Monday, November 26, 2007

New Altered Cookie Sheet "Countdown to Christmas" Advent Calendar

I've finally completed another altered cookie sheet advent calendar. It was such a challenging project because I wanted to use totally different embellishments than those I had used on the first. I had so much fun dressing up die cuts and clip art into 3-D Christmas decorations. I have listed both calendars and a few other mini albums I created on Esty.
I have also been working on a Desk Calendar which has been very time consuming because I'm "cooking" without a recipe. I've had to reconstruct, rethink, recreate a number of elements but it is finally coming together. I'll post the final product once it is completed.
I've also been creating lots of Christmas gifts which is so much fun. I placed gigantic orders at Costco photo center and Snapfish so I have plenty of great photos to work with. Now I have to commit to the placements. I bought a canvas for large wall layout for my mom and the GIGANTIC scrapbooking coordinated set at Costco to create albums for Tim's family in Texas. I can't post the projects until Dec 26th because I don't want friends and family to see their treats before Christmas. i love the holidays!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Some days the choice is obvious, others, not so much

There are days when I look around my house and think hmmmm- domestic duties or creative exploration. I do a damage assessment from the previous evening and it is obvious that working in the studio is far more imperative than doing the dishes. This is growth for me. Before I had kids, I had a really difficult time going to bed without having everything in its place, let alone leaving dishes for the next morning. After Aidan was born, I struggled with the unending mess a child brings to the home. I equated mess with being a slacker so instead of catching up on sleep or taking a shower, I cleaned when the baby napped. It was at this same time that my passion for scrapbooking started to take off and I found myself compromising my absurd beliefs for creativity and guess what? I was happier. At 33 years of age I had finally stumbled on balance. It made no sense to me and even though I felt guilt and shame many nights as I lay in bed, my desire to create was greater than my need to feel like I had my act together.
After the birth of my daughter, any illusion of order in my home went out the back door when I wasn't looking and I was FORCED to accept chaos in my home. I remember in a desperate attempt to make my house (and life) clean and organized, I purchased an all purpose steam cleaner from HSN while I was up late nursing. "This will fix everything" I thought. When it arrived, I was filled with hope and started steaming immediately only to discover that I couldn't really use it when my 2 year old was around because of the hot steam . The steam cleaner sat in the middle of our kitchen island for 3 months. Every time my husband went to put it away I shrilled "Noooooo!". It was a symbol of what I hoped I would regain. Yet when I finally got into the groove of being a mother of two and found myself with free time, I did not clean. I retreated into my scrapbooking room and shut the door on my messy house and my never ending responsibilities. A clean house would only last a few hours but the joy I got from scrapbooking my family memories filled me up for days.
Fast forward to today. The internal battle continues When the "take care of business" side shoots the canon, I know I have "work" to do. Art will have to wait. But when the struggle is limited to debate, I leave the mess and go "play". Balance requires thoughtful attention and daily practice. If it was easy, tight rope walkers would be a dime a dozen.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Being mommy trumps art

It has been one of those weeks. The kids have been sick, no one has gotten much sleep and my days have been busy with mommy duty. The laundry hasn't been folded, I haven't been to the grocery store but my kids have been cuddled and cared for. I have managed to get a few minutes here and there to play in the studio but I am itching for a full day to finish a few things, add to a few others and start in on new projects.

Since I have been spending a lot of time in bed with my little ones, I've had time to read a little more of "Life Artist" by Ali Edwards (love it!) and think about some of the projects I want to try from Donna Downey's "Creative Albums". I also did some writing and sketches in my art journal and now have an exciting list of things I want to explore in the near future. Here is a sampling:
  • blow up some of my favorite photos and create a series of layouts around them.
  • do an entire album around a theme of geometric shapes
  • use binder albums and varying page sizes
  • incorporate envelopes
  • photo transfer onto acrylic
  • take a picture everyday and make an album of just those pics
  • buy some Heidi Swapp ghost clocks
I also spent some time surfing the web while my kids slept next to me. I had the pleasure of joining the community at Studio Calico. I just signed up for their monthly kits and I cannot wait to receive my first package. I love getting goodies in the mail! The ladies on the message boards are so sweet and I'm looking forward to getting to know them. I'll post my first delivery when it arrives.

Being a mommy - taking care of my babies when they are miserable and scared, is an unbelievably hard job. I never knew how hard it would be until I was in the throws of it. I am so grateful that I am capable of doing that job and that I have art to look forward to - it keeps me full and happy and willing to give of myself.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cookie Sheet Countdown to Christmas / Advent Calendar

I have seen many different interpretations of the cookie sheet calendar. There are so many creative ways to approach this project! I decided to use supplies from the 8000+ piece Holiday Scrapbook Kit I purchased on QVC through their autoship program they offer last spring. The kit includes about a zillion card stock and chipboard diecuts to use for the countdown. I dressed some of the pieces up by punching small holes and inserting sequin garnished jumprings. I used a glitter pen, bling and sequins to embellish and add sparkle. The title is a combination of chipboard letters. The "Countdown to" portion is Downey Downing nude chipboard letters from another awesome kit I purchased on QVC. I paint the unfinished letters with Ranger's Lettuce and Watermelon paint dabbers. "Christmas" is spelled out in K.I. Memories Holiday Chipboard Alphas. It was a super fun project- I starting a new one today using Sandylion embellishments. They have an enormous Christmas selection this year. I'll post it when it is done and make the kit and finished project available for purchase.
Art club starts in a few minutes so I've got to get ready. We are using Heidi Swapp's "Love your Handwriting" book today for our challenge.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The colors of Autumn

When I was younger, I never thought of Autumn as a season to be enjoyed. Instead, it meant going back to school, farewell to summer , shorter days, colder weather and loads of sports on TV.
How things change... this year I officially declared Fall my favorite season. I love the way the air smells, the changing colors, the crisp cool mornings, the anticipation of the holidays. People say that California doesn't have a Fall, but I disagree. It is just a Californian Fall... Our backyard is alive with color and our grass is completely covered with leaves (just a day after raking). The kids and I had a wonderful time gathering foliage to make collages. They each had their own bag to collect all of Fall's treasures. Aidan thoughtfully looked for the most exciting leaves with interesting patterns and bold colors while Eva found joy in each and every leaf she picked up.
Like Halloween candy, the kids dumped their goodies on the table and selected their favorites. I gave them each a large puddle of glue on a plastic plate so they could enjoy the sticky, gooey sensations to the fullest. I felt so happy watching them dip their various bits into glue and randomly place them on sheets of chipboard. How easily they slip into the "creative zone".
Once the globs of Elmer glue are completely dry, I will go back with craft dots to secure the heavier items and then put them in a dark closet to thoroughly dry out. In a few weeks, we'll frame their artwork in shadow boxes so we can have a bit of fall all year round.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Artistic growing pains

Boy do I have a lot of projects going on right now. I love working on one for a little while, taking a break and starting in on another. This allows me a chance to step back and revisit my work with a fresh set of eyes. This is especially necessary right now because almost all of the projects I am working on involve a learning curve. I have a really strong need to go outside of my comfort zone these days. Some sort of impulse to validate myself as an artist has been driving me to explore without seeking out instructions. This has left me in a precarious mood. When I hit a wall with one of my albums Sunday a whole bunch of self doubt and fear swept over me. And yesterday, when I finally got the embellishments and colors in sync with the overall feel of the project, my "artist anxiety" diminished and my spirits were restored. Lessons were learned but I have to question the price paid in the process. Is pain a fair price for growth? Hmmmmm...This is what I've been working on:
The first project in this "cluster of creativity" is a staggered, spiral bound chipboard album. I scraplifted the overall concept from the Zutter website. The difference in mine is that I added Bazzill cardstock pages in between the chipboard to pull out the rich colors of K & Company's Wild Saffron paper. When I started this book, I had just received my Zutter and was dying to give it a try so I dug into this project without any sort of sketch or plan. After I cut the chipboard, inked and adhered the paper and bound the book, I found myself having trouble coming up with the overall theme and words to use. I wanted to do something really unique but many of the ideas I had were too many letters for the pages or did not coordinate with the Tuscan feel of the paper. LESSONS LEARNED: Consider theme and purpose before you construct the project. Being excited about a new tool or product does not make basic design principles any less true. Another thing I learned was that by adding the cardstock in between each chipboard page, there was less surface for the letters to adhere to the chipboard pages. Overall, I really like how this album turned out but I haven't done anything with pictures, journaling or embellishments yet.
This next project really had me in a strangle hold. I scraplifted the concept from a product demonstration for the Zutter machine on HSN. The back bone of the album is a 12 x 12 piece of cardstock. The pages are attached in a gate fold but the pages vary in size. The various chipboard pages are 6 x6, 12 x 6, 6 x 12, 6 x 3, 12 x 3 and 12 x 8. I had been wanting to use the rest of my Danny O paper and this edgy and fun design was the perfect place for it. I covered both sides and stamped with Fancy Pant's acrylics in black to dress up the collage tone. I ran into a few problems in the actual assembly with the Zutter and my pages did not end up where they belonged. This mistake really bummed me out because the cover pages I had chosen were now buried towards the end. The covers I ended up with were were not meant to be next to one another and felt dry and uninviting. My hope was that it would come together once I added some texture. To do this, I used my Ranger Paint Dabbers but the end result did not grab me. Instead of looking like brush stokes and smears, the paint looked contrived. I went to bed on Sunday night feeling crummy. I let these obstacles get to me and I started doubting my abilities. Monday morning, I was still feeling licked so I decided I had better do something to make it stop. This motivated me to take the album apart and put it back together the way I wanted it. Suddenly, the project was speaking to me. Yes, this is what I was after! LESSON LEARNED - (again an obvious one) if I don't like where a project is headed, I am allowed to change its course.
The embellishments and title I selected worked just as I envisioned. The photos I had planned on using were perfect. it was coming together better than I had expected!
It is such a great feeling to have a project start to take life. The process however, often involves discomfort - I would like to change that. I want to grow as an artist without doubting myself. Is this even possible?
I am also working on creating my own acrylic album rather than spending $18+ on an 8 x 8 from kits2remember or other products out there. I went to TAP plastics and had them cut the panels for me at $1.11 each. I was pretty excited that it had been so simple until I put the 1/16 acrylic in the Zutter. It was too thick to gracefully cut through the plastic and it cracked when I finally forced it. The same was true for the Crop-o-dile large hole punch. When I used the small hole punch, I had no cracking but then the binder rings wouldn't fit through the hole at the hinge. I finally showed this project to my husband and he said all we needed to do was take a trip to the hardware store and he would be able to solve the problem. LESSON LEARNED: (Hmmmm - I think I've heard this before... )2 heads are better than one.
I have a few other projects I have been tinkering with each of which has taught me something -
  • unique envelope designs which I want to use for a mini album - LESSON LEARNED: skip the ornate details until after you have the envelop folded and adhered. No sense spending time cutting and punching if the basic design doesn't work.
  • my sister's birth announcements - I still haven't got a design I'm crazy about - LESSON LEARNED - Use magazines and websites to get inspiration rather than spending hours trying to reinvent the wheel.
  • twinking H2O's and stamping for collage - LESSON LEARNED - invite the kids to experiment with mediums - it is amazing what you can learn from their uninhibited style.
  • Granny's 95th birthday album - LESSON LEARNED - scrap with love and it will all fall into place