Sunday, December 29, 2013

Creative Excursions in 2013

As I looked back over some of my favorite projects from this past year for my last post, I also reviewed some of the best creative excursions I enjoyed.  Seeing the places I visited in 2013 has gotten me excited for all of the possibilities for 2014!
Remember how excited I was to be sketching and watercoloring in Jane LaFazio's workshop?
One of the most noteworthy excursions was the CREATE Mixed Media Art Retreat in Somerset, New Jersey, back in July.  I was so incredibly excited to find an art retreat so close to my home that I could easily drive and spend a couple of nights completely on my own, doing nothing but soaking up art with hundreds of other people who enjoy and value it as much as I do.
My "tiny tarnished tome" from Kari McKnight Holbrooke's workshop
After Seth Apter's bookbinding class, I came home and "went to town," creating my own bound books.
I was going to try to convince my husband that an artists' retreat should be an annual event, but I've found several wonderful workshops offered over the course of 2014 at Longwood Garden, where we've been members for six years now, and I am thinking of taking some of them instead.  There's a watercolor class, mixed media, nature journaling...I think I will be able to get some artful excursions much closer to home this year!

The other workshop I took this past year was a Zentangle class at Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, back in May.
My completed practice tile from Zentangle class
The class gave me the opportunity to work with "official" Zentangle materials, specifically the thick 3-1/2 by 3-1/2 inch lightly-deckle-edged tiles that come with officially-sanctioned Zentangle kits.  I will continue to tangle on every and any surface with every and any pen I happen to have at hand, but it was fun to play around with the high-quality "real-deal" for those couple of hours in May!
Simon Sparrow's mosaic, "Assemblage of Faces"
Some of my most inspiring excursions took me to places to admire others' art.  I still find myself thinking about particular pieces from the Outsider Art exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that I saw back in May.
Jon Serl's "Family Band"
If you check out my two-part series of blog posts, you will get a sense of how much I really wanted to share the experience with you and allow you to see all of the really amazing pieces that were on display.  (Part I is here.  Part II is here.)
Detail from George Widener's "Blue Monday (Reversal)"
I was also completely blown away by my first visit to Isaiah Zagar's Magic Gardens on South Street in Philadelphia.  Please take a moment to look through the photos in the original post; it just might be enough to get you to book a ticket to Philly right away to have a look for yourself!
The artist at work on his amazing mosaic project at the time of my visit.
My daughters giving the artist's dog a pat in the midst of the mosaic garden.
Head to the Magic Gardens in Philadelphia for a multi-layered mosaic extravaganza!
Another inspiring destination from this past year was the Allentown Paper Show.  So inspiring, in fact, that I had to go TWICE--once in April and again in October.
I should really put a strict moratorium on paper and ephemera purchases for the next year, simply due to the huge haul I still have from my visits to the show.  But it is very, very hard to resist!
Besides these noteworthy creative expeditions, 2013 was filled with a number of other Artist Dates that "filled my creative well" quite full over the months.  Some of my favorite places to poke around and get inspired include:
Stores with beautiful displays, like Terrain
The ocean
Thrift shops, like The White Elephant at St. Francis of Assisi in my neighborhood
Art shows with wonderful collage art, like the Wallingford Community Arts Center Holiday Sale
Flea markets, like the huge one in the multi-tiered parking lot of our local community college
Yard sales, like the ones we enjoy around town during Media Garage Sale Days
I am thoroughly convinced that I have no need to bring one single additional item into this house beyond food, so I believe that 2014 will be a year for window shopping and eye candy, rather than actual shopping and purchasing.  I plan to have as many, or more, artful excursions to fill my creative well with images, ideas, and inspirations, but I am going to try to keep my wallet CLOSED throughout the process!

I hope you will come along with me during the next year to find out what artful excursions await!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Favorite Projects of 2013

I spent some time last night going through my blog posts from the past year, giving myself a chance for a little retrospection.  I thought it would be fun to collect some "blog favorites" over the year to share with you.  Today, I am highlighting some of my favorite projects from 2013. 

I didn't keep up with my Christmas in [Insert Month Here] series as faithfully as I had hoped, but it did yield a few project favorites that I will be doing again.  Besides finding ways to reuse all those Christmas cards, which I enjoy doing every year, I also really liked the patchwork/collage effect of the paper stockings I made back in September. 
I gave several of my acrylic and ink painted glass Christmas ornaments as gifts this year.  The results are so varied and unexpected that I can see myself making more just to see how they turn out.
Before I learned proper bookbinding techniques at the CREATE art retreat this past summer, I made these adorable little raisin books using electrical tape and rubber bands.  I've made tea box books, too.  My next books will be from soap and butter boxes with some proper stitching, so stay tuned!
One of my very favorite projects this year has been carving my own rubber stamps.  In fact, I am considering a major rubber stamp carving project for this next year, which I'll tell you more about soon!
Some cute little "object stamps" that are perfect for mail art
The silhouette stamps are some of my favorites!

Though the tag and clipboard stamps are right up there, too!

I'd like to try some more houses on a hill to perfect that design a bit.

And, ah, the Dennison label-style stamp!

More house stamps...I can't resist!
I really enjoyed learning a gesso resist technique from a Claudine Hellmuth video that created the designs on these hearts back in February.  I have whole books full of paint techniques I haven't tried; hmm....I may have to work that into my plan for the new year, too!
Scripture journaling was another new project I tried this past year.  It's hard work to translate Bible passages into visual representations!  It is such an effective way to internalize the message of the Scripture, but it takes real discipline to stick with it.
Learning some of the symbols, fonts, drawings and designs associated with Sketchnotes has been a fun part of the project, and applicable to other drawing and note taking projects besides just scripture journaling.
I absolutely loved the birdhouse charms I made from a kit from Heather Alexander last month.  I ended up giving a couple as Christmas gifts, and have several more on my craft desk, half-made.  My husband noticed that the wooden crates our clementines come in have triangular wood pieces that could be trimmed to size for additional roofs.  Reduce, reuse, recycle!

And, of course, throughout the year, my love for collage and mail art continued.  My glue stick and sewing machine continued to work overtime to create postcards for friends and just for fun over the months. 
from "Finally!" post in November
Paper scraps, fabric, postage stamps, rubber stamps, stickers, decorative tapes, buttons, ribbons, photographs, text pages, postcards, musical scores, vintage documents, book illustrations--all were pressed into service for collaged mail art through the year.
from "Feeling Stitchy" post in October
from "Stitchy Vintage Collage" post in October
from "More Mail Art & a Giveaway Winner" post

from "More Mail Art & a Giveaway Winner" post
And finally, I continued creating Zentangles this year, even taking a workshop on the subject at a local arboretum.  The tangled borders on the postcards below were a great exercise in various tangle designs.  With six or seven Zentangle books on my shelves, I'll be revisiting this calming drawing practice again in 2014!
Going back through my blog posts gave me a chance to review my projects, my excursions, and the swaps and challenges that filled my creative year.  I'll be back with a couple more retrospective posts, and some creative plans for 2014 very soon.

Wishing you all the best for these final days of 2013!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas, Scrappy Rolodex-Style!

I dug into the envelope full of Christmas goodies that Mary sent to me a couple of months ago in order to turn old Christmas cards into holiday postcards for some mail art friends.  I had forgotten how many awesome cards, stickers, and rub-ons she had included in the package!  In that moment, the empty Rolodex cards on my desk and the pile of stickers from the envelope melded together in my mind's eye, and I had my evening activity all ready for me!
I added in some of my Christmas-themed Cavallini tapes, along with the stickers.  Those tapes cost a lot of money, but, boy, do they ever last and last!
A very simple set of rub-ons on a red background made a super-simple but really pretty card.  (Unfortunately, it's also a little sticky, so I'm not sure exactly how long it will survive in its home in my Rodolex with the other cards!)
Next, I used some of the awesome postal-themed Santa napkin I mentioned earlier to create a few additional cards.
I added lots of additional rubber stamping and some more decorative tapes.
Now, I have a pretty full Rolodex, and I can move onto the next one--a not-so-long ago thrift store find.
And because we all love those yummy, thick, colored page edges, whether it's an art journal or a set of Rolodex cards, here's a peek at the top edge:
If anyone is interested in doing a Rolodex swap, please get in touch through the comments, or by email at

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Santa Poste

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

But it seems to be going on and on and on and on.  I guess that's what happens when Christmas festivities get started right after Thanksgiving, and keep up for the full month of December.  I even had a brief moment the other morning when I thought that Christmas had already happened!  Who could blame me really, when I've already watched Santa "arrive" in a nearby town, "had lunch" with him at my daughter's school, watched two musical programs by my children's classes, prepared for two parties for my children's classes, participated in the church's Christmas pageant, and wrapped and shipped off Christmas presents to my family members who will be in other parts of the country over the holiday.  You mean, it's not over yet??

But there have been some fun postal-themed elements to our holiday this year that I want to share with you.  First, at my daughter's school, they each got to write letters to Santa and post them right to the North Pole:
That's Bayla, not losing one lick on her candy cane, getting her Christmas wishes off to the Big Guy himself.
Opening our own mailbox each day to find Christmas cards and family photo postcards is one of the many highlights of the season.  At a local store, I found greeting cards for sending money as gifts; they had a fun postal motif, so I turned them into postcards for some of my mail art friends.
A little bit of festive decorative tape and a postcard back, and they were ready to make their way across the country!

When I picked up napkins for my daughter's classroom Christmas party, I loved the postal-theme on them, as well.
After unwrapping one fully, I adhered it to a white paper backing with gel medium, and I know that I'll be using the extras for some fun projects; I love the overall design!
Some other holiday postcards were created from random catalog photos and my Dymo label maker:
My six-year-old daughter has been "wowing" me with her creativity this holiday season.  We have done Advent calendars every year since her birth, so she's very familiar with the concept.  She found a box lid lying around during package wrapping, and decided to create her own Advent calendar.
She glued down little flaps with numbers for each day, and drew a Christmas-themed picture behind each one.  Here's little glimpse of a star, a manger, Mary, and a donkey:
They aren't necessarily pretty, per se, but I thought her idea for constructing the calendar was quite clever!

She also found some peg clothespins in our craft stash and decided, completely unprompted by me, to create her own nativity scene.  She presented it to me when she was finished by setting it up in front of a nativity in our bedroom:
Notice Baby Jesus, lying at the back, and the gifts lying in front of each of the three wise men.  Again, perhaps not the most glamorous of execution (note the stickers that say "Pow!" and "Vroom!" on the wise men), but I was impressed by her initiative and creativity in completing the project!

I am feeling a major need to take this last week before Christmas to really refocus on the true meaning of the holiday.  I've had enough Santa, enough candy canes, enough gift wrapping and "Jingle Bells."  It's time to settle myself down and really prepare my heart for this celebration of the great gift of Jesus, born into this world to be our Savior.

However you are spending this holiday season, I hope that it is filled with joy, health, contentment, and creativity....happy holidays!