Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thrifty Thursday: Altered Book Project

As part of my Thrifty Thursday series, I've decided to alter a book I bought at the local used bookstore. It's called Plains Song by Wright Morris.

I haven't read it, and now that I've prepared it for altering I won't be able to (not this copy anyway) as you will soon understand. But I didn't buy it to read it, I bought it specifically for the purpose of alteration. Now, there are two important things to look for when purchasing a book to alter. First of all, it has to have a hard cover, otherwise it won't stand up to all the fun things you'll be putting it through. Second, it really should have stitched signatures, as opposed to glued signatures.

I'm not sure how well you can see it here, but pages have been grouped together - these are known as "signatures" - and those groups have been sewn together onto a binding strip. This is very important when it comes to the first (and really only major) step in preparing the book to be altered:  tearing out pages. If the signatures were glued together, when you start to tear some out, the whole book could fall apart. You should be able to tell when you're holding it in your hands, and most older books were stitched as that was the only available method; the downside to this being older books tend to cost more. Trust me though, it's worth the extra in the long run!

Here you can see I tore out a page or two; I chose to leave the black and white photos that appear at the beginning of the chapters just in case I want to use them.

There are no rules, that I'm aware of, as far as how many pages to remove. I like even numbers, so I try to leave an even number of pages, and tear out about a third of the book. The more you remove, the more room you will have to give your layouts dimension and interaction. You can always start small and remove more as you need the room.

I would like to finish at least one page a week, although at that rate it will take me over a year to finish the entire book, so I'll probably do more than one. I will be trying out different techniques, mediums, etc, and sharing photos and writing about some of my favorites as part of this series. When the entire book is full I'm going to give it to a friend, but I'm not going to tell you who that friend is until after they've received it. Surprises are fun! Especially homemade ones!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Weekly Wednesday #22: Patchwork Body

As part of this new structure experiment, I've decided to provide both Art Challenge Weekly prompt cards in one post, now known as "Weekly Wednesday". The previous posts in this series can be found under the labels "wednesday prompt" and "saturday prompt", and will also be listed under the "Art Challenge" tab on the Home page.

The main reason I decided to combine them is to make it work with my alliteration (Weekly Wednesday), but also because I know most of you who are following this challenge and actually using the prompts probably won't be doing them twice a week, one at a time. I will still try to use the blue deck as my first layer, and the red deck as my next, and will write about the blue deck card first, red second, in each of these posts from now on. As I've always said, this is all about individual creativity, so however you want to participate is up to you. Since I haven't gotten much feedback on the process, I made an executive decision about what works for me. I would still love to hear about and see what you're working on, though, and will be having some fun giveaways this summer for anyone who shares.

Ok, now that the business side of things is taken care of, let's get to this week's prompts. I actually have an idea for these already:

The first prompt is patchwork. Webster tells us that patchwork is "something composed of miscellaneous or incongrous parts; hodgepodge," and another source defines it as "pieced work." Both work well for our purposes (and let's be honest, hodgepodge is just a fun word to say!), and will hopefully inspire several great ideas right off. On the card, I made a "pieced" owl using three different papers, then drew on the stitching lines for depth and interest. I have an idea for using this particular little guy on a larger scale, and will be sharing that when it's finished. (I must admit, he was really fun to create! And so cute!)

For my art journal page, I want to take things in a slightly different direction, allowing me to include the second prompt as well:

Isn't this just the cutest photo? I found it during one of my web adventures and I had to get it. I could say so many things about that precious little guy! I hope my kids will be just as cute! I won't be using this image in my journal (at least not for this page) but there are elements of it that will be borrowed for sure.

I hope you have as much fun with this week's ideas as I'm planning to, and please share what you create! I'm hoping to get caught up on posting the missing weeks (10-18) as well as photos of some of my newly created pages in the coming days. Summer vacation is only a week away and then I have complete creative freedom - and lots of time to write!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mixed Media Monday: The ABCs of ART

On Mondays I would like to focus on Mixed Media; this will include projects I've created, as well as techniques and projects I find in my adventures. (From now on, you can find posts in this particular series by clicking on the label at the bottom of my Home page or at the end of each individual post.)

This is a canvas I made for a Paper Pals Design Team Challenge:  Art Squares. You can read more about them by clicking on that link, and see some other projects created with them as well. For this project I used four of them on the bottom holding the title. It was my first experience working with Art Squares, and I enjoyed them.

Back to the process:  I tried to follow the steps that I learned last summer when I took my first (and so far only) mixed media canvas class at Paper Pals. It was called Home Is Where the Heart Is; it's now hanging in my art room. No matter the end result, the process is basically the same - it's all about the layers. This time, I started with a patterned paper collage background (I wish I had taken a picture of it!) I adhered the paper to the canvas using Claudine Hellmuth Studio Multi-Medium (basically a better version of Mod Podge). I've found it works best for me if I put a thin layer on the canvas as well as the back of the paper.

Next, I painted the edges of the canvas with green acrylic paint, coming up over the sides and onto the paper to blend it all together. To add more depth and texture to the background, I used alphabet stamps with Archival ink and stencils with acrylic paints, both by Dyan Reaveley, randomly stamping and painting parts and pieces, most of which you can still see. I then took a spiral stencil and randomly painted a few swirls. I wasn't sure how much would be seen when I finished adding layers.

For the top layer, I added the Art Squares with the title (for a description see the Design Team post), stamped the list along the right side, and created the tag embellishment. For the list of ABCs I cut pieces of cream cardstock to 3/4" and use small alpha stamps and brown Archival ink. I then adhered them to some orange patterned paper with ATG and trimmed it down before adhering it to the canvas with more Multi-Medium. For the tag embellishment, I covered a manila colored large shipping tag with music paper, then tore a piece of patterned paper and adhered it to the right side (inking the edges of everything as I went). I then stamped some grid lines going off the edges in a few spots, and adhered the swirl (which I had fussy cut from a piece of patterened paper for a different project but hadn't used yet).

For the bird, I took a pre-cut and embossed chipboard bird and darkened it slightly with Vintage Photo Distress Ink, then stamped on it with a script stamp. I adhered it to a tiny clothespin using Glossy Accents, and adhered the clothespin to the tag. The sentiment is from a Tim Holtz stamp set, stamped in Archival ink, edges torn and distressed, and held in place by the clothespin. I also put a dimensional square under the bottom of it to help keep it in the right spot. I also used Glossy Accents to adhere the buttons, and finally, I took three charms and attached them to a special safety pin that has loops on the bottom, then put the safety pin through the tag itself. The tag is adhered to the canvas using more dimensional squares. I used a scrap of ribbon in the top, as well as behind the "t" in art.

Overall, I would say I'm pleased with the end result. I'm not happy with how much of the stamping/stenciling layer on top of the paper is still visible, so in the future I'll have to experiment with that a little. I'd also like to try making some more 3-D tags as embellishments and/or stand-alone projects. I had fun trying to find the right combination of materials to achieve the look I was going for (although I'm not entirely sure what that look actually was).

Next week I'd like to have some photos to share of my end-of-year gifts for a few coworkers, most of them being canvases, so be watching for them in the next installment of Mixed Media Monday! And be sure to comment with questions and/or photos of our own projects.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Technique of the Week

I haven't been feeling well so I've spent a lot of time resting this weekend. For me, sleep isn't always as restful as creating, and with the end of the school year fast approaching (only six and a half more school days til summer!!), I have several projects to work on. Can you guess where my thoughts have been?

It's actually been a nice distraction from the realities of my life at the moment, and I think that's why I've been more hyper-focused the past few days. Not only have I finished a few gifts for friends, I've been thinking about imposing structure onto the chaos of my life through this blog. Which means I have some ideas about what to write about and when, which of course will also provide ideas for projects, give me more writing practice, and generally make the world a more happy place for everyone who reads the posts!

First of all, I would like to start working on a "technique of the week" series, in which I choose one technique and create 4-6 projects to write about that week. (Well, I should say 4 or 6 since I don't like odd numbers). Not only will this give me a good reason to experiment, it will also give me a chance to share some (possibly) new and interesting techniques with my readers. If you have suggestions of something you'd like to know more about, leave a comment and I'll explore it with you!

The first technique I would like to explore is heat embossing. I used it on my ATCs for the Paper Pals ATC Trade Club last week, and have since done some exploring online.

If you're unfamiliar with heat embossing, I'll be writing about how it's done tomorrow, with photos of each step and a description. Today I just wanted to introduce it and share a little about this new structure. I'd like to have at least one "series" for each day of the week, not so I can write every day (although I would enjoy that!), but more so that when I make something I can have a day to write about it, and so that when I feel like writing but can't think of anything, I'll have that pre-determined theme to guide me.

I would also like these to be alliterative - Mixed Media Monday, Technique Tuesday (different from the Technique of the Week), and What to Do Wednesday are the three I have so far. I will be posting both cards on Wednesdays now, instead of waiting until Saturday for the second one. I still need words for Sunday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday - feel free to offer ideas by leaving a comment or e-mailing me! Of course that means I don't have an idea for today yet. Hopefully I will by next Sunday - something related to creating and/or writing that starts with an "S".... for now I'm going to rest some more. Happy crafting!

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Believe:  to accept something as true, genuine, or real. Do you believe in magic? (Did that question just make a song pop into your head? Sorry.) Do you believe in your dreams? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in yourself? In someone else? What does it even mean to "believe in" someone?

One thing I've learned from a work-related training that I find applicable to every area of my life is that "my perception is my reality." In other words, how I see the world is what is "real" to me. So "reality" is different for everyone. Have I lost you? For example, you may say something to me sarcastically, but I perceive it to be insulting, therefore I feel insulted. Your reality is that it was sarcastic and funny. Mine is that it was mean. We all have different perceptions about the world around us, how we experience it using our five senses and judgments made based on previous experiences; those perceptions are what constitute reality for each of us.

While that's an interesting concept, one I could probably ramble on about for pages, it's not really the direction I want to take in my art journal. At least not at first blush. So. Another way of thinking about believe is "to accept something as genuine." A genuine person is sincere and honest; a genuine emotion is sincerely and honestly felt or experienced. What would "sincere and honest" look like on paper? They're feelings. What do feelings look like?

The only way I can think of to go about this is to find something that symbolizes these concepts to me personally - my perception of them if you will - an object, action, person, or event. So many choices! I'll have to give it some more thought. And then there's Wednesday's prompt to incorporate:  tree. Is there anything more genuine or real than a tree? Another good combination of cards, I'm looking forward to a visit from my muse this weekend for sure!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I {Heart} Trees

I don't remember when it started, my fascination with trees. I just know that I'm drawn to them; to photograph them, sketch them, stand beneath them and stare up through their branches. If I had any upper body strength I'd probably climb them more often, rest in their arms, learn to hear the world as they do. They have great lessons to teach us about strength, character, wisdom, endurance. It's really too bad we don't take as much time to experience them as some do trying to save them!

One of my favorite ways to think about trees is to frame them with the four seasons: the trees of Spring are just beginning to blossom and grow, full of potential and hope; Summer trees are in full bloom, with flowers, leaves, or fruit, providing shade in the heat of the day and whispering songs in the cool of night; Fall trees are among my favorite, as Jeffrey McDaniel says, "I realize there's something incredibly honest about trees in autumn, how they're experts at letting things go"; and the trees of Winter so bare and silent, persevering under the heavy layers of snow and ice, so clean and simple and sparkling.

I have several photographs of trees in my collection, some that I've taken, some have been taken by friends, others still I've found online during one of my many adventures. There's one tree in particular that I have wanted to visit for many years - on a hillside to the right as I head West into Colfax from Pullman. One of these days I will find a spot to pull over, or a place to park and walk to it. When I do, I will most definitely share it with you. I love it because it sits all alone on the top of a hill, and yet it's loneliness feels so safe and right. I imagine if other trees were around it, it wouldn't speak to me in the same way.
Albert Schweitzer once said, "Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf." The knots mingle with the sleek branches, ugliness with beauty. Each one is as unique and different as each human being, and yet its growth is entirely dependent on its environment. I wonder how the nature vs. nurture argument involving child rearing would apply to growing trees.

As for my art journal I'm not sure which direction it will take. I joke sometimes that everything I draw looks like a tree, when in reality, I can't even draw a tree to look like a tree! So perhaps drawing won't be the approach I take. I have a really cool stencil that has birch trees, it makes an interesting background. I used it in my first art journal:

For the page opposite this one I laid a piece of paper on top of the stencil after I sprayed the ink onto this side so what's white on this page is blue on the other. It was an interesting effect. I added these signs later, but that's as far as either page has progressed. I'm not sure what other images will fit, or how I want to journal about this idea of time. Perhaps I will give it another go in my new journal. I love the possibilities of new ideas! I'm off to play, who wants to join me?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

White and Wordy?

I did something new last night, something I should be proud of, although I'm not sure that's how I felt:  I went to the Ladies' Craft Night at my church for the first time! I've considered going to them a few times in the past, but I had a wicked cold one month, out of town once, a broken arm....a few times, I admit, I was just too freaked out to try.

It's in the Fireside Room at my church, which is a room I had never been in before, and that's what kept me from going - I didn't know what the room looked like! This is one of the things about being autistic that I really hate. But that's for another series of posts altogether, ones I was hoping to write in April but I'm still processing.

Anyway, I went last night. I saw it in an e-mail I got on Thursday and decided I wanted to go - and then I actually went! Three other women were there this time. While I didn't bring many projects with me, I accomplished even less, but one of the things I did get finished was the first layer for my page this week, the "reflection" layer! It's very simple but I like it. I'll post a photo of it with my final post for this week, not sure which day that will be (depends on when I finish the second layer).

Speaking of which - it's time to share the second card for Week Twenty. (It's very exciting to be back on track with these!)

This card was made using a white ink stamp pad, but I plan to use a white ink pen on my page. Paint would also work. If you enjoy doodling and/or zentangle, coloring in parts of it is a great accent. Even journaling with one would add another layer. I prefer the Uni-ball brand personally, and would recommend coating the page with a gel medium first.

Another post I would like to do one of these days is to explore color theory. Warm and cool, shading, the color wheel, complimentary colors - I've always found colors fascinating. I'd also like to come up with some color combinations as inspiration for pages and projects. Feel free to comment if you have suggestions!

Friday, May 17, 2013

A New Direction

The first time I made a page using the week two prompts, this is what I came up with. I wrote about it on the posts FootprintsHand-Carved Stamp, and XPLR in case you're interested in the process. This one is in my first art journal; I haven't taken time to journal anything on it yet, but eventually I'd like to. I left a space on both tags - top left and inside the envelope - for when I get around to it. I at least want to write some thoughts about the quote by t.s. eliot that I found, and maybe about living here in Pullman.

This is actually a photo that Anne took of her own footprints after playing in a fountain downtown a few years ago. I love how the two sides are different, almost opposite - the left showing more detail with less water, the right being filled in but soft around the edges. There are so many metaphors and rabbit trails I could follow - darkness and light, good and evil, the left and right brain hemispheres, on and on and on....a thousand words to start.

For the new page, I took a bit of inspiration from this photo and made my own footprints in brown after painting the background with suede:

The dimensions are hard to gauge at this angle; I think this photo actually makes my feet look average sized! In reality they're on the small side, though not quite as tiny as Anne's (even though she's about three inches taller than me!). For the second prompt (hand-carved stamp) I decided to use the same stamp I used on the original page, although this time I chose not to put paint on the four spaces that made it look like a license plate. I haven't put anything inside of the box yet - I still don't know what this page is about. Maybe I'll put song lyrics or a quote about a journey. Maybe I'll use the same eliot quote for this page....whatever I do, I'm sure I'll end up writing about it.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Six Years After "Bon Voyage"

Yesterday marked six years since Gilmore Girls aired it's final episode (I have mixed feelings on how that was written, for the record). I admit it took me a few years to get interested in the show, mostly due to the fact that I had other shows I was invested in at the time, but once I did I absolutely LOVED it. Most of the time. There were a few episodes that still make me cringe when I watch them, and a few plot decisions I disagree with. But overall, definitely on my favorites list.

As I sit here thinking about what to share, things I liked about the show, I'm realizing there isn't much I didn't like! Especially the variety of characters. Like the Gilmore's (Richard and Emily), who you want to hate but can't quite let yourself when they go and do something admirable or compassionate. Babbette and Maury, the crazy, cat-loving neighbors with a gnome colony in their yard and a nose in everyone's business. Miss Patty, the sensual, occasionally crude busy body, best friend of Babbette, who teaches dance and reminisces about her days on (and off) Broadway. Taylor Doose who owns the local market and basically runs the town, driving everyone crazy with his rules and crazy schemes. Rory's best friend Lane Kim, an American rockstar trapped in a church-going Korean girl's body, who joins a band and marries the lead singer Zach, having twin boys and finally making Mrs. Kim proud. And Mrs. Kim - owner of an antique store and devoted member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

There was Paris, who in so many ways was the opposite of Rory, entering her life at Chilton Academy and never quite going away. Madeline and Louise, forever faithful to Paris, added a little color and culture to Rory's otherwise, up to that point, rather sheltered existence. And who could forget Kirk? I mean, Kirk....enough said.

Of course we were introduced, starting early on, to the "men" in Rory's life - she had a "relationship" with the town "good guy" (Dean), then another "relationship" with the requisite "bad boy" (Jess) before graduating high school. We traveled with her along this path, from holding hands and a first kiss, to saying "Because I love you, you idiot!" to Dean. We hoped for the best as she made a connection thru literature and intellect with Jess, and tried to warn her to get away as he slowly gave up and began to show his inability to let himself love another human being. She started at Yale heartbroken and naive, staying single her freshman year, watching Dean marry Lindsay and move on with his life, being ambushed by Jess saying "I love you" before running away (literally). I was glad to see him return and make amends later on.

Being a mainstream show popular with teens and young adults, I knew Rory having sex had to come up eventually. I was glad they waited, at least, until she had finished her first year of college, but didn't like how it played out - how she returned for the summer to become "the other woman" with Dean one night, and finally put personal experience to "all those Trojan man jokes" that were never part of the script but flippantly referenced in her defense of the act. Once that bridge had been crossed, however, it became a background aspect, only brought up occasionally thru her brief return to Dean, and final relationship with Logan. I admit I found it interesting (yet not surprising) that in the end, Rory decided to pursue her journalism career alone, refusing Logan's proposal of marriage.

Of course my two favorite characters were Lorelai and Rory, the namesakes of the show, the actual "Gilmore girls"; I admit I kind of miss them each time I finish the series again. Lorelai, a single mom who gave birth at sixteen, ran away from home, and never looked back, isn't exactly the best role model. But the way she rises from housekeeper at the Independence Inn to owning and managing her own, The Dragonfly, shows a great deal of strength and determination. Her drive to become independent of her parents and everything about "their world", the suffocating rules and order of the upperclass in Connecticut, is a great backdrop for all kinds of problems and adventures! Not to mention her desire to finally find her Prince, and the many suitors who came and went trying to prove their worth.

I would love to have just a few more chapters, to finally see Lorelai happily married with a few more kids (all Luke's, of course). And to see where Rory ended up both as a journalist and in terms of a family. There have been rumors of a follow-up movie....we shall see.


I've been doing a lot of creating recently, trying to get my insides out so I can work through them and move forward. I spent about a week going back through the cards from the first nineteen weeks of the art challenge and made new pages in my new journal, and I would like to share them. As I always say, the best place to start is at the beginning.

This is it, the prompt that started it all. My original page was a background of alternating blue and red squares. I remember wanting to follow the prompts as literally as possible. Not a surprise, but also not really in the spirit of the project, so this time around I exercised some of my creative license and came up with something different:

I painted the page with light blue to start. I then took a piece of transparency that was left over from a Superman iron-on, and laid it on the page. Using a stencil I bought at Paper Pals and a paint dabber, I created the hexagons around the outside of it. A hexagon is itself symmetrical, even though the way I placed them isn't, and I like how it turned out.

For the second prompt, I made my own version of the Superman logo - with an A for my autistic superpowers - and practiced drawing zentangles inside of it. The original drawings were black on white, and I used a blue pen to color it in. I don't know if I want to add more before I journal so I haven't covered the page with medium yet.

So, a sort of product review:  there are a few things about this new journal that are new experiences for me. It's designed to be used landscape style, for one, each page measuring about 8.5" high and about 11.75" long. It's also the first time I've been able to create in a book that is already bound. In the past I've found myself feeling blocked and getting frustrated easily unless working on loose pages. Overall though I'm really enjoying it! And there are enough pages for me to do one a week for the whole year, plus about four extra. All that's left to figure out is how I'm going to add to the layers I create by the prompt decks.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

An Exercise in Reflection

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I think the last time I shared a card from my art challenge prompt decks was early March (Week Nine:  new to me art supply and fire). At that time, the last page I had created in my journal was Week Five (explore a question and smile). I got stuck on Week Six (behind the fence and date night), and then my laptop gave out and I haven't been able to get a new one yet. The one I'm using now is old and crabby but works, so I'm hoping to get back into the groove of posting regularly. In my absence I continued to create, to work on my goal of making art every day, and I have much to share.

First of all, as of tonight, I am basically caught up on all pages through Week Nineteen (there are a few I'm not sure about yet but they all have at least the background layer). In addition, I've taken pictures of all cards from both decks through Week Twenty-One (I haven't finished making the decks beyond that point, but plan to finish those before I need more), and have also taken pictures of the pages I'm working on in my new art journal - I recently got a Moleskine Watercolor Album and used it to start over at Week One.

Next steps are to post photos - of both cards for each week along with my corresponding page-in-progress and some thoughts - once per day. This will include the cards I missed posting as well as the first nine weeks and the new pages I'm working on for them. I'm going to start with the first card for Week Twenty, which starts today:

This is an idea that can be looked at in several ways. The dictionary says: 1) the act of reflecting or the state of being reflected; 2) an image, representation, or counterpart; 3) a fixing of the thoughts on something, careful consideration; and 4) an unfavorable remark or observation. Any of these would make for a great journal page.

For a challenge, try to use them together. Choose an image. Decide if that image will be reflected, or reflect something. Does it relate to careful consideration? Is there a quote that goes with it? On the card I put a photo that shows a mirror reflecting my little sister, but there are other things that reflect - windows or water.

This reminds me of a question I used to ask my friends when I was in high school:  "When you look in a mirror, do you see your self?" Notice the emphasis on the word "self". I never did get an answer from anyone. At first it seems like one of those weird riddles you find on popsicle sticks; then you take a few minutes to step back and really think about the words and their meaning - to reflect, if you will - and you realize that it's actually a frightening question, the answer to which may be painful or uncomfortable.

Sound like something you could journal about? I suggested using these prompts for art journaling just for that purpose - to explore self through art. Thomas Merton said, "Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." The act of creating can be as meditative as writing your thoughts; I look forward to adding the words, too.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Mother's Hands

I've thought about the blog quite often in the past six weeks or so since I last wrote, but this old laptop I'm using is very frustrating, freezing when I try to do things, or not allowing updates necessary to run certain programs. I did get an external hard drive so I can access old files and photos, but it doesn't always cooperate when I need them. However, I have good news for all of my creative friends - I finally got back on track with my weekly art challenge, and will be posting photos and catching you all up on the prompts.

I also wanted to share one today, for Mother's Day, as a special treat for all the special women in my life who are blessed to be mothers. This is a poem I wrote several years ago (I think it's been about eight or nine already!); please don't copy it without getting permission first.

A Mother's Hands
by mellena mae coady

Cooking, cleaning, tying shoes,
Finding things that children lose,
Picking flowers, catching bugs,
Drying tears and giving hugs.

Taking pictures, making games,
Singing songs with silly names,
Watching movies, playing ball,
Drawing on the bedroom wall.

Running errands, matching socks,
Building dreams with wooden blocks,
Telling stories, climbing trees,
Kissing cuts and patching knees.

Writing letters, calling friends,
Hoping this day never ends,
Knowing someone understands,
Living life by mother’s hands.