A Promise to Me

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On a warm day last spring, as we sat sipping coffee under an umbrella at our local Starbucks, my daughter shared the news that her partner had decided to accept a spot in a PhD program in Vermont – some 25ish hours NE of home and an unfathomable distance from ME. I’ve spent the time between then and now diligently trying not to think of her leaving and I got pretty good at it – trying new things, entertaining family, making myself busy. But today I can hide no longer, they’ve driven away waving and promising to Skype and text and write and visit.

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How does a mom say “so long” to a piece of her heart?  I’m not entirely sure yet, but here are a few things I’m promising myself as a way to maybe ease the ache…

  • find something to be grateful for every day
  • look for the magic in my everyday life
  • look for the poetry around me and capture it with my camera or my art or my writing
  • seek out adventures and experience them joyfully
  • write long, rambling letters and mail them to her in messy, painty envelopes
  • take long, thoughtful walks
  • listen to good audio books
  • cook good food
  • proliferate kind art in my community
  • listen to my heart and let it guide my life and my art
  • make things just for me – messy things, ugly things, beautiful things – appreciate whatever comes out
  • establish a morning ritual – a way to ease into my art/making process and make it a spiritual practice
  • find my way back to yoga
  • indulge in daytime bubble baths, no-reason massages, deluxe pedicures

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A few years ago (hmmm, maybe more than a few), when my daughter graduated from high school, I made her a card that featured the quote below…

 “I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”
~Mary Oliver

She now has a piece of this quote tattooed on her arm… just as it has been tattooed on my heart, because I know that the best way I can be in the world is to be someone who is “improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing” – not even of giving my daughter wings.

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Gelli Bound – Long Stitch Style

What do you get when you combine eight creative souls with some gorgeous Dina Wakely acrylic paints, a variety of fabulous stencils and a handful of Gelli Arts Gelli Plates?  Bliss, that’s what!!  That is definitely what we found last Saturday when I taught “Gelli Bound – Long Stitch Style” at My Heart’s Fancy in Oklahoma City.

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I have to tell you, Dina’s new line of paint with Ranger is just to die for – just look at the brilliant color on Marie’s plate below! And it’s like rolling cream onto your plate. Just yummy!  These girls were definitely NOT afraid to try new combinations and the results were simply wonderful!

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This was a full day workshop, with Gelli printing in the morning and book binding in the afternoon.

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One of the big things we worked on was “bleed prints,” where the paint goes all the way to the edges of the paper vs. a more traditional print with a white border all the way around.  These worked nicely as pages in our finished books and we had a lot of fun playing with ways to create 8.5 x 11 bleed prints on 8×10 or 8″ round plates!

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Loved the bleed prints Lisa used for her cover, created using the 8″ round plate and a few fun Balzer Bits!

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The book form for this class featured a Long Stitch style binding and the girls all jumped in like they were born to it.

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Here are the finished books, in no particular order…

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Jennifer’s book

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Lisa’s book

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Fran’s book

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Chris’s book

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Marie’s book (in progress)

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Sharyn’s book

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Bivian’s book

Debra's book (in progress)

Debra’s book (in progress)

One of my favorite things about a class like this is seeing the sparkle in my students’ eyes when they tie that last knot and realize they have just created a book from start to finish!  There is really just no feeling like printing your own papers, covering your own book boards, stitching in your very own signatures and knowing there is not and never will be another book just like yours!!

Thanks girls for another fantastic teaching experience!  Your work was just beautiful and it was a joy to have each of you in class!!

Tiny Tinny Flowers

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About a year ago, my daughter and I had the great good fortune to visit DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun in Tuscon, AZ.  This 10-acre oasis in the desert was designed and built by acclaimed Arizona artist Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia.

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Filled with nooks and crannies – you could spend days discovering all the wonders of this place!  The buildings are winding and organic and filled to the brim with DeGrazia’s beautiful, ethereal and playful paintings.  But I have to say I was most enchanted by the colorful metal flowers that dot the property – adorning buildings, doorways and arches and all made from recycled cans.

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Recently, I’ve been playing with the idea of desert terrarium gardens and landed on the idea of mimicking DeGrazia’s tin flowers as a decorative feature for my tiny gardens.  The cuties at the top of this post and those featured below were crafted by my daughter and I; they measure less than an inch across and stand about 1.5-2″ tall.

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Each tiny flower started with a piece of medium gauge wire, we made a tight little curl at the flower-end to hold everything in place, then layered on beads and prepared aluminum pieces.  We found that my regular craft scissors and craft punches cut the aluminum beautifully (and, so far, everything still seems to be working fine with paper, though can’t say for sure how that will be over the long term).  In the example above, I used an Adirondak acrylic paint dabber (in Juniper) to color the back of my tin piece and made the back my feature – I also added a couple of the Tim Holtz Foliage pieces – painted with Red Pepper and Aqua paint dabbers.

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To hold everything in place, we used metal eyelets that we just crimped with pliers (crimp beads would likely work better – just didn’t have any on hand).

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Once we had everything together, we used the end of a paintbrush to curl and shape the flower petals.  In this example, you can see that the printed side of the aluminum can is featured – I’m on the hunt now for colorful cans!!

I’ll keep you posted as this project progresses – I’m thinking little houses, twig chairs, acorn cap birds nests, tiny bottled collections, and more.  Stay tuned!

Merry Time of Light

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Oh, Christmas, you sorta slay me. On the one hand, I adore you – snow (real or otherwise), lights, pretty paper, surprises for those I love! On the other hand, you wear me completely to a frazzle – crowds, traffic, the pressure to find just the right surprise for every name on my list, and the nagging feeling that I can never do/be enough. That last little bit nags me other times of the year, of course, but it seems especially strong this time of year.

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Then there’s the whole debate over the meaning of the holidays – merchandising efforts go into overdrive, which tends to make everybody think it’s ALL about buying/getting and/or topping last year’s buying/getting. The enormous tree in Rockefeller Center can no longer be called a “Christmas Tree” and now it seems even “Happy Holidays” is uncool because “Holiday” equals “Holy Day” which apparently goes full circle back to Christianity!

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I’m going to be honest and say I am not a Christian. I do, however, have faith in a higher power – something that guides our lives toward the light… when we let it. I don’t think all this arguing over what to call the season or marketing of the latest doo-dad has much to do with living in the light and the truth is that all of the holy traditions – Judaism, Kwanza, Christianity, Paganism, maybe more I’m not even aware of – seem to be celebrating the same thing. That is, the miracle of light – being kind, living with honor, taking care of those we love and trusting in the possibility of miracles.

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I sort of long for a time of year that I can truly call holy; a time when everyone is given a space of breathing room – to heal, to celebrate, to rest, to renew and plan for the future. A time when we just slow down a little, be a little kinder, send some love out – in thought and deed vs. retail acrobatics. Doesn’t matter your religion – it doesn’t get much holier than that!

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With all that said, I do really love this time of year.  I love being outside in the crisp, burning-wood-scented air, making and giving celebratory cards, baking yummy treats that I stubbornly refuse to make any other time of year (they wouldn’t be special if I made them all the time). I even love giving gifts – though, I’m never more grateful for the DVR and fast-forward button than I am at Christmas-time!

Stillwater Gelli Wells Run Deep

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One of the biggest things I’ve learned about teaching is that it is usually as much of a learning experience for ME as it is for my students.  I suppose that’s not a new idea – but it’s something I never really thought about until I started to teach.  As a student, I always assume the teacher knows everything about the subject they’re teaching.  The truth I’m discovering is that the best teachers are those who are open to new ideas, those who are forever students.

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This class was no exception – I learned proper names for some of the techniques I was teaching (like “butt joints” and “smushing glue” :D), I learned (once again) that there are as many ways to a beautiful mono-print as there are amazing students in the world, I learned to leap a little higher and wider and trust that there will be a place and wonderful people to catch me, and I learned that there are never enough thank yous (thanks one more time, Stillwater peeps!).

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This class was made up of artists and teachers and book binders and more – all ages, all walks of life, some strangers, some friends or family – and I’m continually amazed by the way the printing process brings people together.  Every time I teach it, I see people sharing supplies without the slightest hesitation, helping each other with tricky techniques, offering encouragement, praising each other’s work.  It’s like a community forms right before my eyes.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Maybe Gelli Arts should consider changing the subtitle on their packaging to “Gel Printing Plate and Community Builder.”

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The most beautiful thing I see when I teach is that one someone who discovers passion for the creative process.  Most who come to my classes already have it, but occasionally there’s someone who is there accidentally, who doesn’t feel they “deserve” the time it takes to be creative on a regular basis.  I adore when the light bulb comes on for those folks, when they realize they DO deserve it and that they are better for giving themselves the gift of creative time.

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The Stillwater Multi Arts Center blew my mind!  It is just a fantastic facility – concrete floors with great splotches of paint everywhere…

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big beautiful windows spilling over with gorgeous fall light…

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lots of space for us to spread our lovely prints, a utility sink right in the room with us!! I think I need to explore a little and see if there is such a place in Oklahoma City!

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Above is a little mosaic each student’s finished project – we printed, we constructed boxes, we bound little journals and I’m pretty sure we had a fantastic time!  MUCH beautiful work to admire here and will you just look at those happy smiles!!!

Oh and one other lesson I learned… bring more ORANGE when I teach in Stillwater!  Congrats to OSU on it’s victory over Kansas!! 🙂

Lucky Me and Lucky Star

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“I’m thinking that all it takes to make fantasy become a reality are two words: yes, please.”
~Maya Stein

I think the words “yes, please” sort of sum up the whole experience of Lucky Star for me.  It all started with a little email from my sweet squammie friend, Mary.  “Wanna go to this art camp in Texas with me?” and I said “yes, please.”

My very favorite kind of adventures involve road trips of the long, winding, farm-to-market backroad sort, so I drove to Dallas to pick up Mary and we traveled the rest of the way together.  I joked that I’d brought my easy-button along and it seemed to have sent a message to the universe because we felt like we could do no wrong!

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There was the red carpet service we received at Baron’s Creekside – a mixup with Expedia that resulted in the owner providing an escort and easy upgrade to a more comfy room!

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There was the journey to Enchanted Rock, which took us instead to Luckenbach, Texas, where we found live music and kittens chasing chickens and a brand spanking new bride who wasn’t even the tiniest bit concerned about getting chicken poop on her dress!

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There was the sweet success of finding Waldemar, checking in and making our way over to the amazing art-collaborative-class-discussion-creative-extravaganza that neither Mary nor I remember enrolling in, but both adored!  What better jump start to a perfect week than making something beautiful with fellow creatives?!

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Then, oh my heavens, the classes!!!  Juliette Crane and Corrine Gilman and Vivienne McMasters – I felt like I hit the lottery!!  Talented, generous and oh so very supportive.  I was so excited to learn Juliette’s way of building eyes and Corrine’s no-mistakes approach to art journaling.  I’d taken an online class with Vivienne once awhile ago, but Vivienne in person is the real thing and THEN SOME – her message of making yourself part of your story is one I intend to practice daily!

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There were so many amazing messages – teachers who opened their toolkits and souls, speakers who shared their passions and ignited us to go after our own, deep discussions with people who saw right into my heart!  And every night, there was the lovely Mandy Rowden strumming her guitar by the fireside and teasing us all to share our voices with the night sky.  Somehow it all combined to create an incredible sense of community that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before – at least not to such a huge degree.  There was nobody better than anybody else, no exclusion, no shame – the only tears that welled for me the entire time were tears of gratitude and connection with something divine (the best kind of tears).

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That easy button worked overtime this trip, let me tell you!  But, I discovered a secret – one that will give YOU an easy button too.  Next time something tickles your fancy and you think how much you’d love it, but that little voice inside says you couldn’t possibly – defy it!  Next time you are tempted to step outside your comfort zone and fears try to hold you back – push past them!  Next time you get a chance to walk around inside a loving group of like-minded women – dance!!  Dare to say “yes, please” – then jump right into the middle of the magic!

Prayer Flags – Part 4 (A Gypsy Gelli Flag Tutorial)

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Here we are at the last installment of my prayer flag series!

  1. In Part 1, I shared some of the history and lore behind the flags.  As I’ve made my nontraditional, gypsy flags, I’ve loved giving a nod to the Tibetan traditions; be it through color, meaning, or placement.  I plan to hang mine diagonally, between trees and shrubbery in my backyard.
  2. In Part 2, I showed you some examples of both traditional prayer flags and homemade gypsy prayer flags.  The rebellious, anything-goes nature of the gypsy flags really speaks to my artist’s heart!
  3. For Part 3, I was so happy to feature my friend Kate and her prayer flag story. I talked a LOT in today’s video about imperfection and I think Kate’s photos of the faded flags really brings that point home – time is going to make them even more beautiful than you could imagine!  So, let go and just have fun with them!!

And, today, I’m wrapping the whole thing up with a tutorial for how I made the water flag in my gypsy prayer flag set.  Without further ado, here is the video (see supplies list at the bottom of this post).

I hope this series has inspired you to create your own set of gypsy prayer flags.  If you do, I would love to see photos – just come back and comment with a link and I will happily come visit!

Thank you most kindly for tuning in and I leave you with this blessing – it’s the one I used for the flag I gave to Kate and I think it nicely represents the prayer flag ideal…

“May the sun bring you new energy by day,
May the moon softly restore you by night,
May the rain wash away your worries,
May the breeze blow new strength into your being,
May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.”

Supply List:

  • Gelli Arts Gel Printing Plate
  • paint – I used Liquitex Basics acrylics in yellow, white and various blues
  • soft rubber brayer
  • plastic palette knife
  • 7″ x 9″ piece of heavy white fabric (I used white denim)
  • 3.5″ x 7″ piece of fabric for casing (burlap, cotton print, cotton ticking, whatever strikes your fancy)
  • several sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ or 9″ x 12″ paper (card stock, drawing paper, even plain old computer paper will work for this – just use what you have on hand)
  • stencil film (I like the Wax-O Stencil paper)
  • scissors
  • sewing machine and thread (I just used an off-white thread)
  • circle punch for your sunshine pattern (I used the Marvy 2″ circle)
  • scraps of brightly colored fabrics (check your area for a quilting shop; they typically sell fat quarters, which is a great way to collect lots of different colors!)
  • scraps of lace, ribbon, ric-rac trims

Note:  I’m not affiliated with any of the companies or products I’ve linked above.  I’m just sharing the first link I found for the different products I particularly like to use.