Thursday, September 27, 2007

Since I'll be busy with family activities all weekend, I've been busy, busy, busy trying to get a bunch of stuff done this week, including two swap deadlines. So of course I found unexpected buried treasure and had to carve an hour out of my day to dig it out.

I wrote a long To Do list last night and started tackling it first thing out of the shower this morning. One of things on the list was to pick up some how-to collage books I'd ordered from the library. I haven't been to the library since last week and I walked in to discover it was the last day (or at least the last day I could go to the library this week) of a week long book sale. Lots and lots of books being culled from the library, two thirds of them from the children's library.

It's really hard to explain how old and out of date most of our local library resources are, but in this particular case, it was to my advantage. No one wanted old, outdated, battered books apparently. No one but me!

Each book was fifty cents. I spent nineteen dollars. I found a Middle East cookbook, a few books to keep to read to the grandkids (or myself), one Barbara Michaels novel to read. The rest of the books were all for crafting and art use. Dozens of children's nonfiction, most of the books are between twenty and sixty years old.

Here are half the books. You can click on the photo to see the titles and covers closer.

Here's the other half. I love the old covers, even the simple ones.

I love the feel and smell, texture and style of the books. It takes me back to my own book filled childhood. It makes me think of children through the ages, born, like me, before the invention of the television, personal computer, Gameboys, cell phones. Children sitting with a parent reading together before bed. Kids curled up in a windowsill on a rainy afternoon, sitting in a tree, laying on a screened summer porch, sitting at a kitchen table after school with a plate of cookies and a tall glass of milk, but at the same time all of them somewhere far away from their environs, fallen deep into the pages of a book.

But beyond the pleasure of the books in and of themselves, there are the wonderful illustrations I hope to use once I learn some collage techniques with those books I borrowed. Here are a few pages.

And a few more.

And even more. I wish you could see them in person. I realize now I should have taken photos of single pages, they would have shown up better. But too late, these will have to do for now.

Oh, and just one more.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I found a bit of crafting time last night - YAH. So I made up a few odd but adorable magnet buddies for my Sweet and Sinister Swap partner. Gargoyles, to protect her refrigerator from attack. Except for that odd little black cat. Cats just seem to find the their way into everything though, don't they? Especially black cats. Especially in my house. He looks a bit surprised to find himself inside a glass button.

Oh, and the W - William made that for himself. Since he doesn't have a refrigerator, when it was finished this morning I went in his room and stuck it on the shield of his metal bedside knight. Oh. Don't all children have bedside knights?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I finally fringed... er,, fringed AND finished a project so I can show it to you. Yah me!

I found a half a globe laying in a box at the thrift store and a light bulb went off above my head. I bought a whole bunch of stuff so I can't really tell you how much it cost me. They were having a clearance for all the donations they didn't have room to bring inside. You just paid them whatever you wanted and hauled it away. I brought home a big box of bits and pieces, too many to count, plus a funky, sturdy, old coffee table and handed over a twenty dollar bill. The lady tried to convince me I'd offered her too much money for junk but sheesh, the money went for charitable causes so it's not like I was going to take change back.

We haven't had a coffee table in decades. Just not practical with a house full of kids. I preferred the open floor space for kids to sprawl out to watch t.v., build pillow forts, have sleepovers, build Lego villages. But I'm really enjoying having a coffee table again. A place for magazines! A place to park your feet! I'd orginally planned on painting it white, maybe add a bit of gilding. But I don't really have anything else white in the living room. It turns out all my new (to me) living room furniture is dark wood. Didn't know it would end up that way, but it looks nice. So I might just leave the table the way it is, dark wood and a bit , well, shabby. Which is chic, right? I like it anyway. The only thing that truly needs to be refinished is the top of it. Maybe if the table top ever sees the light of day again (horizontal surfaces in my house get covered up quickly!), I might paint just that. Oh, but, we were talking about my half globe. So, anyway...

I brought the half globe home. Then I bought a lamp making kit at the local hardware store for ... I think it was about $10. Sam happened to come for a visit (so handy having a son who knows how to build stuff) and showed me how to put it together. Okay, so HE put it together for me. But I watched carefully, helped a lot, including running all that wire through the chain. (Now that I can see how easy it is, I think I want to make more things into lamps!) Then Sam helped me put the hooks in the ceiling (even though I could certainly have done that part myself - he was enjoying the role of helpful son) and the lamp has been "hanging around" waiting for me to add the finishing touch.

Fringe. A couple dollars worth from Walmart. Total cost is something under $15. Isn't it pretty!?

I have it hanging over a wingback chair in my new "reading corner". Good thing I found the top half of the globe so that we're not all hanging upside down right now. Snort. Hey, if you live "down under", do globes still.... never mind.

Speaking of lamps, one of our table lamps stopped working a few weeks ago. The knob that turned the lamp off and on fell apart. I like the lamp. Now that I'm feeling all feisty about making lamps, I'll probably try to fix it one day. But in the meantime, look what I found at the thrift store a couple of days ago. This funky old red glass lamp. Love it! Cost me a dollar, and they even threw in a new light bulb. (which isn't an energy efficient one, but we swapped it out when we got it home) The lampshade was from our other lamp and I think it fits the new lamp really well. I haven't even dusted the thing yet but I'll get around to it one of these days. I also want to take a coat of paint to the gold "metal" part. It's really only plastic and it's showing a bit of wear, but a fresh coat of paint (I've got some glossy black) will make it look good as new.

While I was going around taking photos, I thought I'd also show you this little bit of decorative scroll I brought home in that same box of "junk". It's actually a shelf. It had a crack in the top so someone had given it up as no longer useful. I didn't care because it would be easy peasy to glue a new piece of wood on it and there you go, no more broken top. But that was before I noticed it matched my cabinet so I flipped it over, laid it on top.... voila, my country style cabinet gets a touch of Old World style.

It's not like I disliked my cabinet plain, but this little touch really fits my new "funky Boho Europe" look.

Oh, and see the glass and silver (I assume silver plated. Hmmm. I didn't think to look) tea pot? That came home in my box of "junk" too. The carafe lifts in and out of the three legged silver base. I assume you are suppose to put a small tea light underneath it. Hey, is that how they got the name tea lights? I can hardly wait to serve some hot, sweet, Marrakesh Mint tea in it. All I have to do is find some.

Those little bits of color at the bottom of the pic? Balloons still up from William's birthday. You should see the living room, balloons and garlands all over the place! Oh, and all over the yard. And William's bedroom. Hubby got a little carried away. It was sweet.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I went to a local flea market today. Forgot it was this weekend and wandered in at the tail end of the day with $8 in bills and $2 in bottom of my purse and glove compartment change.

With the $8 I bought this...... uhm..... thing. I think it was originally a wrought iron plant stand, at least the bottom part of it was. I think part of the top was added on at some point to make it an ashtray. At least that's what the "dish" on the top appears to have been. And then someone had the brilliant idea to add a wire up through the middle and make it a "lamp", adding the odd "shade". I don't have a clue if the wiring still works, but for $8 I didn't care. I think I'll just pull the wires back out and use it as a display piece in the garden. I can set plants or fairies or anything I want on the "steps" and with the light bulb gone a candle might make awesome shadows through the iron globe. Or, I might take the globe off and hang it separately (with or without a bulb or candle). Regardless, I couldn't pass up the pretty swirls and circles.

With the gathered coins I just had enough to buy some more pretty swirls, these clip-on costume jewelry earrings. Don't they look like something Galadriel would wear? They're sort of a triskelian but not exactly. I don't know if I'll really ever wear them or if I'll just display them or maybe use them in an art piece, but I found them enchanting. Sheesh, I had no idea my hair looked so grey!

I also spent some time playing with some of my photos, changing them to black and white and adjusting the light and contrast. I "spookified" them up a bit and then made some copies to use for the base of collages for a couple of swaps. Uhm. Except, now what!? I had the idea to add some transparencies over them but, gee, it would be easier if I knew HOW to add transparencies. I guess I didn't think that far ahead in the project.

Y'know what I really need? I need my own personal collage tutor. When I first started quilting and I didn't know how to do something, I just sought out the people in our quilt group that appeared to have specialized skills and asked if they'd teach me. And they did. I realize now, in hindsight, how fortunate I was to meet such talented and kind people. But y'know, I have yet to turn someone away who wants to learn skills that I can teach. I guess it goes 'round.

I need someone to "walk me through it", help me get past the fear of making a mess of things. Someone with a sharp scissors, a glue stick, whatever else might come in handy (stamps? glitter? pens?), someone who's not afraid to use all that stuff! Or, if someone skilled isn't available to show me the ropes, then I wish I could find someone else as clueless as me so we could wade into disaster together.

And yes, I know, there are these things called "workshops". True. For some. But not out here in the boonies. Alas, this is a "workshop" free county. So. Anyone have any ideas what I should do next?

Oh, and one more thing. I still need to find and clear off a flat surface so I have a place to work. Yeah. That would be good too.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I walked by this building and got a chuckle out of it. When communicating, it's not always "Black and White" y'know. But apparently they don't want any shades of grey in their unit.

Still nothing more artsy than that to show you. I had a bunch of my new finds lined up on the couch to photograph but then, while I was off doing something else, my family came by and swept it all off so they could.... get this.... SIT on the couch! Sheesh. The nerve of some people.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

If you look to my sidebar, you'll see some changes. I added a few Bloggers under "Blogs I Read". It was just a test run, I need to add a bunch more. One of those "household" tasks I never get around to doing. I've also changed my doll to reflect being in the pre-Halloween decorating mood. I always arrive in fall decorating mode before most folks, and always before the shops start displaying autumn wares. For several weeks I've been watching the stores and websites and just in the last week I'm beginning to see autumn aisles and displays appear. Small displays. But growing. I love autumn!

I also added a button for a swap I joined, the Sweet and Sinister Swap hosted by Artsymama. Isn't it cute!? (I won't bother making any of the words link as you can click on the button itself.) I already loved Artsymama's site and enthusiastic way of gathering bloggers 'round but I HEART her more now because she was one of the first bloggers to get into the Halloween spirit with me. I have a number of projects I need to get on the ball and finish up, or even start and finish up, in the next month. Along with the projects already waiting sad and patiently for me to return to them, I'm using the Sweet and Sinister Swap to give me an excuse to try my wings .... er, apparently they're bat wings... on some new crafts.

I've had a lot of fun already perusing craft departments, fabric stores, and thrift shops looking for supplies. It's a Halloween themed swap but, more specifically, the guidelines call for all projects to be in a black and white theme. Although I undoubtedly have enough craft supplies at home to get off to a good start, I've brought home bags full of new black and white goodies. I've browsed blogs, magazines, and antique shops for project ideas.

I've got a dozen or so ideas I could do, not sure which ones I'll actually choose yet. I like to be a bit secretive about my work until I'm well underway with it. I do want to share some pics of the supplies and oddities I've found recently however. As I unbag and set up a workspace again, I'll be forthcoming with some photos.

In the meantime, anyone else working on Halloween or seasonal projects? Participating in or know of any other Halloween swaps? Decorating your home with things black and white and orange?

Or have you jumped directly into projects for winter gift giving? Ooooh, I don't even want to think about that yet but I know I'm already zooming past having time for any making any handmade gifts this year. Every January I vow to start right in for the following winter season and every year I just lollygag along until September when I think maybe I should have started in August but I still pretend there's time if I hurry and every end of November I remember the whole mailing time needed part of it and every December I just give up and use Plan B, which involves a credit card and a trip to the big city mall. ARGH.

But.... I'll think about all that tomorrow! (says Scarlett) I'm having too much fun with witches and pumpkins and bones and twirling leaves and things that go BUMP in the night!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

At the end of our street two small, old houses sit side by side. The houses themselves are invisible, nondescript boxes built before the attached garage style became the norm. The type of home that houses two old people and then one old person and then .... one day there's a For Sale sign in the front yard. One house is sort of cluttered, the other is tidy in a barren sort of way. Between the two houses runs a ramshackle line of boards defiantly claiming to be a fence. When I drive by, that fence almost always makes me smile.

Why? I dunno. I think it's "cute" in a shabby chic kinda way. It's homogeneous despite its patchwork of materials, all aging grays and whites, that one cheerful stretch of faded blue. I cheer for it, like a character from The Brave Little Toaster - weathered, made up of bits and pieces leaning on each other for support but still valiantly attempting to be useful in its old age, not yet ready to be put pulled down and tossed on the scrap heap. I suspect that some would consider it nothing but an eyesore. Indeed, it would be illegal in some neighborhoods. But I don't care. I think it has character, personality, and a quirky loveliness to it.

Driving down the street the other day on the way to running some errand, again I noticed the fence as I slowed for the stop sign and suddenly it occurred to me that while here I was admiring this old, imperfect piece of "lawn art" I had spent the better part of the last month frozen in my progress to put my living room back together WHY? - because I was afraid it wouldn't be perfect. That somehow completing the project, putting the old and new back together and calling it finished would expose the imperfection of my efforts.

I realized I didn't want to finish the process because I was certain that what I created would never live up to the perfect image in my head. Not that I even know what that image would look like. It certainly isn't something exact and flawless from a glossy magazine picture. What I'd been trying to do was blend a hodge podge of designs together to create a unique statement of who I am. I had never had a end result pictured in my mind. Instead I'd been following my gut, getting the green light whenever the "energy" or "mood" felt right -one that is happy, peaceful and makes you feel like you've stepped across the threshold into another a place slightly out of pace with the world outside. At what point in the process did the insideous idea that I had a result in mind, and that it needed to be perfect, creep in and take over?

I don't even LIKE perfect things! They often feel cold and unfriendly too me. They make me nervous and uncomfortable. For example - The town of Cannon Beach is a seaside town just west of Portland, Oregon. It's beautiful and new and a haven for the upscale and beautiful people who come from the big city for the weekend or the day. I've met some nice and friendly people there but still, the town has always made me feel just a wee bit unwelcome, as if my dusty, bumper stickered Subie might mar the perfection of their color coordinated streets. I'm much more at ease in some of the other seaside villages that are more eclectic and rough around the edges.

I don't like houses that are so clean I'm afraid to walk across the floor or set a glass down. I don't like art that matches the sofa. I find interesting faces more beautiful than faces with perfect features. I like my gardens a bit overgrown and wild. I like paintings with odd color combinations, quilts that are scrappy, and tables set with a theme or color but with a collection of not quite matching dishes and silverware.

Now that I think about it, the fear of imperfection stops me from doing more than just putting my living room back together. It stops me from finishing my novel. It keeps me from trying new art techniques. I hate that steep uphill climb on the learning curve when you have to treat all your outcome as "learning experiences."

It's no surprise that I've been happiest with both the process and my outcome on those rare occasions when I've worked without any preconceived ideas of what I expect of the results. Most of the time in my art, and not quite as rigidly in my writing but still true, I don't allow myself this kind of freedom. I shackle myself to an idea in my head of what something should look or sound like. Of course the creative process has a life of it's own and it fights the mold I've set for it, sprouting off in one odd direction after another. Then I spend most of my time and energy trying to force my project back towards the original idea. It's exhausting and rarely gets me the desired results. When I go into a project instead with nothing but a direction and a few disposable ideas, following the unexpected twists and changes instead of fighting them, I'm much more likely to arrive at the creative end thinking "Of course! Brilliant!"

It's interesting that, when it comes to other experiences in life, I'm very good at allowing myself the freedom of trusting the unknown. When things go off in unexpected directions, which they almost always seem to do, I've long ago learned that they are most likely going in the right direction. I've learned to be patient, enjoy the scenery, knowing everything will be revealed around the next bend in the road. How can I have learned to have such faith in my intuition for life in general and yet still be such a nervous back seat driver whenever my muse tries to take the wheel?

Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'm finally "getting" it. Maybe I can hold onto and remember this small ephiphany from now on. Sad but true, people usually have to learn a lesson several times (sometimes far more than several times for us stubborn folk) before it sticks. Hopefully, this is one of those sticky ones. And, maybe I can finally get my living room back together now that I've identified one of my stumbling blocks.

Originally I was going to post this wee philosophical ramble over on Beach Treasure but this morning the whole thing suddenly made much more sense connected to the idea of creative process and it wanted to stay here at the studio. Conversely, the photos I had planned on sharing here found themselves a string of words that tied them down over there in my day to day musings. Clouds. Pretty. Go see them.