Monday, March 31, 2008

Canvas Collage with Niche

I have to give credit 100% to Carine who teaches at Scrapbook Territory in Berkeley for this workshop i shared with my altered book round robin group on Sunday. I took her collage class last year and created a magnificent art piece that graces my living room wall.
When i showed it to my group - they all wanted to know how to do it. It was tricky turning a 6 hour workshop into a two hour class, well less than that if you factor in our altered book swap "show and tell".

I found the 1 1/2 inch gallery style canvases cheap on Dick Blik, if you order in bulk - it's the way to go. Or use your Michael's coupon or around here there is a place called Aaron Brothers that has a annual buy-one-get-one for a cent canvas sale.
The best part of this workshop was using Italian renaissance style images - from a very expensive art book bought oh man so cheap (like $3.79) from a clearance table at big box book store. At that price why make colour copies? Or scan the images? Just use the originals cut right out of the book!
The niche is made of foam core and covered with thin paper and inserted into the canvas. I won't reveal the secrets as to how - you can take Carine's class!
With a simple background of subtle scrapbook paper and a bold image, cropped to advantage, the effect is striking. Keep in mind none of us actually finished our collages or added any objets to our niche. In some of these pics the glue wasn't even dry!
It will be interesting to see how they end up. Do you like the simplicity as they are now? Or should they be "junked up" a bit more? I especially love how Shanna's has the blue sky from her image as the paper inside the niche. I used the same original vintage pen and ink letter i used in my first collage to tie the two together.

Cigar Box Assemblage

Cigar box assemblage workshop was one of the most wonderful classes i have ever hosted. I can't really say i "taught" the class - i just gave guidance and direction a big workspace and a great atmosphere and 4 1/2 hours to play. Oh yeah, and STUFF. Lots and lots of stuff. I suggested a parallel between playing with my copious craft supplies, to playing with your neighbour's Barbies when you were 7. Hers were always better. Or maybe not better but different. My next door neighbour Sharon Wilson never ONCE lost a Barbie shoe.

If you read my blog or have taken my classes you know i am big on "kits". A carefully selected assortment of background papers, focal point images, and embellishments, each packaged lovingly for the students. Not so for this class! "Kits? We don't need no stickin' kits..." I felt this class really needed more creative rummaging. Each student had to select the elements that spoke to them. Who was i to determine that? But since my moto is to supply EVERYTHING you need in class - i had to bring well, just about everything. My husband will tell you that it was quite the undertaking transporting my stuff to the nova studio for the class. He almost couldn't help me because we didn't both fit in the car!

But we did and he was there to carry in all the treasures and help set up the training room. Oh - but to have the space to teach classes at home so that my supplies don't need to be packed up and organized and transported to another town.... So perhaps you already have three totes of rusty metal things from places like Urban Ore, and a huge glass jar of porcelain doll parts from eBay, and rolls and rolls Cavallini papers, and boxes of estate sale ephemera - but I bet it was really cool that you got to dig into MINE for a day!

I started off by having the students select a box - small, med or large - really just varying depths. The deeper the box, the more stuff you can fit inside. Pretty much most of the students were returning altered book enthusiastes, so they welcomed the opportunity to take their collage to a 3-D level. Certainly that's why i wanted to try it.
The class followed the following structure: P-S-C-A (just try saying that outloud to yourself!)
P - Preparation
S - Selection
C - Composition
A - Assemblage
For Prep, we lightly sanded the boxes, applied a thin coat of gesso and then covered the boxes with old dictionary paper using matte gel medium.

Before the selection or "shopping" part of the class, i gave a brief demo on turning a copy of a cabinet card into a realistic looking reproduction. Then the students were let loose on the two tables holding supplies. Really would have been better to spread it all out, but the full class used up all the other tables in the studio.

I presented two potential themes - which interestingly ended up blended by the students. One was Cabinet of Natural Curiosities - or you know - the whole bird-nest-egg-butterfly organic thing so popular today. The other theme was Historical Journey, using vintage photographs, old letters, postcards and bits of old toys to tell a story about days gone by.
This was when the teaching more or less stopped and the glue expert took over. One of the complex parts of assemblage is knowing which adhesive to use for each element. Glue dots for small things, pop dots for creating space between papers, E6000 for heavy metal, and a hot glue gun came to rescue for really stubborn situations. The class spent about 2 hours on composition and assembly - most choosing to finish off their pieces at home. In the end we had a lovely opportunity for show and tell. Sorry i don't know which boxes belong to which students - but if you write to me in the comments section - i'd be proud to give you credit!

This is my box - i went with the vintage theme - choosing a cabinet card image of a young girl i decided to name Annabelle. I picked out the block with an A because i liked the colour - her name came later! Then imagine my surprise and delight when rummaging through an old bag of jewellry i found gold pin "A", which i added to the cover. Well that's your serendipity right there, b'y. One student found a Bakelite button she told me to put aside and sell on ebay. She was amazed that i told her to keep it. (god please don't let rare bakelite buttons be worth $10,000....)

Here are some of the students fine work:

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stitchery Altered Book Pages

Here are the pages i did in Dorothy's book, entitled, A Stitch in Time. She requested that our work be anything related to "stitchery". I have a stack of old Spanish ladies magazines from the 50's. I just knew i would find some inspiration in those. They are filled with recipes and illustrations of dress patterns, embroidered napkins, crocheted pot holders, and some great old advertising.
The first spread uses one of the ladies dress patterns - then i "cut out" the same dress in two other "fabrics" - striped scrapbook paper and a floral napkin. I knew i always wanted to try to use a zipper in an altered book. I folded the paper and glued the zipper underneath. The flap just folds back enough to see the pin up gal in her slip lamenting that, even with her talent as a dress maker, she has nothing to wear. The back ground is Aileen's Color Mists in pink and green. Check our her products at
The next spread was just for fun. I cut out a full page needlepoint/ cross stitch pattern of a house by a pond. It was the perfect backdrop for these ridiculous hard boiled egg cozy's that YES, you too can make out of felt, to dress up your morning breakfast tray. Is that supposed to be "the wife" all dressed up like a maid to serve the rooster eggs?
I have TONS of old lady sewing basket stuff i have collected over the years. So this book was a perfect chance to use some of it.
First i made the cover for the basket. I padded the page and covered it with fabric. Then used ruffled lace all around. Then covered the inside (next two pages in the book) with another fabric that is reminiscent of a basket weave pattern. I punched some holes in the cover and used vintage seam binding to create a bit of quilted effect. It actually kinda looks like the lid of a sewing basket! Can i just say that the Japanese Screw punch did a magnificent job punching holes through two layers of fabric, padding and several pages in the book.
Inside the basket are all of Nana's sewing paraphernalia. I actually cut a spool in half and wound it back up with thread, so it wouldn't be to thick inside the book.
Oh, what's that? An old girlie magazine clipping underneath the buttons and thread bobbins? Does granny have a secret she isn't telling us?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Easter!

We had the perfect Easter dinner with friends yesterday. It was such a lovely day, we had cocktails and appetizers on the deck in the late afternoon sunshine. The button flowers did in fact look great in the bouquet of daffodiles. I generally am not so much into yellow flowers - but the daffodiles directed the colour pallet for the whole meal. I used a linen curtain panel as a table cloth, some vintage woven placements in yellow, some two tone damask napkins, all picked up at an estate sale. It was the perfect base for gold chargers and my simple white gold trimmed wedding china. Some asian motif rice bowls were the perfect compliment. I remember (like 20 years ago) thinking i would use my good china every Sunday. But just like mom - they only come out of the cabinet 4 times a year.

Our Easter menu was printed on my Kelly Rae Roberts type collage. I didn't make everything! My sister once said i only cook if i have an audience. Which is true! I do like to go all out at parties. Otherwise i'd be happy with whatever my husband is making. The devilled eggs, sweet potato pancakes and the lemon tart were all made by my friend Debra - the last using home made lemon curd from her own lemon tree. Ah, the delights of living in California.
The lemon tart was the perfect ending to the lovely meal. And the daffodiles with the button flowers were a big hit too.
Check out how they looked when most of the blossoms had opened by this afternoon! (one day too late)Sorry - not sure how to flip this phot - guess I have to to it back in my files since Blogger doesn't seem to have that option.

Continuing my obsession with all things birds, I wired some wee ones onto some cherry blossom branches, a la the latest issue of Martha. Click on the photo to see them up close. You can see my collection of domes in this picture - haven't fully figured out what to put in them.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Asilomar Countdown...

Today marks the three week notice of my very first Art and Soul artist retreat. I will be spending 4 days at Asilomar a wonderfully rustic resort nestled between Monterey and Carmel on the Pacific coast. I will be taking three full day workshops with three talented artists: Ann Baldwin, Stephanie Lee and Traci Bautista.

With Traci i am taking a Fiber Fusion Art Journal workshop. We will be making a funky book with painted pages all sewn together with fabric adorned spine and all sorts of dangly additions. Traci is known for her colourful style and zany approach to art.

With Stephanie i am taking a workshop titled Art Excavation - Plaster Meets Wax. It will be an exploration of a poured plaster surface that we will carve and embed fragments into. We'll also layer on colour and imagery to create depth.

And finally the workshop with Ann - The Palimpsest - The Magic and Mystery of Text. Sounds cool doesn't it? I know from the history of altered books that a palimpsest is an ancient document that is scraped and the text rewritten. Often done to conform to the religious beleifs of the day. We'll be using the concepts of the written word and layering to create some art.

I found the images above on google. Asilomar looks like a windblown natural sort of place - not what some people(including me!) would consider a resort. I doubt pina coladas will be served by the pool or anything like that. But does it really matter? It is all about the art and the experience of spending 4 days with like minded crazy artsy-crafty indiviuals.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Creativity is looming...

After a few weeks of completely ignoring my creative urges - here it is Easter weekend and the project ideas are literally oozing out of me. I just got an email from Amazon who has arguably the best marketing program going. You know how they "suggest" books you might like? Well normally this one wouldn't really interest me - but since it is Easter and cute-ness reigns supreme I just had to try making these button flowers.

I grabbed some of the scrapbook paper i had left over from my Kelly Rae Roberts workshop and started cutting out leaf shapes. I then folded each one in half lengthwise to create the effect in the picture. They seemed to use layered paper - but mine are already so colourful i don't think they need it. What's great is they are printed on both sides.
Here is the second Kelly Rae collage i did at my workshop. These are fun an can be addictive. See post below to learn how to make your own. Remember how i was worried about "copying" her?
Well the latest Cloth Paper Scissors has another article all about how to create Kelly's art and includes several images sent in my readers. One person even taught her class how to make them!

Now to figure out how to assemble these button flowers....without out actually HAVING the book (it comes out April 1st) i have to deduce that you should pass the wire through the paper leaves and through the holes in the stacked buttons. So off to find my button collection...

My collection is neatly sorted by colour in little screw top jars from the container store. They stack neatly. Sadly they don't seem to carry them anymore and i could really use a few more. I can never turn down a bag of old buttons at an estate sale that some lady saved for years! Oh, and don't let this fool you. Very few of my things are thusly "neatly organized!"

I selected a range of buttons in aqua,green, orange and yellow and stacked them by size. I used a fine guage wire - but thicker would probably be better. But it was the first wire i came across . I cut about 20" lengths. Passed it through the holes starting with the smallest button. Then poked two holes in the paper leaves, and gave it a few good twists. A dab of glue or maybe a sticky dot would probably make them a bit less wobbly.
Now like any self respecting crafter i have green florist tape. I just don't remember where. But when I find it i'll wrap the stems. Won't these look cute on my Easter table, i know - mixed in with a bouquet of daffodiles!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cigar Box Assemblage

I was waiting to write about my next class: Cigar Box Assemblage - wanting to get the timing just right to create some "buzz". Well now it is too late, because i just heard the class is FULL!
The class is Sunday, March 30th at the nova studio in Point Richmond. Please contact the nova studio (link on the left) if you are still interested because there could always be cancellations. And Lori will take names for the next time the class rolls around the schedule.
I had the good fortune recently to get an email from the owner of a cigar bar asking me if i wanted any cigar boxes. Oh yeah! When can i come and pick them up? Imagine my delight at getting 8 garbage bags FULL of cigar boxes to take home. But horror of horrors! Imagine my disappointment when i got home and looked in the bags - over half the boxes had the lids literally ripped off! Yes - the hinges - some of them really intricate, just bent out of shape and the lids discarded. I get that they need to feature the cigars in the display case, but i nearly wept when i saw them.

After recycling many many ruined boxes i was left with about 30 with lids intact. I pulled this pic from the internet (i figure i am not committing any serious copywrite laws) but this is exactly what my stack of cigar boxes looks like. I think my husband will be delighted when they are given to my students and he can have some space back in the garage.
They range from your basic balsa wood paper covered thin boxes to some ornate and deeply stained boxes it would be a shame to alter! Some flat, some square, even a cool red one.
Our class will focus on the plainer, nothing special boxes - since they will be covered up with vintage papers, photographs and found objects.
Here are some pics of boxes i did with a beach theme and a madame butterfly theme. Did ya know you can click on the images to see them full size to get all the details!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

Well, after several weeks of complete creative paralysis, i found something tonight worth posting on my blog. This magnificent sunset, over Big Rock Ridge in Novato, Ca. It is the view off our lower deck. The funny thing was my husband and I were burrowed in the office (faces east) checking out hotels on-line for a possible dream vacation in Greece. We were trying to decide how much to spend to get the ultimate luxury of staying in Santorini on the edge of the Caldera in a hotel with an infinity pool sipping wine and watching the sunset.
My husband got up to get something in another room and said, "I think you should see this!"
Well, we don't often have such killer sunsets here - maybe the mountains block the real dramatic drops into the Pacific, or maybe the skies are so blue and cloudless that there is nothing for the watercolours to stick to. But this one was magnificent. I even went up to the deck off our bedroom to get another view.

Since i had the camera in my hand i thought i would snap a few shots of the sad state of affairs in my craft room. On the weekend i decided i wanted more space and dammit, that guest room bed stuck in closet had got to go.
I was inspired by Pam Garrison's closet. Check it out here:
Pam is a multi talented artist and is inspiringly creative. Ever since i discovered her on That's Clever a few years ago - i have been hooked on her style. I too was filmed for That's CLever - but more on that another time.
So my closet qualifies as a "before" picture, we'll have to wait and see what the "after" turns out to be. As much as I adore Pam's collage of vintage wallpapers, my goal is really just storage and getting the sea of crap, i mean, precious treasures off the floor. (you should see how mad i get when my husband calls my stuff crap) So will my beast of a craft room turn into an object of appreciation and desire? Will it be a beautiful as the sunset this evening? We shall see.....

Sunday, March 2, 2008


Chris and Aileen both sent in comments about the pages in my latest altered book, "Things I Suck At". I will happily send you both a goody bag of paper treats - please send me your addresses. Since I am not sure of the blogging contest protocals, can i ask you to go to my website - (link on the left) and click on "contact me" to get my email address. Use that to send me your address. I promise never to share that information, so on and so on.
So this spread was illustrating how I suck at driving backwards. The red cellophane on the left is depicting the fire-y crash that MIGHT have happened the time i backed into the attendant booth at a self serve gas station. There are flame coloured feathers sandwiched between the red papers and then ruffled up and attached to the page with tape. Luckily there were no injuries and i did not cause a fire but i did damage the booth pretty badly. Remember folks - as explained in an earlier post - this book is about the things i do badly. I do a great many things really well!! Driving backwards just isn't one of them!!
This spread is illustrating how i suck at tearing the paper off straws. I mean - i am not an idiot - i can tear the paper off a straw. What i cannot do is that simple one-step twist-and-it-is-done that servers in restaurants can do so well. I removed quite a few pages to create a gap in the book for the thickness of the straws. The tape in the background is meant to convey confusion and chaos. Like what you see at the movie theatre when we are rushing to get our snacks and i make a big mess at the drinks dispenser. Whatever happened to those gizmos that rolled out one hygienic straw at the push of a button? Wouldn't they be more environmentally correct than paper covered straws? Then people like me could live without the public embarrassment....!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Is Spring here yet?

Probably not - but it sure feels like it! The rains seem to be gone and we have had beautiful sunny days all week. For the first time in a long time i have no pressing due dates, no classes to prepare for until the end of the month, nothing to swap for several weeks. So i am doing some much needed tidying up around the studio.
I suffer from a very common problem with collage artists. And that is the aversion to putting anything "away". I think since i was a child and i did not understand why i could not leave all my Barbie's spread out on the living room floor,now as an adult i get to leave everything spread out all over the floor if i want. Well unless i want to stay happily married, then i try to restrict my mess to my studio, the office, the landing at the top of the stairs and my bathroom.
My husband tries to tell me that even fisherman have to mend their nets, so too should i take a weekend and organize myself again. it is true that walking into a clean organized studio does make it easier to work. Yet when i am in the midst of a project i get lazy and just leave everything scattered around the floor.
Once my husband announced prodly that he had vacuumed my craft room. "Oh,no" i cried, "what about all the potential treasures on the floor he might not recognize?" The lost buttons, brads, postage stamps and photo corners that always end up falling, with no time to bother and pick them up, are now gone to the great trash bin in the sky. Or the dump down the highway, whatever.
To celebrate this beautiful sunny day i am sharing some pictures in did a few years ago in a "true colors" themed round robin. Her colors were pink and orange and I did a specatular spread of 4 faces surrounded by bountiful flowers. The faces are all split in three and can fold back and forth to create many new faces. It was quite a challenge to get the noses and mouths to all line up.