Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sold the bracelet off my wrist

so of course that meant I had to create a new necklace and bracelets to wear to a party I am headed off to in a little while. The necklace is made up of vintage jewelry components. The pendant was a brooch that lost it's clasp but I thought it was too pretty to throw away. The pearls are new Swarovski glass pearls in  espresso brown with a big vintage cut glass bead in the center. Then there is a strand of vintage glass beads that I came across awhile ago that were broken apart and the clasp was missing. they were already linked together I just re-arranged the links. Add in a few bronze fire polish beads plus Swarovski resin cubes with copper rhinestones and you have this lovely confection and I am ready to go to a party!

See you later!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Hours

Starting tonight I will be in the studio Monday through Friday from 10:00 AM until 8:00 PM. Saturdays and Christmas Eve I will be here from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM.  Your response to the up-cycle request was - as always- amazing! I am so happy there are so many other people out there who see the benefits of re-using things. So I am extending it until December 24th!

If you bring in 6 paper shopping/gift sacks or jewelry sized gift boxes you will get 15% off one item in the studio.

 Vintage and new rhinestone jewelry. Handmade neck scarves.
Handmade paper star lanterns from India......and so much more!

Shop local! Shop hand made!
Seriously- clean out that stash you have and take home something beautiful just for you!

Friday, December 03, 2010

I just love a party!

Last night was my first Open House in the studio. We had so much fun. My besties- Sherry and Susan wore black dresses and stunning necklaces. Sherry wore this lovely Robin Rush rhinestone piece I have and Susan wore a necklace I designed just for her in purple- her favorite color. We were dripping in sparkles.  I of course wore my tiara.

Susan's crystals and pearls
One of the guests suggested I declare That from now on it shall be known as Tiara Tuesday and  Tiara Thursday. I just might- because I can. It was such fun to watch the ladies "oooh" and "ahhh" over the baubles in the studio. I got to visit with some friends I haven't seen in awhile too. Which is always very nice. 

Siberian Soap Co
One of the hits of the evening were the artisan soaps made by Ann Stuadt from Ames, Iowa. These wonderfully scented creations delighted everyone who stood by the table. There will be a lot of nice smelling people happening around here if the number of bars that went home are any indication. Siberian Soap Co. is brand new and the big debut was at my open house. All the soaps are plant-based and nature inspired. She even has soap for dogs! I have the Zen Garden bar sitting on my desk so I can pick it up and smell it when I need a refreshing break- it is so calming and so wonderful. Ann also makes salt and sugar scrubs and lip balms. The Siberian Soap Co. has a permanent home at the studio and so far Zen Garden is my favorite...but the Harvest Moon is pretty delightful too as is the Cedar Wood Sage...... I will just have to try them all at home. 
Sherry's Robin Rush necklace

Susan, Sherry , Ann and I were kept very busy all night helping our guests find the perfect gift or filling out their wish list so they could receive the perfect gift. I am already planning my next party. Valentine's Day? I already told Ann to come up with some sexy smelling soaps and some kissable lip balm flavors. Hmmmm...Valentine Vixen Party....? I'll let you know.

Monday, November 29, 2010

great idea but....I DISLIKE cutting glass

A couple of years ago those glass balls with the long tube for watering your plants were all the rage. I thought they were pretty cool too and bought some to put in a vase like a bunch of flowers. The colors are so pretty with the sun shining on them. I have noticed that a lot of these babies are showing up in my favorite thrift store. I have this bright idea of what to do with them but can't seem to get my bottle cutter to work for it. I want to cut off the tube and put a piece of felt over the opening so the ball can sit on a table....or in a bowl.

The Dremel tool is not the answer ( yes I wore safety goggles) so....anyone have an idea on a safe and easy way to cut these off or would be willing to cut them off for me I would love to hear from you. I really do not like cutting glass. I will do it on a flat pane of glass - if I have to- but I will go out of my way to avoid it.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without

Bring in 6 gift boxes or paper shopping bags and recieve 15% off any item in the studio.

For those of us whose parents lived through World War II this was heard a lot. It was a mind set that helped many people get through some very lean years. Clothes were handed down to siblings or cousins, broken things were mended until there was nothing left to mend.  Being thrifty was something to take pride in because it was "for the boys over there"

Not so much anymore- with affluence comes waste and we are a wasteful nation. That bothers me. You see, our natural resources are not infinite. I have been the butt of much kidding over the years for being able to make something from nothing. For re-purposing items that most people would throw away. I was raised among a very large group of strong minded opinionated women. They were mostly Aunts and Great Aunts and a couple were cousins of my mother but were lumped into the group I referred to as the "Loony Ladies" There were 9 of them and each one was quirky and loud and thrifty. One of The Loony Ladies used to say:

 "If you take care of the pennies the dollars will look after themselves".

  If you asked Aunt Lu where she got the new mixing bowl or rolling pin or picture on the wall her response always was:

"I got it at a garage sale for a quarter"

Aunt Mary was a bargain shopper- Younkers downtown in the bargain basement would offer such treasures. The one I remember best were the summer dresses she bought for the youngest 5 girls in the family. These dresses had matching bloomers underneath so when you twirled around no one could see your underwear. Mine was pink with big polka dots! Aunt Emily took frugal to heights I won't even go into here. Suffice it to say when she held forth on ways to save money it made for interesting commentary in later years. I mean -

 "If you're going to bake a turkey then for Pete's sake BAKE a TURKEY"
It's time for me to restock the shelf of empty jewelry and gift boxes and paper handled shopping bags. I could order new ones complete with my logo in shiny gold letters. I prefer not to. I aks my customers, family and friends to go through their stash of paper goods at home and bring in thier excess boxes and bags. Anyone who brings in at least 6 boxes or bags or a combination of them get's 15% off anything in the studio. This is the only sale I ever have. I figure it's a win-win. I get boxes and bags out of it you you get to take home something wonderful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I get asked quite often where my ideas come from. That's an interesting question because my ideas come from all over. There isn't a "go-to" place where I can randomly pick an idea and run with it. Sometimes my ideas are a random incomplete concept and sometimes I can see the finished piece clear as day before I have even started. Then there are the projects I start thinking one thing and it turns in completely different direction and looks nothing like the original idea. Once in awhile I will be working on one piece and the mess on the bench will suggest another piece to me. I am always working amongst these huge messes. I try to kep it looking neat and tidy- huge fail.
I don't keep a formal sketch book. I mean not like what I had to keep in school- I don't draw everything out. What I do have are several blank books. Some are small and thin enough to slip into my pocket and some are purse sized. At last count there are 21 of them.  I always have one of these on hand because I never know when an idea may hit me-especially when I am traveling. I might see something someone is wearing or a combination of colors I find striking that I never would have thought to put together. I make notes and little sketches in my books. Sometimes I tear a picture out of a magazine or catalog and that goes into the books too. Maybe I read something funny or came across a word that for some reason I needed to remember- yep- in the books.

When I find that I am blocked or uninspired I will flip through the books hoping something will jump out at me. I have found that I will consult these books when working on a project looking for that one thing that I know the current project needs.

So last night I am in bed, letting my mind wander as I try to get to sleep and all of sudden  it hits me. I have to make this bracelet. I cold not sleep now- this bracelet was shouting at me to be made. I was just about ready to get up and get dressed and head to the studio at 11:00 at night. So I grabbed the book by my bed and made a little sketch. I have had these amber beads for a long time and I like working with them on gloomy days because the color reminds me of warm summer days soaking up the sun. I also like pairing amber with sterling silver and I had ordered these tube beads several years ago thinking I would make a choker with them and never got around to doing that. While looking for something else on the bench I came across those beads and filed it in the back of my head to do something with them sometime. And I did. And this is what I came up with. Amber and sterling silver- my little bit of sunshine today because it is drizzling and cold and just plain icky outside.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Santa Baby...I've been an awfully good girl

I have been back at it in a bricks and mortar space for close to 5 years now and I haven't had a party since year one. I am having a Santa Baby Open House on December2nd.  I figured sometimes we women just have to give the guys a little nudge in the right direction when it comes to what we really want for Christmas. There will be wine and cider, finger foods and music. I have been ordering new items like a crazy rhinestone junkie for the open house. There will be all sorts of scarves, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and purses just for your wish list. There is no reason at all for you to get a toaster or a vacuum this Christmas. Ladies- you come to the party, fill out the wish list postcard and I will get it mailed to your sweetie the next day. If you can't make it to the party you just come down anytime and fill out your wish list...we women have to stick together.

Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me
Santa Baby Open House
Thursday December 2nd 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Hats and TIARA's are encouraged!

I've been an awful good girl
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight
Santa baby, an out-of-space convertible too,
light blue
I'll wait up for you dear
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight
Think of all the fun I've missed
Think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed
Next year I could be oh so good
If you'd check off my Christmas list

Santa honey, I wanna yacht and really that's
Not a lot
I've been an angel all year
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa cutie, there's one thing I really do need,
the deed
To a platinum mine
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby, I'm filling my stocking with a duplex,
and checks
Sign your 'X' on the line
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Come and trim my Christmas tree
With some decorations bought at Tiffany's
I really do believe in you
Let's see if you believe in me

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing,
a ring
I don't mean a phone
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight
written by J. Javits and P. Springer
originally sung by Ertha Kitt

Oh yes, and by the way- I'll be wearing my tiara that night.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

what do you want to be when you grow up?

I have watched three of my four children struggle with this question for the past several years. One is in grad school now and she has a pretty good grasp on her career and how to achieve what she wants. Carolyne has always had a plan that is at least five years out and she pretty much sticks to it and modifies when she needs to.

Kelsey and Biz, who are in undergrad are still working on it. Kelsey has narrowed her focus to where she is headed and what she wants to do with her life.(After three years of college I would hope so!) Biz, who just started her first year of college with a fiery passion for music and through music she was going to make a difference! She has begun the painful process of discovering that this passion is not a good fit for a career choice in fact all of her music classes are making her miserable. That would be a pretty good indicator that this is not what she wants to spend the rest of her life doing.
Mohandis Gandhi
 She wants to change the world and all I can think of to say to her is: 
"Be the change you want to see in the world"


“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Gandhi

Whatever path she chooses I will still love her no matter what and I will be proud of her because I know that whatever she chooses she will do it with love and with a fiery passion to make a difference. College is where you discover who you are and what you want. Some people figure it out before they get there and just march right through college and then out into the world. Others need to take a little more time and explore different paths. It took me a little over 40 years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up and quite a few years in the school of hard knocks. I don't want that for my children I want them to find a career that they love because then they will never have to work a day in their life.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Smith Corona Manual Typewriter circa 1930

Yep. I have one. What an amazing piece. Shiny black, sleek lines, perfectly round's a beauty. I was digging around in the basement looking for some more steam punk type items for my front display and there it was. In the original case with the cleaning brush and owners manual. I love old typewriters. Keyboarding is just not the same as the click clack of keys hitting the batten a ringing bell and the ziiiiiiiip! sound of moving the carriage back across the page for the next line. I am searching for someone who repairs old typewriters. This one isn't broken it just needs a cleaning and a new ribbon. I am going to use it for my cards. No more fonts to look like my mother's typewriter for me from now on. I am using the real deal. In fact I am going to start typing letters to my daughters who are away at college. There was nothing quite like getting a typed note from Mom in the mail- even if it was on Bill Comito Insurance memo paper in triplicate. Every third letter you'd get the original and my other two sisters who were in college same as me would get the other two copies. Oh yeah- and she'd always sign her name in purple ink. I kept every one she sent.

Monday, November 01, 2010

you don't ask you don't get...willing to trade

So I am asking. Each year I try to create a window for the holidays in the studio that does not use red and green together. Two years ago it was lime green, orange and purple. And last year it was my silver and gold artists mannequins up to shenanigans. This year I am headed in the steam punk direction. What is steam punk you ask? I am glad you did. Steam punk is sci-fi meets the Victorian Age. Where machines ruled and anything powered by steam revered.

Ok....I am looking for a few items to borrow OR TRADE. An hourglass would be wonderful. As would anything that looks like it is old and mechanical or part of a machine. An old trunk would be lovely too. I could kick myself for getting rid of the globe from my house..... I have one in my garage but can not access it due  to the amount of stuff in front of it- like a dishwasher. Does ANYone need a dishwasher? I have one cheap! in my garage and would love to get rid of it.

Anyway- a very large round clock would also be fun to use.

On another note- I am looking for cogs and wheels- like from the inside of a clock or watch and old keys for some small pieces I am working on.

Except for the dishwasher which does not belong to me - I am storing it- I would be willing to trade for anything like the items I have mentoioned. Stop by the studio and we'll talk.

Friday, October 29, 2010

art is not a thing it's a way

“If we removed all the art in the lives of our children,

there is no way that

adding more math,

increasing more reading,

requiring more science,

mandating more foreign language,

or scheduling more computer courses

could replace what they would have lost.”– Unknown

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

bringing back imagination!

"Look! I found a treasure chest!" was the drawing prompt I gave to Griffin yesterday. He drew a treasure chest on a beach with the sun in the sky. The chest was filled with orange triangles. When I asked him to tell me what was inside the chest he gleefully shouted "Pizza!"

Today's kindergarten is totally different from the one I remember. My kindergarten was filled with imagination. We had dress up clothes- my favorite was the gray "mink" stole and the pearl earrings. There was an area of the room with a kitchen, couch, chair and baby bassinet scaled down to our size for playing house. In the corner was the clay crock. I loved the smell of the clay crock. It was this large ceramic crock with a heavy lid that was filled with this awesome off white modeling clay. On the other side of the room was a huge assortment of wooden blocks in so many shapes and sizes. You could really build a castle with those blocks! It wasn't all play time but studies have proven that when a child is engaged in play they are learning.

Kindergarten isn't like that anymore.  Creativity and imagination are like muscles- you don't use them you lose them. Experts are acknowledging that the loss of creative play is having some negative consequences. Kids who are involved with plenty of self-directed creative play develop better abilities to regulate their own behaviors and emotions, compared to other children. Creative play gives kids a chance to practice policing themselves.

After floundering about the past 8 weeks with my class of 5-6 year olds I have decided to introduce these kids back into the world of imagination. Where they can create any world they wish with a pencil and paper, paint and glue. In this class it's not about the product- it is the process. I am purchasing some awesome off white modeling clay so we can create sculptures during free time. If I had a bigger room we'd have an area for dress up and we'd put on some plays. I think I need to do some of this with my 7-8 year olds too. I have too many who rush through their work and never really become engaged in their drawing.

We need more treasure chests filled with pizza!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

hit the's time to quit

I am passionate about children. Period. I believe that every child born has a gift to give the world. I am also passionate about art, theatre and libraries. There is one more thing I am passionate about and that is giving back to your community.
There are too many people who have forgotten about this and yet they still expect this same community to support them. I am just as busy as the next person. I am raising a family and running a business- both are 24/7 occupations. But because I am passionate about children and art and theatre and libraries I volunteer  time in those directions. My life would be a lot easier if I did not volunteer and there are times when I regret saying yes and get a little cranky about it.

Why volunteer? Why get involved?  ???

Because I care about children. Children live in my community. Therefore I get involved. I have one child left at home and in a little under two years he'll be gone and off to college. Does this mean I get to stop being involved? NO!

But there are times when I feel like I am banging my head against a wall. I am president of the Carroll Arts Council/Community Theatre (CAC/CCT). I have been president for 7 maybe 8 years? I don't know I've lost track. In that time I have seen the organization through some very rough times. I had some goals when I became president and I reached them. My biggest goal was to create a 50 seat theatre in our building for small shows. We've been using the Black Box Studio now for over a year. Another goal I had was to create a summer program for high school and college age kids who are interested in theatre to experience theatre outside of a school setting. We had our first  program this past summer and I think it was successful.

Yesterday I told my board that I am resigning. It is not a decision that I made lightly. The biggest question back at me is WHY?!?
It's not the lack of funding or resources. Unfortunately the arts seem to thrive on shoe string budgets. It's not the work- I love costuming a show, making a set come to life and creating a mood with lights. It's not working with kids because I LOVE working with kids! So why am I leaving something I feel so passionately about?
There is no COMMUNITY in the Community Theatre anymore. Recently the CAC/CCT was asked to collaborate with the Public Library for a fundraising event for our new library. ( YES! A NEW library!!!!)The Library wanted us to produce an audience interactive murder mystery. I spent hours online searching for the right play, talking with the head librarian and the Friends of the Library Board. I spent more time promoting auditions and beating the bushes looking for people to fill all the parts. I still have 3 parts left to fill and will more than likely step into one of the roles myself because the show must go on. So I will be spending another 20 hours next week rehearsing the play and getting it costumed. When I asked one person who has an interest in BOTH the library (serves on the board) and the theatre to be in the show the response was:

" No, my schedule is insanely busy and I can't do it"

That stopped me so short I actually hit that wall I have been banging my head against.
This is for a good cause. This is for our COMMUNITY. This is for our CHILDREN!

I just can't do this anymore.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

coffin trinket box

Last year I bought some purses for the studio. They were in the shape of a coffin and pretty darn cool if you ask me. I had two of them left from last year and decided to do something to dress them up a bit. I removed the strap and turned the coffin every which way. On it's side, laying flat, standing up....I finally settled on converting it to a trinket or dresser box. Way back in the day people kept a small decorative box on top of their dresser to keep things in that were important or special to them.

 In the early 1930's the Lane Cedar Chest Company used to give miniature cedar chests to young women about to graduate from high school by inviting them to pick up a free miniature chest at their local furniture store. My mother had one and it was filled with all sorts of bits and pieces; letters, receipts, photographs ,keys....I was fascinated by that little wooden box with it's tiny key on a red satin ribbon that hung from the lock.

I could have just left the box alone, after all it is a coffin and pretty cool just like that. But no, I had to dress it up a bit. So....going to my stash of ephemera and other embellishments I created this "Goth Box" complete with owl, ghost, black cat, clock tower and creepy kid. I even cut open the door and have a picture of a kid with a skeleton behind it. The edges are trimmed in sheer white ribbon with small spiders printed on it and each point of the box has a black ribbon rose on it.

Sweet huh?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

desperately seeking .....

....your stuff. Seriously. In my classes we use a lot of weird and unusual stuff to create our masterpieces. So if you are doing some cleaning and would like to re-cycle some of your stuff. Please do not hesitate to drop it off at the studio. Here's a list of items I am collecting for future projects with my students.

cancelled postage stamps
old sheet music
greeting cards- any holiday or subject
 small doll accessories- you know- unmatched shoes, dishes, gloves, brushes all that tiny stuff that you always manage to step on with bare feet.
tiny trinkets- the stuff you get out of gumball machines and the empty bubbles they come in
misc. game board pieces- wood or plastic
bottle caps
misc.broken jewelry or single earrings
wine corks
silk flowers
empty matchboxes
1/2 gallon empty jugs

plastic bottle caps of all sizes
aluminum tea light holders (save after burning candles)
beautifully shaped wine bottles in an assortment of shapes and sizes
toilet paper rolls
large round opaque bottles, such as those for bleach/cleaning fluid

and if you are cleaning out your craft cupboard and don't know what to do with those odds and ends of scrap papers and ribbons and stickers....

You get the idea.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

it all starts with an idea

Last week I started a project with my K-2 class that I am calling "The Monster Project"  I gave each student a large sheet of black paper and a set of construction paper crayons. Then I told them we were going to draw monsters. I had a whole list of questions about their monsters. Questions like- what color is it? How big is it? How many eyes and arms and legs? You get the idea. Before I even got halfway through the list of questions they were off and drawing. I love to listen to kids this age draw. Before I knew it each student was caught up in a world they had created on paper and each monster developed a  unique personality.

I decided that I was going to make their monsters real. I got the first one finished last night.

This is Megan and Maria. Megan and Maria live in the jungle and they like to play. What makes them so special is they have two heads.  Megan and Maria was designed by Olivia who is a first grader.

After studying Olivia's monster for a bit I drew a simplified version of it.  Then I went to my sewing machine and created this~ my version of Megan and Maria. I am planning on doing this for each of my students. I want them to see how an idea can come out of your head and onto paper and sometimes that idea can then be turned into something real. 

 Everything starts with an idea.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Peter Pan was right.....don't grow up

Once in awhile you come across something that makes you think and smile at the same time. Like this:

"When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college - that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?" ~Howard Ikemoto"

The Pirate Bunny by Ben age 6

 Yes grown ups forget many things. Like how to look at the world through the eyes of a child. At least three or four times a week I get an adult in the studio asking me if I teach lessons to adults. My answer is always no. I used to work with adults but I just can't do it anymore. Adults are so wrapped up in all that grown up baggage that they are very difficult for me to work with.  Many adults go through their adult life with blinders on-too busy to stop and notice little things like the color of the sky as the sun is setting on a winter day. Or how brilliantly red a cluster of tulips can be on a sunny day in spring.
Too often I hear a child show a grown up their latest drawing and the adult says "That's wonderful! What is it?"  Art doesn't always have to be something you recognize right away. You want total realism take a photograph. Art should make you think. Art should connect on so many levels with you. Even art done by a child. So the next time a young person comes up to you to proudly show you what they have drawn. Please, take a moment and really look at it. Give it some thought instead of an absent minded "....that's very nice" and say something constructive and real about it.  You might miss a delightful drawing of a  "Pirate Bunny"!

"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."  Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I will not let a bunch of 6 year olds get the best of me...

...not today anyway. So I mis-read this group of kids but then it's hard to get a handle on 6 year olds right away. Last week it was like herding cats. This group runs towards the silly. They like to tell stories while they work.

I spent most of yesterday trying to figure out a way to connect with all 9 of these highly creative kids. Last week one of the girls started talking about monsters. She wove this wonderful, magical story about this monster she was drawing.  He was a friendly monster with these big bug eyes. That got me to thinking....

monsters from make your own monster
 Today we are going to make monsters. We are going to use my super cool construction paper crayons on black paper and draw a monster.  You see I saw this wonderful website where kid's illustrations were turned into a plush stuffed creature. The cost was $250! But the "plushies" or "stuffies" as they are called were wonderful- it made me want some of my own. 

Zombie Katz by Laura

I like to sew and I make  "stuffies".  Those are my "Zombie Katz" on the right. I think I am going to surprise my students by creating a stuffie for each one of them from the picture they draw.  I came up with a list of questions to ask my students about their monster before they draw them. After they are done with their drawing I am going to interview each child and ask them about their monster. This could work out wonderfully OR it could result in barely controlled chaos. Either way I think it'll be a lot of fun and the creative juices should be flooding across the room!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A is for....


everyone knows A is for Apple and B is for Banana ...  SoI had this great idea last week. You see I have always enjoyed alphabet books.

What if I came up with a list of words for each letter of the alphabet and had my art students illustrate them? Then what if  I got a grant from the Iowa Arts Council and got the book published?

 And then- what if I sold copies of the book to raise money for the new children's library?

For some reason Alphabet Salad popped into my head. Alphabet Soup is such a cliche that I didn't want to do that. Besides there are some great words out there that are so fun to say  like- Arugula ,Artichoke, Brussels Sprouts and Asparagus.  Kohlrabia, chicory and Collard Greens....I could keep going but you see where I am headed with this? ( I keep hearing The Major Generals song from the Pirates of Penzance as I write this!)

Tell me what you think about my idea and if you can think of any fruits or vegetables for my Alphabet Salad let me know. You just might end up in our book!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I think I created a monster

This is a good thing. You know not all monsters are scary. My students catch on fairly quickly that there are some words and phrases in my classes that are not acceptable.

"I can't"
"That's too hard"
"I'm bored"
.............................................are the biggies

I'm bored are two words that make me crazy. Maybe it's because I knew when I was a kid if I said I was bored my  mother would have a list as long as my arm of things for me to do before I could even finish saying it. Oh, and it usually contained housework. So I learned real fast to occupy my time on my own.

Sometimes in class kids will reach a stopping point on their piece and there is about 15 minutes of class left or less. I usually would let them do what I call free drawing. They could draw anything they wanted. This year I have a different plan. The week before classes began I set up the table in the gallery with papers, glues, rubber stamps, and some random ephemera. I didn't say a word about it to the kids. Yesterday two of the kids showed up to class early and were wandering through the gallery. When they saw the table they asked what all this stuff was for. I explained to them it was for making an ATC.

ATC's or Artists Trading Cards are little  original pieces of art that are the same size as a deck of playing cards. They are meant to be traded only and not bought or sold. I then told the kids that if they made a card they could keep it OR they could trade it for one of the cards on my board. I had about a dozen cards that I had made on the board for just this purpose. As the kids started working two more students showed up and the next thing I knew the entire class was gathered around my little table making ATC's. It cut into class time by 10 minutes they were so focused on what they were doing. I finally got them to finish their cards so we could get to the art project. By the end of class cards had been traded on the board several times.

I am going to keep the table supplied all year and see what happens. I'd like to see each one of my students collect at least 24 cards by the end of the year. I am also encouraging people who wander into the studio to create an ATC to trade too.  I would say that I have "perfectly captured" their interest with this activity!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Art is Girlie????

Seriously? I was confronted with that statement yesterday by a 12 year old boy who was pretty hostile when he said it. At first I didn't know what to say. I mean I'm an artist and I'm a girl but that doesn't mean it's girlie. I'd just as soon as create a creepy Gothic type piece as I would a happy  little sunflower. In fact the collage class I recently took in Chicago made me a bit uncomfortable because everyone was making these happy little birds and flowers on their collages and I was seeing Nightmare Before Christmas type figures in my piece.

So I had to think about it for a minute and explain to him and I hope I got my message across to him because his mom registered him for my after school art classes and I don't think he's happy about it. I would have cleaned my room and done dishes every day without complaining as a kid if my mom had signed me up for art classes.

Where does this kind of thinking come from? Is it because there are too many female teachers in the lower grades in school? Is it because kids don't get exposed to cultural experiences? Is it girlie to write music? sing opera? act or dance? Please don't tell Mikhail Baryshnikov that he's second rate because he dances and "girls" dance. 

I guess it was the way he said it with this sneer and hostility that really took me by surprise. I felt this need to defend the female gender. Art is the one place where you can relax and just be. In math there is one answer and either you are right or you are wrong- and believe me I have experienced the humiliation of coming up with the wrong answer in math too many times to count. In art I was on equal footing with my peers because no matter what I produced it was truly mine. Freedom of expression! I know what it's like to be different and not fit into the crowd. I know what it's like to be on the outside looking in. From what his mom told me he's standing there too. So I have until Monday to come up with the best way to approach this boy and get him to relax and enjoy being creative. In the meantime I need to work on my skeletons...they are way too happy!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

artist's retreat...

just got back last night from Chicago. I spent some time being an artist and not teaching. It was wonderful and a great way to recharge the batteries. I can apply so much to my classes. I am hooked on Golden Pumice Gel- by using it on my canvas first I was able to create a piece that looked like it had been made out of rock. So cool especially since I like to do multicultural projects with my kids. Cave paintings will never be the same again! Got some great ideas for incorporating ATC's and altered books into my classes too. It's going to be a great year!

Monday, August 16, 2010

what's a three letter word for......?

Have you seen my new work? I call them Photo Words. I take pictures of objects that suggest a letter of the alphabet or pictures of actual letters from signs. I have been collecting "words" to spell out. Words like: DANCE, IMAGINE, DREAM, LEARN and of course ART. I am looking for interesting and different words. LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE is everywhere you know? I also make these in people's names but I am looking for you know- So throw some words out to me OK? In the meantime I'll keep walking around and snapping pictures.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tempus fugit! let's have some fun then

What is an Artist Trading Card? Please read the following:

Artist Trading Cards (or ATCs) are miniature works of art about the same size as modern sports cards or 2 ½ X 3 ½ inches (63 mm X 89 mm). The ATC movement developed out of the mail art movement and has its origins in Switzerland. Cards are produced in various media, including dry media (pencils, pens, markers, etc.), wet media (watercolor, acrylic paints, etc.), paper media (in the form of collage, papercuts, found objects, etc.) or even metals.
ATCs are NOT to be sold- ever. They are meant to be traded personally. It is important that you meet other people in person to trade - i.e. it is OK to trade by mail or to participate in editions but the main purpose of this performance is the trading session and the personal meeting.
It's not about money: participants in trading sessions and editions should not be charged any money: the point of the project is the exchange of cards as well as personal experience.

OK- now that the rules have been spelled out this is what I am planning to do. I am setting up a table in the studio filled with an assortment of collage materials. ANYONE who comes into the studio can and will be encouraged to create and ATC.

This ATC was created by me in about 5 minutes. I used an image transfer using Lazerton paper, a wax seal, German foil, stickers, Swarkovski crystals and a collage image of a clock face. 
When I get enough people hooked on ATCs I am planning to have some trading sessions where you can trade cards with other people. I hope it catches on quickly because "time flies" especially when you are having fun!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

looking back on the past 12 weeks

Everyone says it and I'm going to say it too- summer goes by too fast. I must say that classes this summer went very well. 270 kids walked through the door and participated in an art class. We made tree houses, glass beads, bubble wands, altered books and mosaics. We drew comics, visited foreign countries, and took photographs. We made paper dolls and paper mache tropical fish. It was a lot of fun! And now it's August and school starts soon. But here are some memories of this past summer.....

by the way...I am already planning NEXT summer!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower and the Ultimate tree House

The summer after 4th grade my mother brought home a library book for me. She thought I should expand my horizons a bit and read something other than horse stories. The book she gave me was by Rumer Godden and it was called "Miss Happiness and Miss Flower" England is the last place Nona Fells wants to be. No one asked her if she wanted to leave sunny India to live in a chilly English village with her aunt's family - and her cousin, Belinda, just hates her! But when two dainty Japanese dolls arrive at Nona's doorstep, everything begins to change. Like Nona, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower are lonely and homesick, so Nona decides to build them their own traditional Japanese house. Over time, not only does Nona create a home for the dolls, but one for herself as well.

I fell in love with the Japanese culture through this book. I was fascinated with the dolls but most of all I was envious of the Japanese doll house they build. In the back of the book are the plans for the doll house that Tom builds for Nona. How I wished I had a clever older brother who could build such a house for me.Sadly-my father nor my brothers were handy . I did not own Japanese dolls but that didn't matter. I would make dolls for my house- if I ever got a house.

I compromised- I created a Japanese garden. I used a pop flat and lined it with plastic. Then I filled it with sand from the sandbox. I pried the mirror out of the hand mirror and brush set I got for my birthday and used it to create a pond. For trees I cut branches off the evergreen by the alley. I used pebbles to make a path. I couldn't make a clay lantern to put a candle in like Nona did in the book but I was pretty pleased with my garden...

Fast forward 40 years later- I am thumbing through a magazine waiting at the salon. There is an article about a math teacher who has his students build a tree house and it's all part of a math unit in his class. Can you see the light bulb go off in my head? What an awesome idea! What a cool class!

This summer I offered "The Ultimate Tree House" as a 5 week class. I provide the kids with a base with 3-4 branches drilled and glued into it. They get a supply of balsa wood, craft sticks, wire, walnut shells, slices of wood logs with the bark on them and other assorted items, a hot glue gun, coping saw, x-acto knife and a pencil. The only requirement for the class is they have to have more than one level, at least one level must have a structure on it with walls and a roof and every level needs some way to access it. Rope ladder, regular ladder, stairs, slide- there's no magic jumping from one level to the next.

What a fun project! Sessions 1 and 2 were half full. Sessions 3 and 4 are filled. I had people stopping in to see the progress the kids made on their houses over the first 5 week sessions. It wasn't until we got to the part where the kids started furnishing their tree houses that I thought about Miss Happiness and Miss Flower and how hard they wished for a house of their own...

I still have not built my Japanese doll house but I have my own copy of "Miss Happiness and Miss Flower" with the house plans in the back. I am going to try my hand at building my own doll house some day and then I am going to find a set of Japanese dolls to go inside. But in the meantime I am having so much fun watching this forest of doll sized tree houses under construction in the studio. This class is a keeper and I will offer it each summer until there aren't any children with imaginations left to take it!