Thursday, January 31, 2008

Christmas is finally over

Well yes - we finally took down the christmas tree. It was so darn nice - i couldn't bring myself to undecorate it. You see, i had a new theme this year, and frankly it wasn't remotely "christmas-y" anyway - so it was nice to keep up through the rainy and dark January period.
In keeping with my desire to re-do the living room in my new favorite colour, that robin's egg blue with a touch of aqua - i bought all new ornaments. Beautiful glass balls from Restoration Hardware, sparkly garland, glass picture frames which i used for vintage angel christmas card images, and birds. All the birds i could get my hands on for cheap. Feather birds, beaded birds, glass birds, velvet birds. Oh, and nests of course. Birds and Blue - that was my new theme. Next year hopefully our living room will be painted my new favorite colour and the tree will look even better!
So far Jim is refusing to paint - not because he doesn't think it would look great, but because he cannot bear the upheaval. And yeah - it will be a big undertaking. Not the painting as much as moving the furniture: a vintage upright piano, a large buffet, china cabinet, queen size sofa bed (you know how heavy those are) plus other miscellaneous pieces in our large LR-DR room. And i figure while we are painting, and have moved all the furniture, we ought to put in hardwood floors. Then it would be fabulous!
As you can see i have already begun the transformation, even without the perfect pale blue walls. Look at my lovely cushions, picked up at Marshalls whenever i saw ones i liked. The old paint colour - a vibrant ochre, was very popular with whoever saw it - but after 7 1/2 years i just need something new and fresh.
Oh - and i am buying new dishes too - guess what colour they are.....?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Altered Books Baby

This is what this blog is supposed to be all about, and I haven't even talked about it! I teach altered books in the San Francisco Bay area. Been doing it for about 5 years now. I got my start when a friend rented a studio to teach soap and candle making classes. She wanted to "fill in" some of the schedule with other classes. I had recently taken a card making class and was intrigued with paper arts - so i offered my services to teach card making. Soon after another friend gave me the book Ephemera, by Beth Cote. It really opened my eyes to the world of vintage paper and what to do with it - namely altered books. Before i knew it i was creating an altered books workshop and joining the big yahoo group and kicking off my first online round robin. Oh, and i didn't start small. I created the ABC round robin with 26 women in 5 teams altering vintage dictionaries. I hosted the trials and tribulations of these artsy women for about a year, through two rounds of creating collage based on a word in each letter of the alphabet.
The stories i could tell! (And maybe someday i will - i joked that it would make a great novel. For the longest time i saved all the emails. But i think they all went POOF when we brought the PC in for servicing and they neglected to back up my outlook files.)
Anyway, what struck me most was the instant commaradery between complete strangers. How people would give their art so freely asking only for art in return. Group prayer. Yeah. The post office loses a book and beleive me the ladies start prayin'. (It turned up!) I have participated in many on-line swaps and meet monthly with a group to swap in person - which is ideal if you can arrange it. Not only do you get the safety factor by eliminating the post office, you also get to TALK about your art. And ask questions. And touch and feel each other's work. These are two examples of work i "gave away"! The fish pop up above is just silly, but the giving part was that it is an ORIGINAL (not a copy) that was cut from an expensive book, the Cabinet of Natural Curiosities. Oh Carol, you were worth it!
The hula girls just shows how much time can be spent on something for someone i have never met, and maybe never will, just because i thought it would be fun for her to discover what was hidden on each of those tags!!
And now (shameless self promotion) if you want to learn more about altered books, i just happen to be teaching a beginner's workshop in picturesque Point Richmond, California at the NEW studio of my soap making friend, Lori Nova. Please join me Sunday, February 17th at 10 o'clock for 4 1/2 hours of book altering madness. And come back again a week later for AB advanced techniques. Read all about it and sign yourself up at Or click the link on the left. You too can experience the joy of ripping pages out of perfectly good vintage books. Release your inner artist. See you there!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Collage Card

I made this card for Paul and Dorothy - friends of ours who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a lovely party at the Marine Memorial Club in San Francisco Saturday night. The image came with the "save the date" email - so it wasn't the best quality pixel wise, but it still turned out lovely, if i say so myself! I trimmed the photo and chose the size for the card. Actually the size was determined by a nice large vellum envelope i had, which was perfect for a standard 81/2" by 11" piece of card stock folded in half. I used dictionary paper for the background - using the word "romance" as the highlight. A strip of sheet music, some gold script and some printed pale aqua mulberry paper frame the cute couple. I outlined them with a light brown photo tinting pen for a subtle shadow. I added a gold rub-on swirl and a gold filligree sticker to balance off the organza ribbon. Then the final touch was their initials using faux typewriter keys. One day i will have enough ACTUAL vintage typewriter keys to feel good about using them. I mean seriously, you spell a word like beauty and you have used up all your vowels! Luckily the local antique store has me on file and rings me up when they get one in stock. Jim has figured out the trick to snap the keys off cleanly with pliers.
I finished off the card with a pale blue-green vellum overlay (not shown). I slipped it under the ribbon and carefully cut out little holes for the 3-D letters to poke through. The effect was all dreamy and ethereal inside the vellum envelope.
I am sure like most of you - i use "other people's relatives" all the time in our altered art. It was nice for a change to use REAL people! The best part of giving this card to Paul and Dorothy, was hearing even two days later how much they loved it, and hearing them brag about it to others! Thanks for having Jim and I share your special celebration.

Friday, January 25, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night....

Here in northern California the weather is absolutly glorious about 9 months of the year. For about three months you can mostly count on sunny but cool days. Then there are the days (sometimes weeks) when it just doesn't stop raining. Like this week. It has been a grey miserable week and here it is Friday night and the rain is coming down in buckets.
As a former Montrealer, it feels kinds wimpy to complain about "rain". But rain here isn't like back east. I don't know, maybe it is the lack of proper insulation or something - but the rain is LOWDER and more INVASIVE, like the windows are going to pop off and your home will be flooded.
On this rainy night I want nothing more than to crawl into bed and watch old movies, preferably something by Merchant-Ivory with lavish sets and costumes. I should be working on a card for Paul & Dorothy's 50th wedding anniversary. We will be attending a special celebration for them tomorrow night in the city. As in San Francisco. I have a copy of their wedding photo - looks like something straight out the JFK movie with Kevin Costner, or Apollo 13. That very straight laced, skinny tie and buzz cut hair sort of look. I want to use it to make a nice collage card, suitable for framing. But the rain is dampening my creative spirit - so I think I'll wait until the morning light. I hear a good book and a cozy blanket calling my name.....

Thursday, January 24, 2008

ATC Class a Success

A small but enthusiastic group came together at the Nova Studio in Point Richmond CA. We started by creating an accordion fold booklet to take home our artist trading cards. Using a 9" x 12" sheet of watercolour paper, we marked of the fold lines, then applied different matte and metallic glazes with a special artist tool. Not found too many art stores - you really need to search for it. Baby Wipes! Yes - they make the best glaze applicator! You can pounce or swirl and build up colour as you go.

Next we stamped random designs - i used a swirl and a heart. Next we attached eyelets and some waxed linen thread to close it up.

We used the 1-2-3 method to create the ATC's. I won't reveal the secret - so maybe i'll get some new students next time the class is offered! The great thing about my classes is I supply EVERYTHING. No supply list for the students whatsoever. It was something i decided early on in my paper arts journey. I like to provide everything (not that you aren't welcome to bring your own stuff) so that the students can focus on composition and design without having to worry about the elements used. It seems to work out well, and the students love opening up their little kits and discovering the ephemera and embellishments included within. All it needs is a bit of scissors and glue and their creative eye to bring it all together.

I am Blessed....

 have such wonderful friends in the altered book world who come together monthly to share our stories about what inspired our pages and to play at new techniques. Last Sunday I gave everyone a piece of canvas paper, a classical monument scan, some corrugated paper, some textured paper and some paint. And see what they created in about 45 minutes!
The results were amazing. We all agreed that altered books are wonderful but it would be nice to create some mixed media artwork to put on the wall. Thanks Carol, Gina, Shanna, Dorothy and Shelley! It is so much fun for me to come up with our workshops. You never know what it will be next!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pop Art!

I just love creating a new altered book to swap with artsy friends. I love the process of choosing a theme, the perfect book, and creating the intro and a few pages and especially the cover. But I think getting my book back home is the best part of all. Then it is tumbling full of creative pages designed by swap partners.
My local altered book group meets monthly at the nova studio in Point Richmond, CA. The group has evolved over the years and currently consists of 6 dynamic women who welcome the opportunity to be creative. I created this book, titled Pop Art, as a departure from my typical sepia toned-vintage-victorian collage. It is full of bright colours and clean lines. The inspiration was a package of sponge letter stamps my friend Mary gave me last year for my birthday. They literally POP off the bull's eye cover. I selected a slim art book to alter, so that after 4 other people worked in it - it would be nearly done.
These warhol marilyns are paper bobble heads, where the mole on her face provides a pivot point for a shaped brad. Vintage barbie doll bodies and funky cowboy boots complete the look .

Yesterday I got Pop Art back. It has some incredibly creative spreads all inspired by the pop art of the 60's. I was showing the book to my husband Jim, who just didn't get it. (even though I have been doing this for about 5 years!)

"This is MY book. I worked in Shelley's book." I suppose I picked a bad time to show him, considering he was hepped up on double dose of playoff football.

"Guys would never do this", he said. "We'd be sitting around drinking beer trying to remember whose book was whose until some guy says "let's go shoot some gophers." I thought that was hysterical.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Latest Altered Art
I decided to try my hand at a mixed media art piece, based on the work of Marcelle Fortier. I saw her work in a magazine. She uses classical architecture, combined with textured paper and script to breate bold pieces. I have been wanting to combine acrylic painting with collage and paper - so this was my first attempt.

I used canvas paper as the backing (didn't want to waste a canvas in case it didn't turn out!). The Greek Temple was taken from a postcard of a church in Paris, L'Eglise de la Madeleine. I scanned it and printed it on matte photo paper and glued it to the paper with a glue stick.

I tore up a piece or corrugated cardboard to get the rippled paper. I then added heavily textured hand made paper, some sheet music and copies of script writing. I added gobs of bright acrylic paint to fill in around the paper. I just kept layering and intensifying the colours until i thought it looked "done". I'm not sure it is - but anyway here's what it looks like. I will be teaching this techniques to my altered book swap group Sunday afternoon. I'll take a pic of their art to share!


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

January Happenings

Join me Sunday at the Nova Studio in Point Richmond California for a Artist Trading Cards workshop. We'll create ATC's using a fun and easy method along with a clever accordion fold booklet to take them home in.

Welcome to Altered Book Studio Blog!

Welcome to my new blog. I hope to provide interesting creative ideas to encourage you to expand your artistic pursuits.