.  Give it to me.”

“I can’t do that, Mr. Dragon.  It was a gift from my grandmother, you see.”

“Then I will have to take it from you.” And the dragon lunged at her.

She moved, quick as a wink and found the dragon’s soft underbelly, and with one thrust of the knife the dragon was dead.  His body shriveled up until it was no larger than a small alligator.

She took the knife and cut off a foot to prove to her mother that she had seen a dragon, and she filled the pockets of her overalls with all the jewels she could carry.  Then she walked home, for the dragon’s cave was not that far from the cottage where she lived.

After her mother had hugged her and fed her, she took out the treasures from the cave.  She strung them into the necklace you see here.  That piece has been passed down from mother to daughter over the years until my mother gave it to me.

And now it can be yours.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wasted Time

I was chatting with a client a few weeks ago, and she was telling me how discouraged she was by looking at the pile of small works that she had lying in her studio.  She referred to the time she had spent making them as “wasted”, and I could tell this bothered her very much.

I pointed out that she had learned valuable lessons from making the small works, and that time spent in creating is never truly “wasted”.  It’s really in how we choose to look at it. 

My own studio is full of piles of wasted time, in the sense that it is either incomplete, is not in a style which I normally work, or is work which has been exhibited, but which has come home from the exhibit rather than going onto a new home (ie sold).   And, yes, sometimes I can become discouraged as well. 

This is where reframing can come in handy.  Instead of looking at all these various works as wasted time (in my case I think of wasted time as time not spent working toward my larger goal, which at the time of creating these pieces was to make large, award-winning works, which toured in prestigious shows and went to new homes at the end of the shows), it helps to remember these things:

False starts or diversions (“wasted time”):

  • Allowed me to try a new way of working (how can I know if I will like something unless I try it out?)
  • Helped me to find out what I do like (hand stitching and machine embroidery, most definitely, fusing lots of different elements to a base background, not so much)
  • Allowed me to experiment with presentation (sew a piece to a canvas? use a different model than the sleeve/rod one which most quilt shows use? and then how does one exhibit a three dimensional work, such as a knitted hat or a found object sculpture?)
  • Helped me to hone my skills.  Work which isn’t “important” can have mistakes, which is incredibly freeing.  When you’re not worried about whether the piece is award winning, you can play.  Play is very important in my process.
  • Helped to keep me in the creative flow.  If I was between projects, I still had something going on, rather than returning to mindlessly surfing the internet or watching Days of Our Lives again.
  • Allowed me to try a new media, a new style or a new way of thinking about my work.  The time I spent knitting my hats led to different ways of thinking about color and texture in my quilts, for example, and also helped me to understand how to better create my beaded sculptures.
  • Sparked ideas for the “real work”.  Color combinations, perhaps a subject, or simply the fact of giving myself a brain break is often enough to enable me to get back to my larger pieces.

And then, over time, as the wasted time piles up, you may realize that these pieces do belong in your larger body of work, because they have helped you to develop your voice and find what is important to you.

Nothing is ever really wasted.  It’s all in how you think about it.

My client was very happy to hear this, and I hope you are too.  Use those false starts and experiments as jumping off points for something new.  Amaze yourself.  I know you can do it.

If you liked this, sign up for my newsletter and receive a fuller version of Reframing Wasted Time; I promise to never sell or give away your information.  Thank you!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Where’s Your Brain At?

For the past two weeks I have been participating in the Right Brainers in Business online video summit.  This course is offered by Jennifer Lee, author of the fantastic new book The Right Brain Business Plan.  Each day a different creative entrepreneur offered their insights and advice on ways for people who are more right brain oriented to overcome their stuck around creating a workable plan for their business.  The presenters have included the wonderful Danielle LaPorte, Tori Deaux and Goddess Leonie, and have inspired all of the participants to get their hands dirty and have fun while planning our various businesses.

One thing that I’ve been playing with in my head is taking my designs out into the world on a larger scale.  Licensing my work is one avenue I intend to explore this year. Another path I am looking into is to follow Natalie Chanin’s model, and supply work to the people in my community by offering them the opportunity to assemble pieces in their home.  I live in a rural area, without a lot of opportunity for traditional jobs, and I believe this could work.  I am especially excited about being able to help people who may not be able to take a job outside the home, either due to transportation restraints or because they are taking care of small children or ill relatives.  I also want to keep as much of the process local as possible.

Of course this all scares the pants off me.  After all, who am I to think so big?  But after spending time with Jennifer’s book and with the online community at the summit, I am ready to allow for the possibilities.

With that in mind, I created my first right brain business plan.  It’s an accordion book, which I made using a strip of Arches Cold Press watercolor paper, torn down to size.  I painted the background with acrylics and then silk screened and stamped on both sides.   Here is what I have so far:

right brain business plan 1

The whole plan.  I used images from magazines as well as color copies from some of my more traditional work to lay it out.  One of my role models is Mary Engelbreit, whose colorful, inspirational and whimsical images are licensed on products from fabric to puzzles and greeting cards, and I put an image of her at the beginning of the plan. 

right brain business plan 2

Jennifer talks about finding what values are important to you, and I keep realizing that “Fun” is something that is important to me.  I want to create objects that make people smile, even while going about every day chores such as shopping or working at their computer.  I also wanted to remind myself that it’s never too late to start, and that there will never be a shortage of ideas.  The crayons and markers represent the fun tools I can use in creating the designs.

right brain business plan 3

In order to see this vision through, I will need a team of people to help bring it about.  I included images of this in the middle of the plan, including one of a group of women sewing together and a sewing machine.  I hope for the business to grow, and also to have fun while growing it.

right brain business plan 4

Finally, how is the finished product going to get to the people who want it?   I love this image from a UPS ad, because packing and shipping generally freak me out.  Eventually someone else can be in charge of “expediting” (or is it “logistics”? I can’t keep the terms straight LOL), but this image reminds me that it still can be fun.  The best part of creating is the dialogue that happens when someone loves a piece and purchases it to take home with them, and these smiling faces remind me of that happy feeling.

There is a lot more content in the book and I will be sharing my process with you in the coming weeks and months.  The next step is to work on the details, which go on the back of the pages shown here.  I highly encourage you to look into getting a copy of The Right Brain Business Plan if this looks like a process that could work for you. 

And remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a prize pack of Kathy Cano-Murillo’s novels!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing


Video trailer for Kathy Cano Murillo’s newest novel Miss Scarlet's School of Patternless Sewing

Kathy Cano Murillo, The Crafty Chica, has long been an inspiration to me, and many of us in the crafting community.  Her joyous can do spirit shines through everything she does, and I  love reading her tales of her crafty adventures.  It was only natural that she also turn her gift with words to ficition, and it was with great delight that I read her first novel Waking Up in the Land of Glitter when it was released last spring.   That story of friendship and crafting was so vivid and so inspirational that I was eager to read her second novel.

Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing also tells the tale of a group of women, and the friendships formed around a common goal.  Scarlet Santana is a young designer who worships the designer Daisy de la Flora, and who writes a crafty blog dedicated to Daisy and her style, both in creating artwork and creating a life.  When Scarlet wins an opportunity to study with Daisy’s nephew, the well-known Johnny Scissors, she decides to teach a class in her signature patternless sewing style to raise the funds for the trip to New York City.

The women Scarlet meets in her class range from the high school students Stephanie and Jennifer, to young career-minded wife and mother Mary Theresa, to life-changing Olivia (pronounced “Oh Live Yah!”) and the mysterious Rosa.  Through the course of the class the women get to know each other and bond over their individual dreams and hopes.  They provide each other support and a cheering section for when things get overwhelming.  None of the women are the same at the end of the story as they were at the beginning, and all of them find that dreams don’t die, even when it appears all is lost.

I really enjoyed this novel, the depth of detail Kathy uses in describing each setting and character satisfies my desire for feeling like I’m part of the story.  Scarlet’s style, the design work of Daisy, the setting of Vega’s Vicious Vinyl and of course Nana Eleanor’s home all feel like real places.  Kathy also manages to  fit a lot of her “you can do this too” enthusiasm in through the use of blog posts written by Miss Scarlet, that have tips and techniques for living a fuller, more rich life.  Inspirational and entertaining, Miss Scarlet’s school is a place I would love to visit over and over again


As part of the blog tour for Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing, I am pleased to present this post from Kathy herself.  As someone who admires Kathy’s ability to transition from the world of making visual art to the world of creating with words, I asked how she handles this sometimes challenging shift in creating, and how each medium can feed the other. This was her answer:

“They both are about translating imagination, but in different forms. I draw from the same pool of creativity – choosing a color story, the mood, a message and then creating a background and foundation, the focal point and the accents and embellishments. Often, while I’m working in the art room, I’ll listen to music that my characters like and think about their storylines. And when I finish a project, it feels good to switch over to writing, I’m excited and ready to type away! I love that with writing, there is no mess. However,  it’s much more difficult to redo a 90,000 manuscript that it is to make changes to an art piece!”

To celebrate the release of Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing, I am hosting a giveaway of Kathy’s novels.  One lucky winner will receive a copy of each novel, Waking Up in the Land of Glitter and Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing.  Just leave a comment below, and answer the question, what is your favorite craft supply?  I will pick the winners on Monday, March 14.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Step by Step

Since becoming a Kreinik designer last fall I have worked on several pieces using their wonderful threads.  The pink shoe piece (Boogie Shoes), the coral reef (Octopus’ Garden) and generally playing and planning on what to do next (I really want to recreate Birds’ Eye View using the wonderful Kreinik braids) .

One piece which has been in process since early December was finally finished last week.  Sometimes it goes like that, where I start a piece and have a lot of excitement and desire to see the completed piece, but then something else equally as shiny and attractive comes along, and so the original piece patiently waits on the design wall for me to come back around to it. 

Last week I was avoiding working on another piece which was giving me trouble, so it was easy to pick this piece back up and put the finishing touches on it.

twelve step complete

Twelve Step, 2011,  54” H x 41.25” W  Hand-dyed cottons from Diane Eyerman , hand-painted and silkscreened twill, commercial cotton, Quilter’s Dream Green batting , thread from Kreinik and Madeira.  This piece will be on exhibit at the Parkersburg Art Center during the month of June 2011.

twelve step complete detail_picnik

In this detail you can see the sparkle from the Kreinik machine threads that I used for the swirl quilting and for the buckles on the shoes.  The fish are a design I made, turned into a Print Gocco silkscreen.

twelve step complete detail too_picnik

I liked how the figure and ground relationship changed with the different hues of blue.  This helped to accentuate the swimming feeling I wanted from this piece.

twelve step complete detail three_picnik

Another detail of the thread and the fish.  I loved how our fabrics worked so well together, even though they were created months and miles apart from each other.

In Wednesday’s post, I  am very excited to host *the* Crafty Chica, Kathy Cano Murillo, who will answer my question about how she changes gears between working on her wonderful art and writing her lively novels.  I will be reviewing her latest novel Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing and there will be a giveaway for two lucky readers!