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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Some quick, no-pressure ways to make art every day

Index card art is simple and quick, but fun!

Many of my artsy friends complain that have trouble finding the time to do art. Responsibilities of children, jobs, and just life in general often make leisurely art days a huge challenge. However, since putting our energies into art can be so rewarding -- and so relaxing -- it's great for us (and our families!) when we CAN make the time for artsy activities.

Here is a great way I've found to work some creative projects into a busy day: Use a small canvas. I don't mean a small stretched linen canvas; I mean a small surface. A blank book -- or even a large blank page in a sketchbook -- can be intimidating if I only have a few minutes for art. Using a small surface allows me to accomplish something in a minimum amount of time. My favorite small canvases are:

  • Index cards
  • Playing cards
  • Rolodex cards
All of these are small, inexpensive, and easily accessible.  If you don't have any around your house, all three can be found at thrift shops, flea markets or Dollar Stores.

There's no need for expensive or extensive collections of art supplies either. An inexpensive glue stick, a pair of scissors, some paint or ink pads, old magazines or a stack of incoming junk mail can give you plenty to work with. I also like to use decorative napkins; more on that technique later.

Pull out your supplies and put them on a tray or in a basket so you can grab them when you have a few minutes to spare. Multitask! You can make a little piece of art while drinking your morning coffee, watching television, talking on the phone, or waiting for something to bake in the oven. 

If you are at a loss for ideas, prompts can be very inspiring. Tammy Garcia's Daisy Yellow art blog is full of theme suggestions. Tammy created a popular group challenge called "Index-Card-a-Day (ICAD)" and, even though her recent Summer challenge is over, her prompts for previous challenges can inspire you. You can find these on her blog.

Here are some of my ICAD projects and the prompts or themes that inspired them.

ICAD theme: Nature (The flower and butterfly are cut from a paper napkin.)
ICAD prompt: The color orange
ICAD prompt: Make a collage using one staple (Fun and VERY quick!)
ICAD prompt: The color yellow

ICAD prompt: Just stickers (Another one that's easy and quick!)

You can see how simple and quick these are, but creating a little art every day is great way to lift your spirits. If you are pressed for time, you can still make one. If you have a little more time, you can make more than one. You get a creative break and you gain a sense of accomplishment because an index card is something you can easily finish. (Sometimes all those unfinished art projects can CAUSE stress instead of relieve it!)

Next time I'll show you some quick projects you can do with playing cards and decorative paper napkins.

I hope you'll take a art break today!

Friday, July 11, 2014

It's studio tour time again! Where Bloggers Create 2014

Welcome to my happy place. Thanks to Karen Valentine of My Desert Cottage  for hosting another Where Bloggers Create event! This is my second year at the party, and I appreciate all of Karen's efforts to make this event exciting and fun. 

The photo above is a studio view from the doorway. My studio is three steps down from our dining room. New in this area since the last year's WBC party are the pull-down school maps on the back wall and the chest of map drawers (below).

I've been calling this a map cabinet because the drawers are large and shallow, but the chest was actually handmade to store hardware in someone's garage. I saw it in the bed of a pick-up truck and asked the driver if it was for sale. Lucky for me, the answer was yes! It was a mess when I bought it, but a friend repaired it for me, and I love it because it is so useful. The bin pulls are solid brass and the sides are beadboard.

One large map drawer holds washi tape in plastic trays from cracker packages.

This tall 40-drawer Post Office cabinet (below) is my pride and joy. It looks like a card catalog cabinet in photos, but it is much larger. The drawers are 8-1/2" wide and 24 inches long. so they hold a LOT! The second photo below shows all the vintage oddities I put on top of it.

Love this 5-foot-tall Post Office cabinet!  I'll show you what's in some of the drawers later.

A hodgepodge of vintage goodies that caught my eye: folk art American flag on corrugated metal, parking meter, beach pail and shovels, toy trucks, toy cash register, vintage tins, and what some people call "creepy doll heads." 

Another of my favorite pieces is this golden oak McCaskey Register System from the early 1900s (sitting on top of an oak card catalog cabinet).  This historic piece of furniture was part of a revolutionary accounting system for department stores and other businesses. (I call it the earliest version of QuickBooks.) The piece has large shallow drawers under glass, where ledgers displayed customer account numbers. Above the glass are metal fold-down receipt holders where numbered compartments hold clips for each customer's receipts. When the customer came to pay on his/her account, the store owner would look up the account number and then total the receipts for payment.

The receipt holders fold down and I use them for vintage photos, artwork and ephemera. 7 Gypsies produced a perfectly accurate replica of the black metal McCaskey receipt holders a few years ago as display pieces for artists. While 7 Gypsies did a great job with the reproduction, I think it's pretty exciting to have the genuine article!

I'm using the ledger drawer to display a collection of vintage office supplies.

Just some more of my funky stuff... I actually use the antique fan, but not the oversized pencils. (I found the pencils just last month, one at a time!) The hand-painted spool drawers hold rubber stamps for mail art projects. Everything in this picture was found at a local flea market except the stereo and the figural brush, which was a gift from my mother.

Can you guess my favorite color? I love my little red Corona typewriter and vintage red Arrow stapler. The Sychro-Jr. Jig Saw for Boys belonged to my father when he was a teen. He used it for model airplane making.The jig saw still works, as does the vintage Kodak photo developing timer. The metal Duro Sign Maker box holds some of my handmade books, and the little red metal blasting caps box holds some of my ATCs.  Shallow drawers below hold rubber stamps organized by theme.  It's nice that the drawer pulls are label holders; they make it easy to keep track of which theme is in each drawer.

Some of the many things I collect in my studio are vintage children's art supplies. I love the cute illustrations and the colorful packaging. Vintage watercolor tins are among my favorites.I had the same Playtime watercolor tin when I was a child, so it was a thrill to find that at a garage sale.  Did you notice the original price? 29 cents!  It's a bonus to be able to use the contents!

I hope you have enjoyed this peek into my studio, and I hope you'll stop by my blog again to download free printables. I have some wonderful ephemera to scan and share with you.

Be sure to visit the other WBC blogs to see more studios (via the link in my sidebar) --- and please stop back by here tomorrow for more pictures of my studio! 


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mail art: the beginning of beautiful friendships

Nearly 20 years ago when my sons were small and I had an irregular work schedule as a freelancer, I got involved in art swaps via mail. Swappers were an eclectic group of strangers who enjoyed using software called Print Artist got together online to chat about the software and artsy projects we could make using the software. We exchanged handmade greeting cards, postcards, bookmarks and other paper craft projects via mail. The exchanges were really fun, and these strangers became online friends.  Later, after meeting in person at national conventions and regional get-togethers we called "mini-meets," many of us became real-life and in-person friends. Some of these have become close, lifelong friends. 

My husband and I are empty nesters now and I have scaled back my work hours. It's nice to have a little more time for art, and I've been taking art classes and dabbling in art journaling, mail art swaps and book projects.

Twenty years ago, it was exciting to get email.  (If you are of my era, you'll remember being happy to hear the old AOL sound bite: "You've got mail!"). Today, our email Inboxes are so filled with spam, constant audible announcements would drive us crazy. Today, it's rare and exciting to get a physical letter or a hand-addressed card in the little black box at the bottom of our driveway.  

Receiving mail art is even more exciting because it's a big pop of color and surprise in your mailbox. And making mail art is as much fun as receiving it.

One of my favorite contemporary artists is Seth Apter of The Altered Page.  Seth might not be an artist today if he hadn't been introduced to mail art!  He was vacationing in Vancouver when he bought a piece of art at a gallery. The gallery owner sent him a mail art thank you, and he felt he should respond in kind, so he crafted a mail art reply. This serendipitous mail art exchange with the gallery owner was the beginning of a close friendship AND the beginning of Seth's interest in becoming an artist. (We should all send the gallery owner a thank you for inspiring that!)

Mail art, which is basically just decorative mail, is a simple art project that is fun, simple, and easy to make time for.  Instead of writing an address on a plain envelope and adding a Forever stamp, mail artists will use paint, rubber stamps, washi tape, ephemera, images clipped from books and magazines, and multiple postage stamps to make that envelope anything but plain. And sometimes mail art is putting a stamp on a rubber duckie... or a pair of flipflops.

Below are some examples of my mail art postcards and envelopes. They are messy and busy, and sometimes silly, but they were fun to make and (I hope) fun to receive. 

 Mail art postcard: Paper napkins, ephemera, images and letters cut from magazines

Mail art postcard: Washi tape, labels, game ephemera

Mail art envelope front: Rubber stamping, washi tape, letters cut from magazines,
mail-themed postage stamps

Mail art envelope back: Rubber stamping, washi tape

Mail art postcard using paper napkins, ledger paper, rubber stamps and washi tape
Back of mail art postcard with washi tape, rubber stamps, postal ephemera, etc.

Sometimes it's fun to follow a theme with your mail art. My sister loves animals, so I collected animal images and animal-themed postage stamps to make this oversized envelope for her.

Large envelope with rubber stamping, images and letters cut from magazines, animal-themed postage stamps

Three blogs I enjoy focus on mail and mail art.  Check them out:

Every day is a red letter day

Cappuccino and art journal

Mail me some art

Karen Isaacson of "Mail me some art" hosts several themed mail art swaps every month. Her swaps are a great way to get started with mail art. Open swaps are listed here.

Make someone happy today by sending a mail art postcard, envelope or letter!  You might even make some wonderful new friends.

I hope you have a good mail day!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dexter 1997-2014

Today's post has nothing to do with collage or ephemera. It's all personal, but something I needed to write for therapeutic reasons. If you are a dog person, you will understand. I'll return to collage/ephemera/art-related posts soon. Art is also good therapy for grief...

Dexter and his humans, circa 1997

I didn’t want a dog. I wasn’t a dog person. I was happy with our cat.  But my husband has always loved dogs and my husband wanted a dog.

Working on a PTA project at Sue Choate’s house, I met her lovely miniature Schnauzer named Chloe. I came home and made an offhand comment about Sue’s small, sweet dog who didn’t bark and didn’t shed. Charley immediately decided that I might be willing to adopt a miniature Schnauzer.

Charley started scouring the classified ads for mini Schnauzers, and discovered that there were several available puppies for adoption at Regal Pets in the Chamblee Plaza Shopping Center, about 3 miles from our house.  I said no way. I would never get a dog from a pet store; they come from puppy mills and are probably not healthy. No way.

Can we just go look at them? he asked.  I reluctantly agreed to go. The four of us drove to the pet store, walked up to the cage and saw several adorable mini Schnauzer puppies.  A salt and pepper puppy was particularly lively and cute, and the owner suggested taking it behind the store to play with it. We did that for a few minutes, and I said, “He’s very cute, but we can’t buy a dog at a pet store,” and we walked out to get back in the car.

My son Brannon, 10 years old at the time, has huge brown eyes. In the parking lot, I watched those big brown eyes fill with tears. He and JC, 11, begged us to buy the puppy.

Charley said, “It’s up to your mother.”

If looks could kill, Charley would no longer be with us.

Ambushed, I said, “Here’s the deal. We get a written return authorization from the pet store. We take the dog directly to Dr. Bates to be checked out. If he isn’t healthy, he goes back. Clear?”  Clear, everyone said.

Dr. Bates said the puppy was a healthy little guy.  The boys named him Dexter.

I read about crate training, and we bought a crate and a little dog bed. And dog food. And dog toys. Dexter slept in the crate at night. In the morning after we took him outside, he would go into the crate and bring out his dog toys, one by one, and drop them in the den. He tried to bring his water bowl, too, but we said no.  Every night we would put Dexter to bed, along with his toy collection, in the crate. But he cried at night.  We decided he could sleep with us. He was a tiny little thing, and wouldn’t take up much room. He slept right between us, something else I swore would never happen. Never say never.

Casper was wary of him at first, but soon, they were napping together. Their relationship was so much fun to watch.

I bonded with Dexter like I never thought possible. When Charley and I watched television, Dexter sat in my lap and Casper, our cat, sat in Charley’s lap.  When Charley played tennis, Dexter waited by the tennis court and allowed all the neighborhood children to pet him. He loved riding in the car, so in mild weather, we took him with us on errands. When we went on road trips, we asked AAA to help find hotels that allowed pets.

All dog lovers have pet phrases they use with their dogs… We would always say, “Dexter, you are just the sweetest dog ever.”  On a road trip to Rhode Island, our friend Jim Nellis started saying, “Dexter, you are the Swedish!”  It stuck.

Dexter helped me adjust to the empty nest when the boys left for college. He was such great company, and I still had someone to talk to in the almost-empty house. He always made me smile when he did his cute little dance when I was about to reward him with a treat.

Casper died suddenly in 2006, and Dexter went into mourning. He lost interest in food; he didn’t want to go outdoors; he stayed on the couch, listless.  We had to do something, and what we did was get a second mini Schnauzer puppy, Daisy.

You know how you see pictures of dogs who look like they are smiling?  Well, we should have taken pictures of the dirty looks Dexter gave us when we brought that little pest of a puppy home. She pawed at him. She barked. She annoyed him. He was annoyed with her and annoyed with us for the disturbance. 

Dexter and Daisy couldn’t have been more different. Dexter was quiet and laid back. Daisy barked at anything and everything, even birds. Dexter’s only misbehavior was getting into the trash can when given the opportunity. On walks to the lake, Dexter trotted across the bridges; Daisy tromped through the mud below. Daisy dug holes in the yard, escaped the yard by squeezing under the fence, and rolled in stinky things whenever possible.  Despite their different personalities, just as Casper accepted Dexter, Dexter eventually began to accept Daisy. They even shared a food bowl without incident.

In 2007, I added a brick and mortar store to my internet art supply business. The dogs stayed at home when Charley would be home, but when Charley played golf or had other plans, I took Dexter and Daisy to work with me. They had dog beds, treats and toys there. They loved the staff, the customers, the UPS and FedEx drivers, the postman and the neighbors. I loved having them with me at work.

When JC visited from San Diego, he would call Dexter “the real dog” and Daisy “the other dog” or “the faux dog.”  He was affectionate with both dogs, and the nicknames always gave us a laugh.

On May 25, we celebrated Dexter’s 17th birthday. In June his health started failing. He began to move much more slowly and slept most of every day. This week he lost interest in food and water, and he is having trouble standing. We know that it is time to say goodbye, and it is so, so hard. The vet came to the house yesterday and we got one last hug in the front yard.  I can hardly breathe…

I didn’t want a dog. But Dexter – the real dog -- was the Swedish dog ever, and I will miss him so, so much.