Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Very Happy Mailbox..... a mailbox full of mail art. In case you don't know, mail art is a decorated envelope, package or postcard, the point being that the container is the art, and there may or may not be anything inside. For the past few years, one of my groups, Blissfully Art Journaling (this links to the yahoo group, and we also have a Facebook page) has had a mail art swap going on during the summer months. Everyone who signed up had about two months to send mail art to everyone else on the list. I recently received my last piece, and decided it was time to do something with it all. Not to mention the nearly 30 pieces I received last year and still had languishing in a folder. Not to mention also, all the random mail art I've gotten from various friends over the years.

My inspiration for creating my mail art journal came from two sources. One, a workshop by one of the Documented Life Project administrators, Roben-Marie Smith. Click HERE to learn more about it. It spurred me on to get all this yummy mail into a book, and was well worth the cost. I used one of Roben-Marie's techniques for getting all my mail onto pages, but my binding method came out of classes I've taken with the wonderful DJ Pettitt

The outside of my book:

Just about everything I used to decorate the covers came from my art pals....bits of ephemera, text papers, random scraps, stamped images....all included inside the envelopes.

Inside, you can see how I was able to attach multiple envelopes and postcards on each page by stacking them and using my sewing machine to stitch them in place. I love that each piece can be turned, as often the backs are just as beautiful as the fronts.

The pages are hinged together with strips of fabric that I printed with my Gelli Plate.

Here are just a few of the pages:

The buttons on the spine are not merely decorative. They are what hold the signatures in place. Thank you for this awesome technique, DJ!!

For my fellow mail art lovers, I hope this inspires you to get your mail art out of the closet and into a book.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Documented Life: Wish, Smash, Pocket

I'm a little behind in posting my prompt pages for The Documented Life Project.  Three weeks, to be exact.

Week 29: draw or collage your wishes. I had just read a magazine article (or a blog?) about using black gesso as a background, and thought it was a great idea. Speaking of wishes, I wish I could remember where I saw it, so I can credit the clever author. Anyway, this is what I did. The actual wishes, which I'd like to keep private, were done after I took the picture.

The doodling was done with Sharpie water based poster pens, souffle pens, and metallic markers.

Week 30: do a page in smashbook style. Easy for me, as I gave up on traditional scrapbooking ages ago, and have totally embraced the smashbook concept. This page is all about my week at CREATE, NJ.

Week 31: create a pocket for the week's ephemera. I either didn't do much, or didn't save many receipts, but there are a few. The pocket is thanks to my Envelope Punch Board. Pretty much everything was done with Gelli Plate print scraps.

I realized a while back that with all the tip-ins and embellishments that my book would soon outgrow its binding. This morning I took it apart and rebound it into two books, Jan-June and July-December. Since I didn't use a Moleskine planner, but a wire bound sketchbook,(and I own a Cinch binding machine) this wasn't difficult to do. I even found Gelli Plate prints in my stash for the covers that more or less go with the original book.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Not a command (though you really should go and create something today), but the name of the retreat I attended two weeks ago in Somerset, NJ. This was my third time and by far the best. I had many issues with the hotel in the past, but they seem to have been much better staffed this year. Last year the event coincided with one of the worst heat waves we ever had, and some of the rooms had air conditioning problems. This year the weather was mild. All in all, a good experience.

Generally, when attending a four or five day retreat, taking 4 or more classes, there is a good chance you won't be equally thrilled with them all. This time, for me, was the exception. I chose wisely, it seems, and loved each and every class I took.

First up, "Roll With It," a technique-driven class with the wonderful Michelle Ward. We each worked on a 25 foot long roll of 12" wide paper. Michelle would demo a technique, we'd run back to our seats, execute it, and then surround her again for the next technique. At the end, we folded up our roll accordian style and bound it into a book. While I love a nice finished product as much as the next person, I really appreciate a class that teaches me things I can use in my own art. A winner!

Some rolls in progress.

Before folding, we took a group shot over the balcony of the hotel. And attracted quite a bit of attention in the process. I'm the one in the yellow smock on the right side of the balcony, with my mainly green roll in front of me.

Some pages from my book.

The next day was "Threads and Letters: Art In Free Motion" with Joanne Sharpe. LOVED the opportunity to work on a Bernina sewing machine. In free motion sewing you can go in any direction without stopping or lifting the foot. Took some getting used to, but what a great, liberating feeling. We did mini quilts, two layers of muslin with batting in the middle. I did two city scapes. After sewing, we colored with markers, pencils, water color crayons, and paint. This is what one looks like before trimming and adding color.

Here are some of Joanne's gorgeous samples for the class:

Group photo. I'm the last one in the first row.

Joanne snapped this one of me and Cheryl, and caught me with a paint brush in my mouth. Hey, I only have two hands.

Look who else took the class! My old pal Stephanie from the Tim Holtz cruises!

I only got to paint one of my quilts in class, and when I got home I finished it off with some batik fabric binding. I'll get to the other one.....someday.

My third class was "Handmade Hamsas and Hearts," a polymer clay workshop with Laurie Mika

We worked with colored clay and added some sparkle with Pearl X and Rub N Buff. We made some of the embellishments with clay and others we brought along from our stashes of charms, old jewelry, found objects, etc.

In this photo, nothing has been baked or attached. I'm just trying things out in different positions.

And here is the finished piece, which is already hanging in my home. I love it!

My last class was "4-Color Block Printing" with Jane Davila. Jane has devised a creative way to make prints without a press, and without any toxic chemicals. She also showed us how to cut our own mats. There is a definite learning curve with this. How much paint to use? How hard to press? This print is far from perfect, but I know this is a technique I'll be trying again on my own, and I'm sure things will get better. I'm sorry I didn't think to take any photos of Jane's work, because it is fabulous. 

In what has become a tradition, Cheryl and I left early Monday afternoon and stopped for lunch at Joe's Crab Shack before heading home. This time, we had Brenna with us. A perfect way to finish a wonderful week of art and friends.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Documented Life -- A Puzzle and A Tiny Shot

Week 27 in The Documented Life Project: use a puzzle in your work. All I could find at the time was a book of Sudokus, so I tore one out and glued it down. What followed was some gesso, ink, paint, embossing paste, stenciling, doodling, and a bit of text from the book.

The numbers in green were done by scraping white embossing paste through stencils. When dry, the stencil was put back over the numbers and then the green paint was dabbed on. I think you can see the texture in this close up.

The current week's prompt is to use a tiny photo in the piece. Coincidentally, the prompt came while Teri and I were helping Pat celebrate her birthday. We had a wonderful day (perfect weather, no big crowds thanks to many people being away for the July 4th weekend) at Fort Tryon Park in upper Manhattan. First we enjoyed brunch at The New Leaf Cafe, located right in the middle of the park. Then, a short walk over to The Cloisters, which is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is devoted to the art of medieval Europe, in a beautiful setting overlooking the mighty Hudson River. Instead of an "artsy" page, I did this one smashbook style, documenting a memorable day with fabulous friends.

It contains my own sketches (the arches, the bloody mary), tiny photos, and ephemera from the day (the map, the museum sticker). I think my favorite part of the page is the very small photo of Pat and I, which I carefully cut around our figures and superimposed over the sketch of the arches. It just makes me smile.

I generally share my DLP work as single pages, but here is how this one looks in the context of the entire book.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Documented Life - Quote Worthy

The current prompt at The Documented Life Project is to incorporate a quote from the Bible (or a favorite book) into the work.

Words to live by, I think.

The background is (as usual), a Gelli Plate print on deli wrap paper, over which I did some stamping of grasses and flowers. The cornflowers(one of my favorite stamps, a VERY old one from Stampin' Up) were stamped with clear ink and embossed with Distress Embossing Powder.  The grass was also stamped with clear ink, but I used clear embossing powder there. I really like the contrast between the glossy embossing and the textured matte finish you get with the distress powders.

The lettering was done with a gold paint pen and outlined with a black Micron.

I often find myself wondering how I got along all those years without a Gelli Plate. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fanciful Creatures

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend a polymer clay workshop with Doreen Kassel (not my first class with Doreen, and hopefully not my last!), who is a wonderful artist and teacher. The class was in a new space (for me), and sponsored by my friend Michele's Little Bird Creations. In the past I've made bird ornaments with Doreen, and a charming long legged mouse. This time we were working in miniature, making small pieces that can be used as pendants, pins, or even refrigerator magnets.

Above, Doreen (in the foreground) demonstrating. That's Michele in the back. You can see a lineup of samples on Doreen's table, to give you an idea of the size. I'd say most are about 1 1/2".

Doreen helped me do a giraffe, and here are some of the step-by-step photos.

I also did an owl in this format. We added crowns because.....well, why not?

After baking, we applied a wash of brown.

Followed by color.

Doreen also gave us pendant blanks, and guided us in the creation of a sweet little pig:

Here are all three including some profile shots to show you just how dimensional they are.

Michele is having Doreen back in the fall, and if you want to have a great artsy day, join Michele's Meetup group and you'll be notified when you can register for the class. You'll love it!

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