Journalling and the Art of Getting Things Done

I have a desire to develop my jewelry making skills, and I am tired of getting in my own way. What to do? First, adopt an attitude of curiosity and self forgiveness. None of us are perfect, and, I assume, we all want to accomplish things that we only dream about instead of devoting real time to make ourselves truly happy.

Next, research the available journals and planners, along with goal setting and soul searching.

This brought me to the Rituals for Living Dreambook and Planner (available at https://dragontreeapothecary.com/collections/rituals-for-living-dreambook). The couple who authored this book had a sound approach to what I was looking for: more than a daily planner, more than a journal, and more than a goal setting/mind-mapping set up could give me. It was a little pricey, but since it was the closest thing I could find, I took the plunge. I opted to buy the pdf version rather than the bound book available. I suspected that I would do better with the pdf, and I was right.

After doing the preliminary work required in the book, I was still a little fearful to actually write goals down and COMMIT to them. It seemed to me there was a gap between writing down the things that make you a happy content individual, and turning those ideas and definitions into achievable goals. That brought me to mind-mapping. Mind mapping has been around awhile now. There are even software packages devoted to mind-mapping. The most helpful site I found is http://blog.iqmatrix.com/.  I need to mention that one of the most helpful blog posts is the 19 Excuses You Are Making That Keep You Stuck. Kind of a kick-starter, so to speak. After reading through the various blog posts on this site and investigating a few of the links that are listed, I found that it started to make sense.

But what about that 50 lbs I would like to lose? and what about the house repairs that need to be made? and the money I want to save and the family I want to spend time with?  All doable and a place for everything.

I was able to allay my fears and just start writing down random goals and assigning tasks to each of them based on the mind mapping idea.  I then could narrow down what was really important, what sounded good, and what really didn’t matter to me all that much. I found that if I concentrated on various areas in my life (mentioned in the Rituals For Living): Health and Wellbeing; Finances; Careers and Hobbies; and Family and Community, it was easy to make my way through to the important stuff. I then transferred the important goals to the Rituals for Living Planner and I was on my way.

But still not enough detail–for me. I really do want ONE book/planner/journal where EVERYTHING lives. I can’t tell you how many planners I have lying around the house. Really, they are everywhere: under the bed, in my art studio, in the cabinet in the den, at work in a desk drawer. So I knew this about myself from the start. ONE PLACE.

Enter the loose leaf notebook.I don’t like loose leaf notebooks. They are awkward–not sleek and beautiful like those pretty well-packaged journals out there. But it had to be done. One loose leaf notebook and the pdf copy of the Rituals For Living Dreambook and Planner printed on three drill paper, front and back. Now the good part: I bought a set of five plastic pockets to fit in my notebook. I also bought a set of month dividers.  The dividers, of course, divided up the year by months conveniently. The pockets provide a place to store all the printouts of the jewelry projects I plan to complete each quarter.

One thing I have learned through the years is the importance of documenting your experience when attempting to create something. The instructions may say “easy peasy” and you find out it’s more “good luck with that”. Write down what you did and what you learned. Then, when the issue comes up again, you have the solution written down for yourself–or at least, you know what not to try again.  So for every project I am going to attempt, I have a project page with a simple title line and date to record progress. These are in my notebook by week to fill in as I do my weekly project.

Getting closer, but still some loose threads. I need a food diary and a journal. I also want daily check ins for exercise and taking my meds. MS Excel has developed into a highly usable and customizable spreadsheet software. With Excel, I was able to design a daily food diary and journaling space, two days to a page, and include reminders about my exercise and my meds. These pages fit handily in the weekly spread that is part of the Rituals for Living Dreambook.  The weekly spreads are handy because they allow you to coordinate your days and truly ritualize those plans that are important to you. It’s nice because, rather than panicking at seeing in your brain all the things you “should” do, you write it all down and realize that there is time and you truly can get things done. And it allows you to make yourself important. You are setting appointments to accomplish things that are important to you. These appointments are scheduled just like all the other “real” appointments in your life-and they should be!

So now I am a month in to my Ritualized living. It’s good. I even convinced my husband to take part. He has a copy of the Dreambook and is (sort of) attempting to put some goals together. He also has a better understanding of what I am trying to do, and because he knows what I am up to, he has good buy-in.

I encourage you to look in to planning/journaling/goal setting especially if you seem to be stuck or are not accomplishing what you feel you are capable of. It’s a great help to know that you can help yourself out. And accomplish things you want to do without pain.

 

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Precious Metal Clay Doesn’t Have to Turn Your Hair Gray

I started reading about working with metal clay and began to panic before I ever took it out of the package. The beauty of silver metal clay is that it allows a novice to create jewelry as though sculpting with Play Doh and end up with a really useful piece of jewelry. This is oversimplified, of course, but not far off. I did some preliminary research and made a page of sketches and figured I was ready to go. Well, not quite.

I made some molds using silicone and some sea shells. I made more molds by sculpting Fimo patterns to look like what I wanted the silver to look like and then creating the molds from the Fimo patterns. I have worked with molds quite often over the years both for hobby and professionally so I was fairly comfortable with that part of the process. What I was not prepared for was the fickle behavior of the silver clay.

It tells you on the package that there is a limited working time with the clay. It tells you that you must work diligently and have a plan before unwrapping the clay. It doesn’t warn you of the panic that will ensue when you take the clay out of the package and it sticks relentlessly to your hands and the rolling surface and the roller. It doesn’t warn you about rolling it too thin (don’t want to waste it, its expensive!) so that when you try to pick it up, it disintegrates. My first mold attempt I ended up using almost the entire 10 gram package (unheard of!) for one mold because I couldn’t get it to stay where I wanted it to and I couldn’t get it to take an impression from the mold. I saturated it with non-stick solution which probably contaminated it anyway. I was a basket case by the time I was finished and I could not imagine why anyone in their right mind would do this willingly.

I couldn’t give up this time. I had this kiln sitting there reminding me that I was the only one on the planet who could not work with silver clay. I must be missing something…

Surfing the internet hoping to find something, I discovered Cindy Pankhof. She’s a someone–a metal clay artist and shop owner out in California. She also has a class on Craftsy, and that was a  life saver for me. I watched the class all the way through. Then I watched again and took lots of notes. Then I went back over my notes and put together step by step instructions for myself on how to go about constructing pieces using the metal clay. The way Cindy talks about the clay, the design process and the ease of her presentation gave me the courage to try it again. I even expanded my efforts to include setting stones in the piece I was making.

I began by making sure I had everything I needed in front of me spread out on the dining room table. Probably the most valuable lesson Cindy taught was that the clay can be used no matter what state it is in. It is best to keep it moist and ready to go, but if you have something dry out, it’s not the end of the world and you can, in fact, reconstitute the dried clay to use again in future pieces. What a relief! I didn’t have to panic about the clay drying out because I wasn’t fast enough. Cindy demonstrates thoroughly how to preserve your clay during use and how to prepare less-than-moist clay for use.

I do have to plan ahead. But that’s not a bad habit to get in to. With two dimensional art work, it’s fairly easy to wing it. Planning ahead is painting in an underlayer or laying in a wash of watercolor on the page. Really not much need for planning everything out before you begin. So that was my first foray into jewelry craft. But that is just the tip of a very large ice burg.

 

Now for something completely different…

It’s been about a year since I last posted and things have changed–a lot. My needlepoint has given me three seat covers out of a planned six and, I admit, I am defeated. I have a lot of yarn, if anyone is interested in making a purchase just let me know. Coupled with wearing myself out when it comes to my needlework, I happened upon a set of 6 Louis XVI dining room chairs I had been looking for all along at an estate sale and that kind of put out any little dwindling ember of hope I had to complete my chair seat covers.

This was replaced by colored pencil and botanical art. A couple of things happened with that. Some may view it as defeat. I tend to view it as an expensive and frustrating opportunity for growth. My colored pencil art, which I still dearly love, was not performing at the level I had hoped. Not only was I not getting recognition on the local level for my work, it was starting to really invade my space. and as much as I like making it there is no more room to hang anything. I just don’t see the point of making art that will end up in a drawer. The botanical art is a great more detailed than I care to be. I can admire other people’s work and wish I had the fortitude and perfectionism required to become a successful botanical artist. I just don’t. That’s okay. It only makes me a little sad. And, as I mentioned, it cost me a good bit to figure that out. Now I’m done.

Meanwhile, I receive as much junk mail as the next person and one of the pleasures of the junk is the catalogs. One chilly afternoon, I was curled up with my coffee and nothing much to do so I picked up and started thumbing through a Sundance catalog. It was like revisiting my closet from 1975-all denim and funky shirts. But what got my attention was the jewelry. Especially the necklaces. Beautiful! and WAY out of my price range. So another rabbit hole appeared before me and, like any moron would, I happily crawled in to see what was down there waiting for me.

jewelry! it’s everywhere and everyone is interested in it. I know, everyone you know is making jewelry. Half of them are on Etsy. Well here’s the deal–with jewelry, the people you know-friends and acquaintances are interested in what you are doing and what you are selling. And it’s fun. What I am discovering about jewelry design and production is that I can be as crazy creative as I want to be and there is a place for me. I can be as formal or as minimalist as I am feeling and there is a place for me. And I can change from one material to the next, never be bored, and produce a beautiful thing at the end of it all. The list of skills and methods is just about endless.

I started by learning about precious metal clay. Many of the necklaces featured in Sundance have drops or medals of silver either etched or sculpted. This led me to a hunt for a jewelry kiln. Perusing Craig’s List every week for a couple of months netted me what I was looking for at a price I was willing to pay–about half of retail. A request to the family for fine silver clay for Christmas netted me a good collection to start playing with. And, not to be outdone, my husband was asking me about my kiln and what it was capable of firing. I mentioned enamel. I have always loved enamel work and have collected cloisonné for as long as I can remember. So I was gifted with a beginner enameling set for Christmas as well! Time to get to work!

Botanical Art and Fallen Trees

Even as the days grow longer, the dreary skies prolong my winter blues. I would love to go to my studio and have my way with the pencils and watercolors waiting there. But even a starving artist has to pay the occasional bill.

This has been a whirlwind year thus far! It started in January when we sought out a contractor to build our new deck. The old one was nearing 30 years of age and the metal supports were beginning to rust through. One end was actually hanging in the air, supported by a 6×6 scrap that my husband wedged under it so as to keep the deck from completely going down.

Meanwhile, I became enamored with the idea of learning botanical illustration. This came about as one of my fellow colored artist society artists is a member of the national botanical artists’ society and was showing one of the illustrations of leaves she was working on. As I conducted my search for resources, I came across a certification program at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I was thrilled there was something so close to me, and immediately signed up for the beginning drawing class. Yes, I felt like this was a major step backwards, but in order to complete the program, one must start at the beginning and work one’s way through all the classes. All the classes met once a week for 5 weeks. Seemed doable. I really came to see and (sort of) appreciate my impatience and intolerance during the drawing class. The instructor, a perfectly lovely woman and lifelong educator, seemed to speak to the class as though we were 5 year olds. I tried to persevere and behave myself, but apparently, that is beyond me in my older years…(as though I could ever tolerate it…)

We found our contractor for our deck via a home contracting website, signed the paperwork and were on our way to a new deck. I was foolish (maybe the fumes from the graphite of the drawing class had attacked my brain) and didn’t think to research our contractor or, more specifically, look for and read reviews for our contractor. Turns out there were more than a couple of complaints about this company, and they had an “F” rating from the BBB. In Georgia, you have 3 days to cancel a contract before it becomes binding. I called the company and said I thought I wanted to cancel. I told them why. The response was that all the reported issues had been resolved, and after all, I reasoned, they have to complete the deck to the Cobb County inspector’s approval, so what harm could there be?. Plus, the bid was really too good to pass up.  Long story short, it took about 4 weeks for the work to be up to the county’s standards (due to a minor debate as to whether the deck should be bolted or screwed to the house), but now it’s complete and it’s wonderful, and, if we ever get the hankering, our deck will support a military tank without a creak.

The drawing class dragged on through the four week mark. I was counting down…

I called to let the instructor know I wouldn’t be at the fifth and final class. I made up some lame excuse but the fact of the matter was that I just didn’t want to do the work. She returned my call a couple of weeks later telling me that the second (intermediate) drawing class had lots of openings if I was interested. No, no more elementary school for me. Once was enough. Yet, still obsessed with the botanical illustration bug, I couldn’t resist looking for an alternative educational tool. Seems the majority of botanical artists reside in England. They have all kinds of meetings and shindigs over that way. A couple of the accomplished artists offer on-line training. I signed up with Dianne Sutherland, SBA for a six month course that takes you from graphite to watercolor and gives you a good foundation into the dynamics of botanical illustration.

I started the class about 3 weeks ago and it’s going pretty well. Seriously, I think the best part of it for me is that I don’t have to make that 60 mile round trip into Atlanta once a week. Still a little elementary in the information, I am finding challenge to match the precision of method and the clean lines that define the drawing style. Plus I get to play with plants, which is another favorite thing of mine.

I really like my deck. So much so that I contacted the same company to redo our front porch railing. We live in your average ranch style tract home. The railing when we moved in was the standard issue 2×4 pickets and rails with 4×4 support posts and lathed round support posts from ceiling to floor. I couldn’t wait to get rid of it! My dad and I collaborated on a Chippendale design utilizing as much of the existing lumber as possible. I replaced the round  posts with 4×4 cedar posts. It was beautiful!

Now it’s close to 30 years old and “beauty” is not one of the words I would use to describe it. So I conferred with Frank, the owner of the decking company I had used, and arranged for the design and work for the front porch. It is going well. The workmen are always an experience. Wonder what their homes are like. Do they live in a hovel? or a well constructed manse that puts my ranch to shame? Hard to say when gazing upon the unshorn personage replete with sawdust, and a grin displaying the remaining yellow unbrushed teeth set into their skulls.

Work on the porch began yesterday. Notably the first day with a hint of springtime in it. Sitting at my desk at the office, my husband texted me that the tree guys were in the neighborhood, and would be happy, for a price, to remove the pesky oak volunteers. These trees had sprung up around the front yard over the course of years when I was foolish and didn’t care a flip about the impending doom of a falling tree. I still don’t really, but my house was vanishing behind this ever-increasing brush pile I was nurturing, and all the bird nests in the world do not impress the neighbors when their property values begin to plummet. Plus, I started to see the value of NOT having to patch a hole in my roof through preventive action rather than the finger crossing I had been relying on. So I came home to the porch guys packing up for the day, and the tree guys showing up to take their place. My husband had negotiated a heck of a deal and got them to cut down six trees in the front and an obnoxious maple branch in the backyard for $1000. The tree guys were done in less than an hour. Less than an hour? Wish I could find a gig that pays a thousand bucks an hour! What was that substance glowing on the fallen leaves? It was sunshine! something the front yard hadn’t seen in years! Even with this awesome glow, I felt genuine sorrow at having those trees removed. I hope they felt no pain. I certainly feel heartache. As though I betrayed my friends. I know that sounds ridiculous. I must be more Druid than I suspected…

Today, the porch guys have not yet turned up. My husband thinks its the prayer breakfast at Frank’s church. hmmm I suspect it’s the impending sleet we are expecting today.

sticky roses and dresden scraps

decoupage purse sides july 2014
As I mentioned in my last post, I have cut out scads of roses and butterflies from copies I made of the Dresden Scrap I ordered from a little place in the northeast. For those unfamiliar with the term, Dresden Scrap, or German Scrap is a die cut printed paper that is used to decorate craft projects and cards and letters. They are usually associated with the “vintage” stickers and greeting cards out there. The history part of me loves that the printed pages I now own were created in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s and the original dies are still in use. The printing is vivid and the subject matter is sweet and, usually, from a more innocent time.
I first came across the Dresden scrap when I was a child. Our family went to visit my grand parents and an aunt, who was 12 at the time, in the Netherlands. I loved all the bright colors and the variety of subject matter available. But they were rather expensive, even then. So I had to be very selective about which ones were the most appealing. Cats and kittens won out, I am pretty sure.
I also brought my piggy bank money to buy an authentic Dutch costume. Part of this costume was a set of hand carved wooden shoes. I got the plain undecorated, unvarnished variety that are truly meant to be worn. To say they were boring is accurate. I happened to mention it to my aunt who proceeded to paste cigar wrapper rings all over the shoes. I was horrified! Not at all what I had in mind. She thought she was rather clever, using Dad’s leftover cigar rings for a crafty purpose. All I saw was a disaster.
It has been 50 years since that experience, and I think I am ready to try decoupage again. There will be no cigars involved.
I try to find inspiration in the items I have collected from various sources–usually estate sales–to begin a project. Having completed the painting on the mini chest of drawers mentioned in the last post, I wanted to carry forward with some of that painting but add to the mix. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to play with all that cut paper. I didn’t paint a base coat on the raw wood of the purse. I couldn’t be bothered with that this time. I started by sorting through my various rose cut outs. I sorted them by color and then tried a design with dark in  the center going to light at the edges.

roses

 

 

I wasn’t thrilled with the outcome. And it was bedtime. I will try it again later. Next evening, enter one overly helpful granddaughter. “Whatchya doin’ Grammy? Can I glue some roses on? Can we put these with the little signs on them at the bottom: one here for Steve and one here for Carl?”

Hmmm. How do I get out of this one–or minimize the rework I will likely have to do. “Hey Emerson, here’s a little bird house for you to decorate” That was all fine and good–she would start on that right after she helped me with my purse.

Okay, time for bath and bed. “what about the roses, Grammy?” “We can work on that tomorrow after we rest”. Everyone in bed, Grammy sneaks into her studio under cover of darkness. The cats are wondering what the heck I’m up to and start to follow me around and talk. ‘SHHHHH!’ I get in the studio and close the door. Then, of course, the cats want out… At least they left me alone after that. I guess I wasn’t very interesting when they found there was no food involved. That was all the impetus I needed to glue all those little scraps of paper over the wooden surface. Rather than starting with a particular color, I began with a larger piece I was fond of, and just went crazy from there.  The good thing about ModPodge is that you can use it to glue and to varnish, so it’s not too terrible if you get some spills or brush-overs here and there on your surface as you go. I covered the surface completely, and left the two scraps that had little signs on them for Emerson to glue in the morning. We also had been playing with a butterfly cutout. I talked Emerson into putting it off-center in the arrangement–something she was very reluctant to do. I went back later and embellished the butterfly wings with rhinestones.

I wanted to carry the theme of the checkerboard onto this project. I was not sure what colors to use. I started with a happy green and bright pink. Wrong.  It looked awful! Okay, be more bold–go with colors that are a little edgy–that’s what makes it work. I used a crimson in place of the pink. Much better outcome and not quite Christmas-y.

Along with the Dresden scrap I had purchased, I had run across a treasure trove of German embossed gold foil papers at an estate sale.  Time to gild the lily–or in this case–rose. I used artist’s tape to hold the foil in place as the glue dried. Not the best idea. The tape pulled some of the foil from the decoration here and there when I tried to remove it. Bummer. I tried painting the torn areas with gold paint. It was better, but still obvious that there were mistakes. Well, what better than roses to cover those torn spots?! Yes, I meant to do that all along….

On the flip side of the purse, I decided to construct something a little smoother and less detailed as it is technically the back of the purse. I hit upon a scrapbook paper I liked and cut that to fit the entire side. I then embellished with one large rose cut out. And, because I can’t leave things unadorned, I glued on a couple of pearls and a rhinestone for a little glitter.

So now, the varnishing begins. I have all the findings (hinges, latch, handle) for the purse awaiting their timely placement. Meanwhile it is a lot of fun to just let yourself be creative without a lot of analysis.

Stay tuned for the wooden plate painted in the majolica style I will be talking about next!

Decorative Painting Inspirations

here is the chest painted and awaiting the layers of varnish. Also, the drawer knobs and drawer liners will be installed after the varnishing is complete.

here is the chest painted and awaiting the layers of varnish. Also, the drawer knobs and drawer liners will be installed after the varnishing is complete.

here is the chest with and without the drawers. It is painted and awaiting the layers of varnish. Following the varnishing, the drawer pulls and drawer linings will be installed.

here is the chest with and without the drawers. It is painted and awaiting the layers of varnish. Following the varnishing, the drawer pulls and drawer linings will be installed.

Saw an advertisement for a craft fair and the call for vendors (“crafters”) for said fair.
Started thinking it might be time to shift gears for a bit after going hot and heavy on the colored pencil and some watercolor.
I am even fitting in my needlepoint on the nights we watch movies with no subtitles, so progress all around.
I had painstakingly cut out multitudes of butterflies and roses that I had copied from the Dresden scrap sheets I had purchased. (www.blumchen.com). The TV is great for cutting out scraps too, as long as there are few subtitles.
Anyway, the first wooden piece I chose from my stockpile of wooden plaques and trays and boxes was a miniature chest of drawers. It stands about 8″ high and has three drawers. It looks like the top should open, but it doesn’t. I was intrigued by the scrolled feet and the bit of surface design in the drawer fronts. What to do with this to make it appealing to a craft fair buyer and still be something I am interested enough to complete? Ah hah! an old MacKenzie-Childs catalog. Perfect. It was a form of painted furniture I am interested in, and enough of a departure from my normal coordinated and pretty art work to create a challenge. I found a chest in the catalog that was painted with scenes from the Scottish highlands. This was then embellished with the trademark (no, really, I think there may be an actual trademark)black and white checks and a red top and gold accent paint. So, now–how to miniaturize and keep the feel of the painting style.
I began by painting the entire piece with a base of Behr flat acrylic paint in a mossy green color. This mild green tint felt like the right hue to be the touchstone base for all the other colors being introduced onto the piece. And it was really cute too!
I then set out a few puddles of acrylic craft paints in colors I wanted to incorporate in my fantasy landscape. The hardest part for me was remembering the methodology of using acrylic paints: typically, you want your colors to remain wet, or at least, not dry before applying surrounding colors. This creates a pleasant harmony of color changes, but runs completely counter to watercolor where you typically apply a color, let it dry, apply another, etc. So it took me a minute to make the transition. I decided to use a series of painting manipulations to convey a lot of space and depth in a very limited amount of room. Starting with the sky, I used a medium blue, followed by a bit of yellow at the edge to indicate the presence of indirect sunlight. I put in pink and lavender to give it a strong dose of a fantasy dusk. This was followed by a couple of light sand colored clouds, drawn more as horizontal lines than puffy happy clouds. I didn’t use white, as it was not midday. The sand was light enough to distinguish the lines as clouds without making them stand out too much. I then followed with a gentle hill line in cool colors to emphasize the depth of the piece (things further away look cooler than things close up). This was followed with an almost-required element of a stream running willy-nilly from the lake at the base of the hills. I used the same blue as the sky for the water, lightening the water to almost white at the closest stream parts. I also put in a hint of reflection from the hills in the water, but not much.
This brought me to the foreground elements. Again, not a lot of room, but I wanted something that attracted the eye. I painted in a fairly straight tree trunk and put in tree branches. When painting tree skeletons, it’s important to remember the way limbs and branches grow. They are usually at a slightly upward angle to the vertical trunk. From the main branches, smaller twigs sprout forth. These are also at an acute angle to the branch they sprout from. Additionally, it looks a lot more natural if you alternate twigs side to side along a branch. That is generally how they grow, and people recognize the thing as a tree when you incorporate this method.
Let the wooden parts of the tree dry, and then dot in greens for the leaves, darker to lighter, indicating how the light is shining, or where the bunches of leaves curve away from the viewer. On a decorative painting like this, it is more important to have fun and put in your personal flair for the arrangements of leaves and leaf colors than to worry about the leaf shapes and the precise portrayal of light and shadow. As I went along adding colors to various parts of the painting, I would come back and put in a couple of leaves in the same color. It is somewhat unexpected and makes for amusing interest. I then painted in various landscape elements, including a pair of rabbits and a deer–the deer really looks more like a cabin, but I digress.
I originally painted on top of the drawers, extending the entire scene over the 3-drawer surface. After that, I decided to extend the landscape around the sides of the chest. These scenes were fairly innocuous, indicating the continuation of the same landscape as in the front. I then used something my painting teacher told be to never use: black chevrons in the sky to represent birds in flight. I agree that in a serious painting, black chevrons in the sky do not enhance the painting’s quality. In this case, however, full of whimsy and fantasy, the chevrons said “bird” all over the place and punched up the interest of the scene just slightly.
Now for the accent painting. I used artist’s tape to mask off the area I did not want exposed for the checkerboard. I chose purple and red for the checks, as that color combo always makes me a little uneasy. First I drew a line to separate the two long rows of checks, then I drew freehand the cross lines that made the boxes for checks. This worked pretty well, except where I went a little wonky with my pen. The pen line then became part of the design, which is okay. I used a small flat brush and painted in the check boxes in the appropriate colors. I then painted the top of the chest and the feet with red paint. I was surprised at how eye-popping and happy this turned out. I then applied the gold along the various edges, using tape for straight edges as necessary and a small brush other times. I was really impressed with this gold paint! My husband uses it for his miniatures painting, so I tried to use it sparingly. This wasn’t too difficult as the coverage was really good. Then I got a clog at the spout of the paint bottle and a great blob of paint came out. I tried to use as much of it as I could, decorating with gold places I had not intended to, but it all looked great.
I sat back and looked at the piece and decided it needed one final detail: I took a butterfly cutout and pasted it in the corner of the red top. Nice!
The drawers had no way to open them other than prying at the edge with a fingernail, so I set to work deciding what type of knob I could install. I didn’t want to just glue on a bead that would pop off the first time someone tried to use it, so I started researching jewelry findings and the like. I was thinking of some corkscrew posts I had seen on a tie tack or something like a tie tack. I reasoned that the corkscrew post would keep the knob secure to the front of the drawer. No such luck. But I did find some posts with decorative gold tops–like oversized pin heads. The wire was long enough to allow the post to be inserted through a hole in the drawer front, and then bent to secure it to the back of the drawer front. Because I am covering the drawer interiors in a fabric liner, this will work out very well.
So, about the holes: I thought a pin vice ala X-acto would do the trick. The drill bit ended up sticking in the hole and would not turn any longer because the wood was too thick. I used a point tool (I think it’s from scrapbooking–like an awl, but a slender length all the way from the point through the body) to dig at the back of the hole and finally emerged in the interior of the drawer. This would have been okay, but the point tool got stuck in the hole and I ended up having to remove it with pliers. So it’s worth your time to get out and set up the Dremel tool with the drill bit inserted to make short work of it all.
As for the drawer liners, I recycled used cotton print from clothing to be the liners. I ironed it with a dry iron set to Wool, and then adhered the cotton to a backing of stitch witchery. This gave it the body it needed to act as a liner, and also provided the writing surface to accurately draw the dimensions I needed and then cut out the pieces. I cut the bottom of the drawer liner a little wider than needed on all four edges in order to extend the edges up onto the sides of the drawer. This provides an invisible seam and allows things stored in the drawers to not become lodged and lost in the seam edge of the lining.
So, with all the parts ready, I began the varnishing process. I am using Varathane Matte acrylic varnish. This immediately added smoothness and richness to the finish with the first coat. I will probably apply at least six layers of varnish to this chest. Perhaps more if the first six do not sink the butterfly cutout under the layers of varnish.
I was really pleased with the outcome. So much so, I was inspired to follow this project with a wooden purse–also from the stockpile. I employed a lot more decoupage for the purse. That will be the subject of my next post.

Whorled Experience and 10 things I learned by venturing out of my comfort zone

Elm Street Cultural Arts Village 

Earlier this month I attended my first ever art festival as a vendor. To say it was last minute is in no way an exaggeration. A friend of mine who resides in Woodstock, forwarded to me the notice of an art festival in Woodstock with the note “thought you might be interested”. This was no small thing as this friend is also pretty snooty about what she likes and opinionated on everything else. I responded by saying “Thank you, I am truly flattered…” because I was.

I looked at the link for the art festival particulars and, being completely unaware of how such things work, I went ahead and filled in the application. With only four days to prepare, I figured I would probably get a polite “thanks, but maybe next year” from the organizers. I used the home e-mail address rather than my work address, and alerted my husband to keep an eye peeled for any incoming mail, and to forward it immediately. I didn’t hear anything Wednesday, and thought “the least they could do is send a note saying ‘thanks for playing'”. Thursday morning, my husband texted me to tell me he had forwarded an e-mail received late Wednesday evening. Instead of the anticipated polite decline, the note informed me when and where to show up on Saturday! I told my friend on Thursday that I had been accepted and was planning to attend. She responded, “That’s great! When is it?” I kind of thought she already knew that…

I told her Saturday, and her response was “SATURDAY? ARE YOU KIDDING? HOW ARE YOU GOING TO DO THAT?” After that, she told me she wouldn’t be able to make it as there was a family wedding that weekend she needed to attend.

I am lucky to have a job that only requires me to work a half day on Friday, and a boss who is very understanding about non-work related activities. Thursday, I said, “Do I need to be here tomorrow? I have made quite a problem for myself that requires immediate concentrated effort on my part to resolve.” 

I spent Friday matting and framing. Estate sales come to the rescue!! I had almost enough frames with glass from the sales I had been to, and–one of my best purchases to date–a commercial mat cutter ($75 for a $1500 apparatus!). But I digress. The mat board was more expensive than I remembered–it’s been several years–but the nifty mat cutter allowed my to make the best use of the board I purchased. By 3pm Friday, I was ready to go.

As an aside, I had been looking into having some prints of my work made. This has become quite the thing at the art festivals I have been to recently, and I, myself, like to buy prints of work when I don’t want to make a big financial investment, but would like a sample to take home. Turns out, the printing process is not inexpensive. So, with a little research, I found out that the majority of “giclee” prints being produced are printed on a wide format ink jet printer–usually an Epson, of all things! Discussing this with my younger daughter who is currently enrolled in the BA program for Fine Art at KSU, I found out that she and her husband had just purchased a refurbished Epson for a bargain price. The stars were aligning, though I didn’t know it yet.  After having painted several successful pieces, I sent my daughter an e-mail with a proposition, “If I bring my own ink, can I use your digital camera and your printer to record and print some of my pieces?”  I could have bought cheaper ink if I had planned ahead, but I bought what I needed at Target for $50, and headed down the road to my daughter’s house. She has quite a nice Apple set up for her mostly computer generated art work. This was a good thing. As it turns out, she had to play with the settings on what looked like decent photographs in order to get the printing to come out right. I suppose this is no surprise to anyone who has tried to print the color as viewed on the screen and found out the printer has entirely different plans. All that aside, it occurred to both of us why getting your work printed commercially was so expensive. There has to be a set up fee, just like printing anything else. Once all the necessary adjustments and settings are recorded, the duplicate prints are cheaper because all the hard work is already done.

I had no idea what type of paper to print on. Most of my work is colored pencil, so I looked through the paper I had sitting around, and chose a pad of paper marketed for charcoal. A little tooth, but mostly smooth. The results were good, although the paper was thinner than I would have liked, and the paper revealed a very uniform grain that I did not like. But not bad for an initial batch. We went through all the ink I had brought (turns out, it was only the black that was low, but we didn’t learn that until later). I went home with ten prints of three different paintings, and then–the next week–learned about the festival.Image

As you can see, I was pretty well set up for the big day.  My husband was kind enough to stay with me during the sit-in as I was nervous, having no experience to draw from. no pun intended.

I did not sell anything that day, but I did learn a lot:

1. Business cards are important, and so is a website. If you don’t have a website, make sure you have an e-mail address–and list it on your business card. Websites are easily set up through Etsy.

2. Studio location. People wanted to know where I was from, and if they could come and see me. List a physical address on your business card, even if it’s not open to the public.

3. Have a sign to display with your name and a description of your work (ie: Leslie Amick, Original Art work, Colored Pencil and Watercolor). If you are using a table, make a sign that can be taped to the table.

4. Selling prints can be a money maker. Important point: Mat your prints–makes a world of difference.

5. Potential customers are mostly afraid to make contact with you. You’re intimidating, or they’re afraid you’ll try to sell them something.

6. Say hello with a smile in your voice while looking at the person.  This is hard for most creative types.

7. Have prices readily visible. (See number 5). Don’t apologize for your prices, but let the customer know up front what you have in mind.

8. Accept credit cards. There are a million ways to do this now. Most notably the “dongle” that attaches to your iPhone or iPad and the credit card company charges by transaction rather than a contracted rate saving you time and aggravation.

9. I was naïve about the festival process, and I was handled extremely well and gently by this particular event organizer.  My husband was so impressed, he was making plans to purchase a booth set-up, and start applying to other area events.

10. Most events in Atlanta have: an application fee–non-refundable; a selection process that requires photos including a photo of your booth demonstrating your set-up (to see if you are worthy of participating); extreme deadlines (summer and fall festivals can have February and April deadlines for submitting your application); and a booth rental space fee when you are accepted into the festival and actually plan to show up.  Part of the rental space fee may be refundable for a finite amount of time, but mostly, it isn’t.

I don’t know if or when I might try an art festival again. But I would recommend every artist attempt at least one. It is valuable to you and a good way to put your face and your name out there with minimal marketing–which is another sordid tale for another day…