Grandma Moses Was Right…

…you’re never too old to take up art.

This year I surprised myself. I figured I was well-acquainted with all the corners of my weird little mind. But something lay hidden. It was probably under a rug embroidered with the words “stuff you can’t do.” Do you have a rug like that? Or an attic with a big, scary door and a sign that reads “Don’t even try to come in here.” Stowed away under dust and discouraging words, you just might find a surprise, too.

Almost a year ago, I was spending the winter in Florida and my aunt had come down for a short visit. One day we decided that we’d try out a new place nearby that offered “paint and sip” classes. The concept is that you bring a beverage (adult or otherwise) and the teacher provides all the painting supplies. Everyone paints the same picture, more or less. That night we were working on a colorful thing called the Whimsy Tree.

mcdonalds-Sweet-Tea-SmallAunt Sue and I showed up with our McDonald’s Buckets o’ Tea (really, what a deal for a buck!). We figured we’d need all our senses to complete this project. Neither of us had done much with acrylic paints before. It was an adventure in artistry! We watched the instructor and did what she did (kinda). Thanks to having lids on our iced tea, we never dipped our paintbrushes into our drinks, so there’s that. My main goal was to have a fun evening, not to paint a masterpiece. (Aunt Sue, bless her heart, had had shoulder surgery the month before, so she gave it her best. She’s usually very artistic! I was scared.)

whimsy treeWhich is why I was so surprised when my painting actually turned out to be something I might hang on a wall. I mean I was SURPRISED. And the instructor complimented me, which, all of us who live for the approval of others know, is the cherry on top. Here’s what I discovered:

  • I enjoyed learning a new skill.
  • I didn’t even think about how much the class cost afterward.
  • I felt proud of myself.
  • I looked forward to showing it to my husband and others.
  • Every time I look at it, it makes me happy. (Yes, I did hang it prominently in our dining area.)
  • I can do art. Like real ART.

And that got me started. Follow along and I’ll share my next piece of artsy serendipity! (With photos!)

 

Fun with Color

standard designer (3)

About a week ago, I spent eight hours in a classroom with twenty women. We colored. We shaded. We erased. And we did all of this with Copic® markers. When we were finished, each of us was certified as a Standard Copic Marker Designer. This means we are allowed to teach the techniques (the basics only) of using these very special markers. TEACH? Not yet. I still need a lot of practice before I feel adequate to teach anyone how to use them.

Here are a few key details:

  1. Choose the right paper. If paper is too porous, the blending can be muddy and you will use a lot more ink.
  2. This is more than coloring. This is more like painting—mixing colors, adding colors, saturating.
  3. Don’t be afraid to “mess up” the marker. They practically clean themselves!
  4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. There’s a marker that ERASES boo boos!

Here are a few of the practice pieces I worked on.

flowergirlmouse cupmice tulip

 

Switching Crafts

If you’re like me, you enjoy doing more than one kind of craft. In the winter, I get busy with yarn and sewing crafts. In the summer, I do more outdoor projects. But all year long, I love doing papercrafts. It’s the only kind of crafting that I’ll find classes to take that help me learn how to do it better.

Last week, I went to an all-occasion card-making class. Here’s a selection of the cards I made there:

archivers cards

I’ve been on a card-making craze ever since. I decided to make several different kinds of cards and then create a box for the set as a gift for my stepmother. It all started with butterflies and went on from there. The box is a pre-made wooden one I bought at Michael’s. I covered the bottom with red felt, so it won’t scratch any surfaces. Then I cut paper pieces for the top and some flower cutouts from the Secret Garden paper collection, and matching paper for the inside bottom. On the top I attached some 3-D butterflies. Here’s a look at how it turned out:

butterfly box

Then I made 10 cards to fill the box. The cards are of all sizes and shapes and themes. I wanted her to have lots to choose from. Here are two of them:

tulips and daisies

 

When the box was full, it was ready to be given. Dear Carol loved it! I think I’ll be doing this more often for friends and family as gifts. Now she’ll have some cards to choose from when she needs to share her wishes for a happy birthday, a thank you, a thinking of you, or a note of sympathy.

box o cards

I’ll be posting lots more card-making and paper-crafting ideas over the next few weeks. Check back often for some pretty photos—and some step-by-step “how to” directions!

Super-Easy Pet Cushion Project

We have a new member of the household. His name is Kirby—after tossing around dozens of names and circling back to the one that really describes what he does best, sucking up stuff on the floor and making it disappear. He’s a Pekingese and an Easter baby. Yep, the Easter bunny brought this little fellow on April 8. (Which just happens to be MY BIRTHDAY, too, and was too much of a cosmic coincidence for me to ignore.) Having a little pocket pet offers all kinds of crafting opportunities, including the creation of costumes and outfits that he’d be mortified to wear if he had just an ounce of self-awareness. In due time, my little puppy, in due time.

I’m starting with more basic projects, however. He’s being crate-trained, as most household dogs are, and I can’t stand the thought of his little puppy underparts lying on the cold, hard, plastic, cookie-sheet-shaped, slide-out base of the cage. I also don’t want to give up any of my good towels. Here’s a chance to use my crafty brain to cook up something simple, yet wonderful.

I scavenge through the house, looking in drawers, closets, and my sewing area. Voilà! I spy some oldish pillowcases whose matching sheets have long since been used for dust covers in the garage. A little feminine, yes, but he’s a modern pup—it’s all about recycling. I take the first pillowcase to my sewing station, flatten it on my cutting board, and unroll a batch of batting. Using the pillowcase as my pattern, I cut a folded (doubled) piece of batting about an inch smaller around the edges than the pillowcase. Then I insert the doubled piece inside and pin the four layers flat. Using a larger stitch than normal, but not a full basting stitch, I sew around the perimeter of the pillowcase, securing the batting.

That’s it! All done! It is the perfect size to fit inside the doggie crate, and it’s pretty, cushiony, and so washable. I’ll make 3 or 4 so I can rotate them between wash days. Kirby doesn’t even mind the darling little ruffle on the end. See? He’s just happy his owner is such a crafty lady.

 

 

Crafting for Christmas … in July

If you’ve been in a craft store lately, you know that Christmas isn’t really that far away. Never mind that it’s 95 degrees outside and most of the country is dry as a bowl of Cheerios sans milk. (Really, now do toddlers eat those things dry?!) This year has been warmer and dryer than any year in recent memory, so it’s begun to feel like the title of one of those drippy teen romance novels:The Summer of Forever, or whatever. And then I saw the aisles at Hobby Lobby and JoAnn’s and Michael’s. Aisles that twinkled with red, green, and gold glitter. Santas and snowmen greeted me with crinkly eyes and fat-cheeked smiles. They reminded me that even this summer will come to an end.

My first reaction is horror. How can they even think about Christmas this early? Then I start to think about it. And realize, like the merchandisers of craft stores, that I should really get started on projects that I intend to make as Christmas gifts this year.

Granted, those kinds of gifts are fewer than they used to be. When I had small children (all boys, by the way), I made beautiful, heirloom-worthy things. My oldest son’s hand-stitched crewel embroidery stocking was a masterpiece. Unfortunately, it now resides with my ex-husband who may or may not treasure it as I would. Some part of me wants to go all ninja-like and sneak in to steal this one-of-a-kind work of art. Honestly, I learned stitches on that thing that I had never done before nor have done since. I *will* post a photo of it on here someday. Just don’t ask how I got it.

Nowadays I satisfy my crafting urges by making smaller things: dishcloths, dishcloths, earrings, dishcloths, bracelets, hot pads that can double as dishcloths. I go for quantity over quality now. That Christmas stocking took me more than 80 hours to finish, I’m sure. Now I can whip up a dishcloth in about 15 minutes. It’s a good one, too, don’t get me wrong. Just look:

Ask yourself honestly, would you give away something that took you much longer than 15 minutes to make if you knew it was going to be submerged in dishwater for wiping peanut butter or pasta sauce off a stack of plates? I rest my case. (The one on the right here is especially good for cleaning up grape jam, by the way.)

How many have I made for Christmas 2012 so far? At last count, about 25.

Anybody want a dishcloth?