Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year End Gratitude

I had a battle with my vacuum cleaner today that left me snarling and swearing yet again. (It reminded me of the time when I was expecting David, and I got so mad at my then vacuum that I rushed out onto the front porch in my nightgown and hurled the machine into a snowdrift right in front of a couple of horrified neighbors).
Anyway, when I finally simmered down this afternoon, I realized that I actually have a lot to be grateful for: my family, my friends, my dog, my home, my interest in art and writing and anything creative, my spiritual values, my health, my books and art supplies, the fact I live in a democracy, and so on. My plan is to bring in the New Year by writing a list of all the things I have to be happy about, and to give thanks.
Wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2007!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Eyelet Dyslexia and Resin

These two subjects aren’t connected, but then either is my mind today. I think I’m in an end-of-the-year funk, mainly because I didn’t accomplish most of the goals I set myself this year and there’s less than a day and a half left of 2006. One thing I did learn how to do this year—yesterday actually—was to set an eyelet. Both Carmi and Marissa had shown me how to do this. But whenever I attempted it on my own, my eyelets always ended up looking like the rings of Saturn. How could someone who taught herself Photoshop fail to set an eyelet? It’s simple really: I had the wrong attachment.
Yesterday I went to Mary’s for a play day where we did some polymer clay and resin-pouring (it's addictive) using some of the cool vintage bezels that Mary incorporates into her jewelry. She teams them up with all sorts of nifty bits and pieces she seems to find in the most unusual places. You can read more about Mary and her art on her new website.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Combining Stuff

Sometimes I’m pleased with what I do in a journal and sometimes I’m not. But whatever happens, there’s always a story behind the bits and pieces I’ve combined to create the finished “product.” When I look back on the pages I’ve done, I always journey back to certain experiences I’ve had. Separately they each mean something different to me. But when they’re all put together, they tell a visual story that becomes something new…not that I usually know what that story is!
For the background of these two pages, I used some of the marbled paper Debbie and I made a couple of years ago using food coloring and shaving cream. The heart is a Photoshopped piece of Styrofoam I found on the beach at Meaford when Emma and I went on vacation together last year. The stickers are from a particularly fruitful excursion to the Dollar Store, and the highlights were taken from a swatch book of rub-ons that I bought at Bizzy B’s.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Using Stuff

At one of our club meetings, Cherri told me about cleaning out the studio of a beloved friend after her death. All the unused paper and art supplies really struck a cord with Cherri. It convinced her to use what she had—and to use it now.
I think about this every time I hesitate to use something I’ve been saving for a rainy day. Take the embellishment of the woman on this spread in my process journal, for example. What possessed me to spend $5 on something that doesn’t fit in with my art triumvirate—funky/distressed, angelic or Renaissance? But as John says: it was a bright, shiny object, so I had to have her!
It occurred to me this morning that I would probably never use her though. I could give her away to Susan or Mary, which is what I usually do when I can’t figure out what to do with something I like. However, this time I decided I would use her anyway, as an exercise in…well, just as an exercise in using something I was holding onto. But could I in all conscience waste a $5 embellishment in my process journal? What if I found the perfect place for her tomorrow? Then I decided that in the unlikely event this happened, I could just take her out! And you know what? She’s definitely out of place in this project, but she’s also fits right in (which, come to think of it, is basically the way I feel about my own position in life).

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Recovering from Christmas

Have you ever thought about how much work goes into preparing for certain events in your life that pass by in the blink of an eye when they finally happen? While the 25th was a wonderful day, I’m glad it’s over (frankly) because I won’t have to do it again until next year.
For the last couple of days I’ve been indulging myself…doing some art, watching the first season of Beverly Hills 90210 with Emma and David—John has higher standards than the rest of us—and trying to avoid making meals at all costs. Not that anyone has complained…yet.
I went to Toronto today to have lunch with Gaynor, and to spend the generous gift certificate Pam gave for Christmas at Bizzy B’s. I know some people don’t like receiving money or gift certificates, but there’s nothing like a guilt-free shopping spree in my opinion—especially when you get to choose your own books and art supplies. Speaking of art supplies, Emma gave me four vintage maps for Christmas that she’d bought in The Netherlands, and I’m looking forward to scanning them and then playing with them in Photoshop.
But first I have to fix my scanner because it’s full of dust. I’d planned to do this before Christmas, but then I realized that it would take me a while to disassemble it, and I didn’t want to make any mistakes. The last thing I fixed was my mouse. I used the screwdrivers from eyeglass repair kit, and it took me about an hour to take apart the inside and remove all the dog hair with a pair of tweezers. Now it works like a charm.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Wishing Everyone the Best!

Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukah or just being you, I hope you have a wonderful day—although come to think of it, Hanukah ended a couple of days ago so I missed the boat there!
Right now Emma and David are watching Scary Movie 4 and eating popcorn. Judging by the laughter coming from upstairs, they’re enjoying it. Still, I’m hoping they fade soon because I’m waiting to play Santa Claus, and I don’t like to do it until everyone has gone to bed. But I’ve already eaten Santa’s snack. (What the heck!)
This is the best shape I’ve ever been in for Christmas. The house is clean and tidy and decorated. The presents are all wrapped. The cards are displayed in the special holder Dad bought me a couple of years ago (this one was made by my friend Lynne Sadlier). I cooked k. d. lang’s vegetarian chili for dinner tonight, which I personally loath but the rest of my family loves…and I even have brunch planned!
The only thing I didn’t get done was to give Lily a bath. Naturally the poor dog is devastated that she won’t be looking fabulous on Christmas morning—but wait until you see your new blanket, baby!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Emma is Back!!!

Emma’s plane was only 45 minutes late. She was worried the fog that closed down Heathrow would move east, and that she would have to spend Christmas alone in Amsterdam! Thankfully that didn’t happen. I was so relieved I started crying as soon as we got to the airport and knew she’d landed safely.
There were hundreds and hundreds of people waiting for passengers from places like Prague, Moscow, Kansas City (!) and Amsterdam. It was a surprisingly sedate crowd—with the exception of me. I started shouting and crying and waving madly as soon as I saw Emma, and she was just as excited.
Even though she’d been up most of the night partying with friends and had a long flight, Emma was full of beans and good humor. I think we laughed more tonight than we have in the last four months.
Emma says she missed being able to sit on a couch, watch movies on her TV, sleep in a double bed, our food (especially PizzaPizza which we had for dinner tonight), and North American sanitation. What she liked about Amsterdam was riding her bike everywhere (even to clubs), eating at Febo (a food automat), chocolates and cheese, and the general laid back vibe and sense of culture that living in Europe brings. My guess is that she is going to experience culture shock for a few days at least.
She brought each of us a little pre Christmas gift. Mine was a nativity set from Paris because she knows how much I love them, and I wish I’d taken pictures. Instead, I scanned this photo of the two of us taken on Christmas Day, 1984.

P.S. Heather—check out my blog for Saturday, December 16th to get information on where to buy that Hallmark stamp you asked about.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas prep

I once read an article about preparing for the holidays, and one of the women interviewed said that she’d like to be reincarnated as a man as Christmastime. Personally, I thought this was hilarious. Not that my guys aren’t helpful, but it’s basically me that does most of the work.
Come to think of it: where are you Emma? Emma usually buys most of the stocking stuffers, and she’s so much better at it than I am. I was trying to think like her yesterday at the Dollar Store and my mind went bust. I almost bought David a mini colander for his stocking. What was I thinking…help!!!
At least the tree is done. It takes me about seven hours to get it the way I want it. First I have to fluff the branches…this takes ages…then put on six strings of lights, the bows and finally, all the decorations.

I had dinner with Andrea last night and she was amazed at how long it takes me to decorate our tree. “Of course it has to be perfect for you, doesn’t it?” Oh Andrea, you know me so well. Mind you, looking at the photo of our tree just now, I realize that some of the bows and decorations need tweaking. But I will resist doing this. I will.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pre-Christmas Clean Up

No, it’s not done, but at least I’ve made a start, and I’m discovering that it’s partly satisfying, partly humbling. I really hate coming face to face with my deeply slobistic tendencies. Actually, they’re more than tendencies; they’re a deeply ingrained constellation of habits. (I needed an excuse to use the word constellation here!) Fortunately, there were two highpoints to this otherwise grueling weekend.
The first was going to Pam and Brian’s Christmas party. I don’t know Pam does it. She had a big party on Friday night, another one on Saturday and at the end of the week she’s holding a soirée for 100 neighbors. She sails serenely through it all, handling any problems that come up effortlessly and just generally doing a top-notch job. (Did I mention that she’s having the family Christmas this year too? All I can say is: Alleluia! )
We had Christmas at our place last year and I was a nervous wreck for at least two weeks beforehand. The food thing usually goes well for me, but I always worry that people won’t be comfortable, that I’ll use the wrong china or the place won’t be clean enough. Frankly, I’ve never been very good at entertaining—not that anyone has ever complained—but I hate all the preparation. When I asked Pam yesterday what her secret was, she told me that she just does it, but I’m convinced there’s more to it than that! Innate talent? The entertainment gene?
The other high point was having a long talk with Emma on Sunday afternoon. Five more days and she’s home. I can’t wait!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Eat Your Heart Out!

For Heather: here’s a picture of the Hallmark stamp I mentioned two or three days ago on my blog. It’s available from Viva Las Vegas Stamps and you can order it online. I don’t know whether or not they still do retail sales, but you can check with your local stamp store. I bought mine at Bizzy B’s in Toronto.
Trolling through several boxes of stamps to find this image made me realize there are a lot of stamps I haven't used. A couple of years ago, I kept a black and white stamping journal, and now I feel the urge to start a new one. Oh, oh. All I need is another, all-absorbing project! (But aren't they all?)

Friday, December 15, 2006


Tonight I finished my ideas journal. I’ve been keeping it for most of the year, and I’m really looking forward to starting a fresh one. There’s nothing like a new journal! You’re almost afraid to start putting anything in it because it looks so pristine and pretty.
But I haven’t been neglecting my process journal even though I haven’t had much time to work on it this fall. Here’s a recent spread using Claudine’s crackle paint technique from her book: Collage Discovery Workshop: Beyond The Unexpected…along with a Luna Lights trading card/Izone mishap. Brenda got me hooked on my Izone, but it turns out the latest package of film I bought is expired. Dang. It’s hard to get Izone film here in the boonies, so I’m really ticked off. Nevertheless, I’m using it anyway. Life is an experiment whether I want it to be or not.

Speaking of Claudine, I read on her blog recently that her computer went kaput, and I felt so badly for her. Then when I checked my email a minute ago, I heard from Jeanne. When I read that her hard drive had also crashed, tears sprang into my eyes. It’s just devastating to lose your precious stuff. This happened to me four years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. Hang in there girlfriend!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sleep Therapy

I felt like a new woman this morning after having had eight hours of sleep. Six is usually my maximum, but it’s obviously not enough—at least when I have a lot to do, which is usually my state of affairs come to think of it.
The other thing that rejuvenates me is cleaning. Not that I’ve ever been neat and tidy person, but somehow getting my environment in order brings me a sense of peace.
John and I have been watching The Lost Room on the Space Channel all week, and without going into any plot ins and outs, it centers on objects that have special powers…a clock, a comb, a key, a bus ticket, and so on. The characters in possession of these objects are obsessed with them, and some are even on an insane quest to collect more.
It struck me while watching this show how much objects dominate our lives. We think about them. We buy them. We have to find a place for them. We even insure some of them. (I have a rider on my insurance policy that covers my art supplies, but I doubt I’ll ever use all the stuff that I have).
Where am I going with this line of thought? I’m not sure. However, I do think there’s a difference between an object as a form of identity and an object as a possibility. If you think you need to own things to be perceived as a worthwhile person, that’s not healthy. But when you see an object as something that can help you to explore or enrich the world around you, that’s a positive thing. For example: art materials should be used, not hoarded. I think I’m going to make this my New Year’s resolution!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Card Thing

I made an executive decision yesterday and decided that this year I will not make my own Christmas cards. If I had more time, I’d keep fiddling with the one I’ve been working on in Photoshop, but it’s taking forever. No surprise there. And I’m way too busy right now to continue obsessing about it.
So. to make a long boring story short, I actually went out and bought Christmas cards at The Bay yesterday. Horrors! And they’re Hallmark’s too! Somewhere I have a rubber stamp that says: “Eat your heart out Hallmark,” and I’ve used it on the back of my handmade cards many times. Guess I’m going to have to eat humble pie this year because the irony is not lost on me.

I have several friends who send me lovely handmade cards like Beverly, Yvonne, Debbie, Mary, Carolyn, Susan and Marissa—I know there are more, but my thinking skills are sub par at the moment. And Carmi is an absolute card dynamo. How does she do it? Guess I’ll find out soon enough because I’m going to be writing an article on her for RubberStampMadness.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cherryl Moote’s New Book!

I’m in awe of how much Cherri Moote has accomplished. In addition to being an artist, bookbinder, calligrapher, creativity coach and teacher (I’m sure I’ve forgotten something), she’s written six books. Her latest, Building With Your Creative Stumbling Blocks is chock full of fun exercises and Cherri wisdom, and you can now order it directly from her website.
Along with several other people, I copyedited Cherri’s book, and she’s still speaking to me even though I marked up her copy with a ton of commas. Apparently Eva put in even more than I did, so she’s officially the Tsarina of Commas and I’m merely the Acolyte. This put my mind at ease I can tell you.

Yesterday Cherri had a sumptuous luncheon for everyone who had helped on her book. And I must emphasize the word "sumptuous" here. I ate so much that I had to come home and sleep it off for a couple of hours. No wonder she doesn’t have any problems getting feedback. Before I forget, Cherri also gave each of us a 2007 calendar of fantastic photos that she and her husband Stan took recently on their 25th wedding anniversary trip to Tuscany. (I told you she was proactive).
While we were at Cherri’s house, we saw all her wonderful calligraphy—get your own art up on the walls, people—and her refurbished studio space. Oh my gosh. How can one person be so orderly? I think this is one of the reasons why Cherri accomplishes so much. Hmmm…do I really have time to start reorganizing my life right now?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I need a vacation...

Every year at this time, I’m exhausted. It’s usually the busiest time for me work-wise, and there’s all the preparation for Christmas involved too. I went shopping with John and David today, and it was awful. Too many people and too much choice. But the worst thing was getting lost at Square One.
The mall is so large, we just couldn’t figure out how to exit to where we’d parked the car. It was a nightmare. Not for the boys, but for me because my actual nightmares usually take place in a shopping mall. I have no idea why they do. It’s not a childhood thing…I was never a mall rat because there weren’t any to hang around it then, but I was actually panicking about not being able to get out.
Enough about that. I’ve been working on this year’s Christmas card, and last night the power when out while I playing with it in Photoshop. This is the third year in a row it’s happened—no exaggeration. Now I think I’ve figured out what the problem is. It’s my neighbor around the corner.
Each December he adds something new to his Christmas light display, and I’m sure it’s gobbling up every spare kilowatt of electricity in the immediate area—and then some.
But you have to admire the guy’s creative drive, especially in our cold climate. Although I’ve never met him, I send him my card anyway (here’s last year’s) because his display saves me work—all I need to do is put out my reindeer with the twinkle lights and moving head. Anyone coming to our house is so dazzled by my neighbor’s display they never even notice ours. I’d love to know how his immediate neighbors feel about his Disneyland approach to Christmas, but I’m afraid to ask!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Studio Essentials

I liked the part in Lynne Perrella’s book Alphabetica where she asked several artists to list their top ten studio essentials. I was thinking about this tonight, and decided that even though my space is crammed with embellishments, ribbon, collage pieces, bark, wood, shells, rocks, assemblage parts, wooden boxes, and so on, I could probably do without all of this if I had to. Without further ado, here’s my list:
My dog: But you could say that Lily makes herself essential because she’s always available, non-critical and loving. Plus she reminds me what time it is.
An X-acto knife with a fresh blade: To be honest, this was this first thing that came to mind. (Sorry Lily).
A Uhu glue stick: No other glue stick does it for me. I should receive some kind of long service award from the company that manufactures it.
Abobe Photoshop and my beloved Epson 1270 printer: Okay, so there are two items here, but to me they’re interconnected.
My drafting table: I’ve had this since this the 70s and it’s my art altar!
Luna Lights: The instant antidote to a creative block.
Golden Black Lava paint: I love this “art asphalt.”
Golden Liquid Acrylics: Good for smooshing, glazing, monoprinting or just looking at in their containers.
Paper, paper and more paper: And did I mention paper?
My parts cabinets: It’s nice to know that a lot of the junk I’ll never use is neatly stowed away and ready to be fondled if the need arises—which it frequently does.
Baby Wipes: For my outer (and inner) art baby. She always seems to need a good freshening up.
My Pilot Razor Point Pens and current journal: I know I’ve doubled up again, but math has never been my strong point.
I’m going to stop now because I’m over my limit, and the temptation to poke through everything I own is very strong and must NOT be given into!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Miss Em Update

Or should I say “Ms Em” since she’s writing a paper on Mary Wollstonecraft? I remember reading A Vindication of the Rights of Women when I was in university, and thinking how radical it was for the 18th century. But I can’t imagine trying to fathom it from the point of view of the law—or, come to think of it, the lack thereof.
Emma just got back from visiting Paris with three of her friends on Sunday. The first thing they did when they got off the train was head straight to the Eiffel Tower! (Emma and I went to the top in 1993, but John and David were too chicken to go up. What a view! It was like looking down on a stone forest because you couldn’t see any green).

Emma and her friends saw more than we did. In addition to going to the Louvre, they also went to Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame and the Musée d'Orsay (her favorite). They sampled plenty of fine French food, and as anyone who has ever been there knows is the best food anywhere. At least in my opinion. And they went shopping naturally. (Emma bought a fab jacket I can’t wait to see).
For those of you who have asked whether or not Emma is getting any work done, I don’t ask. Both she and David are way more responsible than we ever were, so it would be hypocritical to ride herd on them. John spent his time at the University of Glasgow skipping school, playing bridge and partying. I spent four years at the University of Toronto sleeping in and having long intellectual conversations with cute guys when I should have been in class. How either of us ever managed to graduate is beyond me.
I do recall some grade school emergencies though. One Sunday night when Emma was in the sixth grade, she announced that she had a project on French culture due the next day. It was back in the pre-Internet era, and no libraries were open, so we cut up a couple of my art books, and a copy of House & Garden that had some pictures of a French Chateau. Then I told her everything I knew about Simone de Beauvoir, John Paul Sartre and the Impressionists. What I didn’t know, I made up—and she still got an A. I’m sure this said way more about her teacher than it did about my knowledge of France!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Artist Trading Cards

Even though I’m really feeling under the weather, I’m excited about teaching a couple of classes on Artist Trading Cards after Christmas: one for Bizzy B’s (date to be announced) and the other for Cherri Moote’s Day of Many Minis on March 4th.
I started doing ATCs a few years ago—before Photoshop—and then slowed down when I got my perforator and started making artistamps. But I’ve never given up completely. Here is one of the two ATCs I sent to a mail art show in Malaysia last year. (I’ll post the other one tomorrow). It’s a mini collage using the bits and pieces left over from an unsuccessful attempt at making paste paper. Actually, I shouldn’t say it was unsuccessful because I do like the ATCs that were the end result.
Right now I’m trying to focus in on exactly what to offer students because I have to write a workshop description and provide some samples. So far I’ve designed a quick little portfolio, and I’m experimenting with background techniques. The fun of ATCs is that you can use anything you want…it’s all play. Maybe too much play.
The last time I taught a workshop (on coloured pencils), it was supposed to last two hours. Typically, I was way over prepared and ended up asking students—there were fourteen I think—if they would just like to continue on for the rest of the day. Everyone stayed except for Susan Wilkie who had another engagement. But she got her own private update later.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Busy-ness Continues

I finished my first three commissions! They were done for Elizabeth Nardella who owns A Scrapbookers Dream in Bolton, Ontario. She wanted an astrological theme, and here’s the Libran component of the trio.
In case you haven’t been to Elizabeth’s store, she has an amazing array of merchandise. I particularly like her papers, and I’ve amassed my own personal collection. (If you’re free next Saturday, Elizabeth is having an all day Christmas open house with free demos and make-and-takes).
In addition to the digital collages for Elizabeth, I got back into framing mode and sent more pictures to Made By Hand, a fine art and craft show and sale, which runs from November 23rd to January 2nd at The Art Gallery of Peel.
On Friday I got a call to say that all three of my pictures had sold, and they asked if they could have more. To be honest, I was astonished. Brampton has never been a good venue for me, so I usually don’t bother exhibiting here. The only reason why I went into this particular show is because I happen to like the coordinator! It will be interesting to see if this is a fluke, or if anyone else will be drawn to my work.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Our Club Meeting

Life has been so frantic lately that I’ve had precious little time to just kick back and enjoy myself. Since I was doing the demo tonight (a crackle background and collage), and providing the next challenge (a mini album), I was in that state of mind where you’re just checking items off on your to do list and wondering when it’s ever going to end. But our club meeting was just what I needed to feel like I have a life that’s more than a series of obligations. (Going out for Japanese food with David beforehand sure helped too).
Carolyn had provided this month’s challenge, and when I saw it, I was certain I wouldn’t be able to anything with it. But I was wrong. I’ve always wanted to invent a game, so this was it. I painted 100 wooden letters bronze and gold to fill the jar and called it “BE.” So far there are no rules because I haven’t figured them out yet. But the idea is to make verbs. (Cherri thinks I should call it Strip Scrabble. Carolyn thought this was a great idea too, but then again those two are much racier than I am).

Everyone seemed to enjoy crackling paint and making their collages. I was really impressed with what everyone did using such a simple technique, and how individualistic their pieces all were. I didn’t do anything other than demo myself. I was just too bagged to complete anything. Besides, it was more fun seeing what everyone else was doing.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Happy Birthday Mister Evan!

I didn’t realize that my nephew Evan knew I had a blog, but I got a comment from him the other day reminding me that November 20th was his birthday. Remembering Emma and Lily, and forgetting Mister Evan? As Vizzini says in the Princess Bride—“IN-CONCEIVABLE!” In my own defense I will say that I called and left you a happy birthday message on the 20th kiddo, but you were probably out partying with your buddies instead of waiting at home for my call. Obviously you need to get your priorities straight, so we’ll have a heart-to-heart the next time we get together. But just to prove to you that I’m a loving aunt, here’s your happy birthday digital collage.