Monday, December 31, 2012

Tote Addiction

I swear I am not a tote bag addict.  I am not one of those people who gets giddy with excitement when she receives a free tote bag with purchase.  But I truly love the tote bag my sister made me for Christmas.

My sister has become a tote bag making addict.  She can't seem to stop.  She has made countless tote bags for friends and relatives.  She says that it takes her about 11 hours to make each bag, sewn from a piece of canvas on which she paints layer after layer.  And the fabrics that she uses for the liners are fabulous!

Those of us whom she loves benefit from her addiction.  Here are the tote bags that she made for my daughter and my BFF.

Thanks, sister, for my wonderful Christmas present.  And let me know if I need to stage a tote bag intervention.

- christina

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

An art teacher at one of my elementary schools asked her students why art was important. . .


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thanksgiving Fun

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was lucky enough to go to Florida to visit my BFF.  The weather was beautiful and she lives on a lovely lake.  It was such a nice break from the cold, winter winds of the midwest.

My BFF and I enjoy many of the same arts and crafts so we tend to work each other up into a frenzy of creativity.  This visit was probably the worst - or best - ever.  We completed 2 really exciting projects, as well as eating, drinking, and shopping.

The first project was from a blog post by Alisa Burke.  We made marbleized paper using leftover spray paint. We sprayed the paint into a bucket of water and laid watercolor paper on top of it.  The paint stuck to the paper and created a marbleized effect. I love the way these turned out.  As you can see we had lots of spray paint colors to choose from.

The next project was by Paul Bozzo.  We made tiles using joint compound, stamps and objects, and 3 layers of paint.  All the directions can be found on YouTube by searching BozzoArt but also check out  Paul's blog here.
Stamps pressed into joint
compound spread on a MDF tile.

The final product after 3 layers of paint
(yellow, red, then phthalo green)
Each of the 3 colors is added individually and then wiped off.  The bottom tiles in the photo are my daughter's, the middle ones were made by my BFF, and the top ones are mine.  Interestingly, we each ended up with a different prominent color.  The tiles are more impressive in real life than in the photograph.  I definitely want to do this project again but first I have to gather a collection of objects to stamp with.  My BFF had everything from plastic easter eggs to computer parts.  She is so clever!

I hope you had a fun and creative Thanksgiving as well.  Now it's time to start creating Christmas gifts. :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Questionable Act

I know people who know people who do things that might, under certain circumstances, be considered illegal.  I am talking about, of course, yarn bombing.

Yarn bombing inSweden

Yarn bombing usually takes the form of wrapping all sorts of public property in yarn:  trees, statues, buses.  It is done in the dead of night to protect the perpetrators.  I know people who recently yarn bombed the center of my little village.  They are the subversive group known as Knitters for Peace.  They struck last month and left a trail of 80 knitted pumpkins in their wake.

It would have been funny if they had done this at 8:30 at night instead of midnight (because everyone wanted to be in bed by 10).  It would have been funny if one of the participants had brought along her husband, kids, and dog in order to not draw attention to herself.  And it would have been really funny if one of the members, dressed entirely in camouflage for the purpose of stealth, had ended up standing on a brightly lit street corner, arms akimbo, waiting for his wife to finish a conversation with some friends whom she ran into unexpectedly.

I'm not saying I was there.  I'm not saying I witnessed these events.  But I would love to be a subversive Knitter someday.  First step - I have to learn to knit.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Class

I had 3 students in my Inspiration class.  First we spent some time talking about where we, as artists, find inspiration: nature, museums, fabric stores, books, music, yoga and even little children.
my Inspiration Journal plus supplies
used to create it
Everyone seemed excited to make the journal.  They really liked the idea of using book pages to decorate the covers.
this book was made for a little girl

One student was a retired school librarian and found it difficult to tear pages out of the books.  She was finally able to do it and the results were excellent.
all the books made during the class
This is a project that everyone seems to like.  I look forward to teaching the class again.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Tomorrow I am teaching a class on creative inspiration.  That doesn't mean I am an expert on the topic but I will be leading the students in a discussion of inspiration.  Where do we find artistic inspiration?  Sometimes it comes from an internal source (imagination, dreams) and sometimes external (nature, books, other artists).  Once inspired, how do we trust ourselves to carry out the artistic act?  This is often difficult for me.  There are many excuses that I can use for not following through with a creative idea: lack of time, materials, or knowledge.  I need to push through all the excuses and just start the work.  As Pablo Picasso said, "Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working."

Here are some excerpts from The Artist's Way that address the idea of inspiration.

“Art is an act of tuning in and dropping down the well.  It is as though all the stories, painting, music, performances in the world live just under the surface of our normal consciousness.  Like an underground river, they flow through us as a stream of ideas that we can tap down into.”

“Once you accept that it is natural to create, you can begin to accept a second idea – that the creator will hand you whatever you need for the project.  The minute you are willing to accept the help of this collaborator, you will see useful bits of help everywhere in your life.  Be alert: there is a second voice, a higher harmonic, adding to and augmenting your inner creative voice. This voice frequently shows itself in synchronicity.”
tombeardshaw @

I love to look for synchronicity in my life.  I often feel that The Universe is trying to tell me something, mostly positive and supportive.  At least, that's how I choose to interpret it.

The inspiration class also includes making an Inspiration Journal.  Everyone, including me, loves leaving class with a finished project.  I will let you know how it goes.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Let's Play

I had an artist play date last weekend.  My friend and I played with molding paste and stencils.  I shared with her the technique of creating texture by spreading molding paste over a stencil.  The only bad thing is that the paste takes a while to dry.  We used a hair dryer to speed things up.

We decided to create a collage using a canvas board, paper and paint.  My friend has an extensive stamp collection so she used stamps on her project as well as paper.
My friend's collage with paper and molding paste (the
green leaves and light pink splats are paste)
I tried 2 different stencils on my board.  One worked well (the flowers on the right) and the other one did not look as good (squares on the left).  I painted over the dried molding paste with Golden fluid acrylics.
My collage - paper, molding paste,
and paint
I love having art play dates with my friends.  We each have different kinds of items in our artists stashes and it fun to share new things.  Luckily, I have 2 more play dates on my calendar already.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Black and White

Last year the art teacher at my son's junior high did a cool 3D art project involving paper rolls. I asked her if she had any paper rolls left over and she kindly gave them to me.  I painted the rolls with gloss medium, added black acrylic paint to the ends, then set them aside for many months. I just found them again last weekend.  

My normal inclination would be to contemplate possible projects for a few weeks before creating anything, but instead I decided to just get something done right away.  I created 2 pins - one for me and one for the art teacher. A completed project is a wonderful thing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

T-shirt necklaces

A friend and I decided we wanted to make t-shirt necklaces after she scored a bag full of old white t-shirts last summer.  First we dyed the shirts, an activity that sounded more fun than it actually was.  We chose purple, black, red, green, and blue.

It took until this month for my friend and I to get back together to play with the newly dyed shirts.  I started by cutting them into 1 inch strips using my rotary cutter.  From what I read online, using the rotary cutter is key to making the material curl properly.
T-shirt strips
Materials all laid out (yes, we drank wine too)

Next we pulled out all sorts of supplies: beads, ribbon, buttons, waxed linen, thread, wire, chain, brads, and rubber o-rings.  We played for about 3 hours.  Here are the results.

Chain, buttons, and beads tied on
with waxed linen

Ready for when summer weather

My friend and I had fun with this "instant gratification" project.  Go to Pinterest for more ideas of what can be created with old, cut up t-shirts.
My friend made a Halloween
eyeball necklace
(great eyelashes!)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

For the Birds

My office is between the bathrooms and the copy room.  As you can imagine I see a lot of people walking by throughout the day and the opportunity for chatting makes my office quite pleasant.  Unfortunately my desk looks upon a boring, white, cement brick wall.  I considered asking if I could paint the wall, but I thought I would be told no.  I also considered painting it without asking, but decided that was a bad idea. So I have been decorating the wall with bits of art that I created.

Right now the wall has a tree motif.
The tree on my office wall with the first 3 birds

Last winter I decided that the tree looked barren so I added the 3 birds.  Those were not enough birds to chase away the winter blues, so I recruited other people in my office to make birds at lunch one day.  I brought the supplies and the template (I wanted all the birds to have the same shape) and another 8 birds were hatched.  I made 5 more to represent all the people in my department - they know which bird belongs to whom.  The tree looked nice and full once all the birds were added and people dropped in to visit their birds occasionally.
Each bird represents a person in my department
After awhile, I tired of the birds (who frequently fell off the tree) and returned each to the person who made it.  The tree is going to come down soon as well, since I am working on another piece to hang in that spot.  My director can see the wall from his desk as well.  I hope he likes daisies.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mixed Media Bracelets

I was asked to donate some art to a fundraiser and I decided to make 2 bracelets.  These bracelets are made from fabric and buttons.  I use a hair tie as a closure.  It takes me many hours to make one, even though the pattern is quite simple. I enjoy the challenge of sewing tiny scraps of fabric together and then arranging the coordinating buttons.
Mixed media bracelets
I tried something new and added a zipper to another bracelet.  I am not very happy with the way it turned out. The zipper sticks out when the bracelet wraps around my wrist.  I think I will have to glue down the zipper to make it wearable so I will just keep this one rather than sell it.
I tried adding a zipper
Even though I am not thrilled with my zipper bracelet, I am glad I tried something new.  I often think about things I want to try, but I have difficulty executing my ideas.  Sometimes I think about the idea for so long that I talk myself out of actually trying it.  I have 2 black and white bracelets to make for friends in the next few weeks and I want to try adding some ribbons this time.  I hope they look good.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Last weekend I went to downtown Chicago for the Renegade Craft Show.  It is held in multiple cities across the country and even has a website (click here).  It took me about 4 1/2 hours to look at all the booths.  They were filled with fun and wonderful items from posters and cards to vintage clothing, soaps and silver jewelry.  Many of the crafters were from out of town - LA, Austin, and even Oregon.
A beautiful sunny day for a craft fair
A mural in Wicker Park where the Renegade Fair was held
Of course food was available at Renegade and one participant was a vegetarian restaurant named Mana.  It happens to be my daughter's favorite place to eat downtown.  I had an amazingly good slider made from brown rice and mushrooms.  Mushrooms have never been my favorite food - my mother made me eat them - but these sliders are worth the long drive downtown.

One thing I didn't expect to hear at a craft show was a loud scream followed by a person saying, "oh, it's just another zombie."  There was a group of people who were covered in fake blood enjoying a zombie apocalypse game.  Apparently there was a zombie hunter in the crowd and I believe he dispatched all of the zombies without loss of human life.  The zombies were last seen boarding Chicago public transit.

Craft fairs are a great place for people watching.  I saw some adorable outfits, all styles of boots, and lots of scarves.  I hope I was able to blend into the hip, urban crowd just a little.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


ICAD stands for Index Card A Day.  I discovered the idea when I was reading the Daisy Yellow Blog I mentioned in the last post.  The idea is that you make art on an index card every day for some period of time.  It can be any type of art on any size index card.  I really wanted to try this because I thought it would be a good challenge that would force me to be creative every day. Of course, I had to recruit some friends to do it with me so that the peer pressure would keep me going.  I was able to talk about 8 friends into joining my ICAD group and we agreed to a month long challenge.  The project would culminate with a final celebration at a local watering hole where we would share our results (yes, I was able to slip wine into my artistic challenge).
My meditating face
 I admit that I was not able to create 30 pieces of art in 30 days.  I completed 25 index cards.  I decided to make each piece different. Some participants kept a common theme, such as pictures of flowers. One person chose greeting cards as her art form.  Another friend drew the same tree in her backyard each day, using different tools and colors, while another decided to make 3D objects out of her cards.  It was an inspiring month and I really loved getting together to share all that the group had made.
Playing with graffiti
Golden fluid acrylics - such bright colors!
I hope my friends will join me in the future for another ICAD project.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Chapter 6: Abundance

This morning I am reading Chapter 6 of The Artist's Way entitled "Recovering a Sense of Abundance."  I am actually getting goosebumps as I read it, because the message is so timely.  I have been in the doldrums lately and these thoughts remind me that I need to treat myself better.

I am going to post quotes from the chapter that resonate with me.

"What we really want to do it what we are really meant to do.  When we do what we are meant to do, money comes to us, doors open to us, we feel useful, and the work we do feels like play to us." (p.108)

"Making art begins with . . .getting into the now and enjoying your day.  It begins with giving yourself some small treats and breaks." (p.108)
"In order to thrive as artist's - and, one could argue, as people - we need to be available to the universal flow.  When we put a stopper on our capacity for joy by anoretically declining the small gifts, we turn aside the larger gifts as well." (p. 110)

Julia Cameron goes on to write that creativity requires the luxury of time (even if it's only 15 minutes) and space (even if it's only 1 bookshelf). "Creativity lives in paradox: serious art is born from serious play." (p.112)  She encourages treating yourself to all kinds of little luxuries that make you feel good, whether it is fresh raspberries, cut flowers or tickets to a play.

Finally she asks the very pointed question: what gives you true joy?  I have to pause and concentrate to come up with an answer.  Perhaps I don’t want to be too extravagant.  My list includes chocolate, time with my children, and a walk through a sunny tree lined park.  Boy, am I lucky – I can experience all of those things today if I plan well.

So I am off to fill myself with some joy and snap out of my little funk.  Think about the things that bring you joy and try to experience one today.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Blogs I Like

I just got a new laptop, a Macbook Pro, so I am transferring my "favorites" over to my "bookmarks."  This process requires that I examine every blog I have placed in my favorites to reevaluate its worthiness of being bookmarked. Here is a list of the ones I truly enjoy reading.

Daisy Yellow is the first art journaling blog I discovered.  The author, Tammy, has great "Art Journaling 101" posts as well as lots of ideas for ICAD (Index Card a Day) projects.

Alisa Burke's Redefine Creativity blog is, of course, a favorite.  As I have written in previous posts, I am kind of an Alisa stalker although I do consider myself in recovery since I got to hang out with her at CREATE in California.  No need for Alisa to be afraid.

I recently discovered Donna Downey's Simply Me blog.  I love her Wednesday videos where she shows exactly how she creates her art journaling pages.  Her colors are so bright and invigorating. Her painting style and her video narrations seem to invite you to be her friend.  Heck, she uses pages from romance novels in her collages and I just love that.

Hanna Anderson writes a blog called iHanna filled with art and other creative ideas.

I also follow Alice Bradley's Finslippy blog.  I can't remember how I originally discovered her.  She is a mother and author who writes very cleverly about life's trials and tribulations, including her battle with depression.

I have to include my BFF's favorite blog Elvie Studio by Lori Vliegen. She is a very creative mixed media artist who also has an online lettering class that I am required to take (per my BFF's instructions).  It's on my list of things to do.

If you have blogs that you would like to share, please post a comment.  Enjoy your future reading!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Most Expensive Pencil Case

For those of us who spend quite a bit of money on art supplies, it makes sense to have nice storage containers in which to keep them.  Plus it's fun to shop for pretty boxes, bags, jars and buckets.  I recently decided I wanted to learn to sew my own zippered bags to hold art supplies and I wanted to use some fabric that I had collected.

The fabric I chose was designed by a friend, Jennifer Heynen, who is the owner of Jangles Beads.  She isn't exactly a close friend of mine, but she is very good friends with my BFF.  She is, therefore, my friend by association.  I'm not sure that she knows that.  Be sure to check out her blog and online store.

My new pencil case

It was a lot of work to sew this little bag, since I don't have experience with sewing zippers.  My sister helped me and her friend, a master seamstress, also helped.  It took about 5 hours over 2 days to complete.  Adding up my time and the fabulous, although expensive, polka dot zipper ($4 from Joann's Fabrics) this is probably the most expensive pencil case ever made.  And I love it!


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Paint Chip Art

Playing with paint chips is really fun.  I can‘t walk through a hardware store without a long pause in front of the paint chip display.  I am like a moth to a flame.  The colors mesmerize me and my imagination immediately begins painting walls all throughout my home.  Admittedly, I have pilfered more than my fair share of paint chips and I like to use them to make art.
Cards that my friend and I made from paint chips
I have used a similar technique to make cards, one that I learned from a book that my BFF owns (my Best Friend Forever).  I painted watercolor blobs on a piece of paper, then cut the paper into one inch squares to decorate the card.  These look terrific in a vellum envelope.  Paint chips would work for this project as well.

Lastly, my daughter and I made paint chip art for her apartment.  We copied an idea we found on Pinterest.
Pinterest idea for paint chip art
 Creating paint chip art is a great activity for a rainy day or (like this summer) a ridiculously hot day.  And it’s cheap!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Artist's Way Update

I am beginning week 4 of The Artist’s Way, although I think I have been doing the program for more than 3 weeks.  I must have extended one of the weeks.  I suppose going slowly is not against the rules.

I have diligently executed my morning pages every day. I am having difficulty with the artist dates (only completed 2 out of 3) and the daily 20 minute walks (not enough to count).  I am trying not to chastise myself about this, but rather encourage growth and improvement.

This morning I was reading chapter 4 and came across this quote from Chekhov that describes where I am right now.

“If you want to work on your art, work on your life.”

That is my journey.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Arts & Crafts

Last week my daughter was in the mood for a craft project and introduced me to Galaxy T-shirts.  I had never heard of them but, not surprisingly, many examples can be found on the internet.  DIY directions are available on YouTube.  We watched a few of the videos and then made our own.
After applying bleach and 4 colors of paint (blue, purple, black and white) we had finished shirts.  It was a fun project for us to do together and fulfilled our need to be crafty. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Art is what we call the thing an artist does.
It’s not the medium or the oil or the price
or whether it hangs on a wall or you eat it.
What matters, what makes it art,
is that the person who made it
overcame the resistance,
ignored the voice of doubt
and made something worth making.
Something risky.
Something human.
Art is not in the eye of the beholder.
It’s in the soul of the artist.


Photo by Average Jane (

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Creating in Maine

I spent a week in Maine visiting my sister and her husband.  My sister is an artist.  She also teaches art to adults.  That means she makes art, reflects on the process of making art, and then explains it to others.  Pretty impressive. 

Before the visit, I asked my sister to buy some sewing patterns for me the next time she went to her local resale shop.  She ended up acquiring a whole box of patterns from a friend.  Upon my arrival I was asked what I wanted to make with the patterns and that was the beginning of a weeklong creative endeavor.

First we brainstormed what we could make with the patterns.  This step was already challenging for me.  My initial ideas seemed boring and obvious.  So we decided to try the paper on various materials.  We used matte medium to glue it to canvas, painted canvas, painted paper (both light and dark), acetate, and even a plastic water bottle.  One piece we painted with medium and just hung it to dry.  Ultimately I decided I liked the paper glued to raw canvas the best.  It had a leathery look and feel to it.  The next step was to decide what to make from this paper patterned canvas.

My sister and I decided to make a one of a kind tote bag.  I love the results and I have enough canvas left over to make other things.  Right now I am planning to make covers for composition books, which are the kind of book I frequently use for journaling.

My tote bag made using sewing patterns

Is a tote bag art?  I’m not sure.  For me, it felt like art because it was something I had never created before.  Perhaps that is part of the definition of art, although that makes the definition very personal to the artist.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Artist's Way

I have started reading The Artist’s Way, which is something that my sister suggested that I do quite a long time ago.  I am finally ready to commit to the 12 week program (at least I think I am).  This is only week 2, by the way.  The purpose of the program is to unblock your creativity.  The author, Julia Cameron, encourages your inner artist to come out, take risks, and create.  Many people I know have successfully completed the book and I hope it will help me as well.

So far I am enjoying writing the morning pages, but it is easy for me since I have kept a journal for many years.  Squeezing in a weekly artist date will be more difficult.  I went to the book store last Friday for my artist date.  I love book stores and find them so energizing.  They are almost as colorful and exciting as a fabric store.  Finally I am trying to spend more time in nature, taking walks through the woods around a local lake.  Even though it’s a hot summer I am enjoying my walks (sans iPod).

I’ll post again in a few weeks to update my progress.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Flea

I go to the Kane County flea market a few times a year.  I rarely buy anything, but I have fun looking at all the paraphernalia and all the people.  I have a friend who works there and that makes it even more fun to visit.  Today I saw lots of exciting ephemera which I wanted to buy but have no place to store and no idea what to do with.  I controlled my urge to purchase all these things, but imagine the art that could be created.
By the way, I did purchase a book of sheet music just in case I find myself lacking in collage material some day.  What do you love to buy at the flea market?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Making Art

Don’t think about making art,
just get it done.
Let everyone else decide
if it’s good or bad,
whether they love it or hate it.
While they are deciding,
make even more art.

-      Andy Warhol

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Handmade Book Project

This week I taught some friends how to make a book.  My friends have a mother/daughter art group that meets once a month to exercise their creativity.  What a wonderful idea!  I was invited to teach them how to create a small 4” x 4” book using decorative papers, matte boards, and a canvas spine.  I learned to make this book at Art and Soul.
My book

This was my first opportunity to teach a book project.  I wrote very detailed directions – with photos – but I wasn’t sure how long the project would take.  It ended up taking 4 ½ hours.  My students were experienced crafters and they took lots of time being colorful and creative.  The end products were fabulous.

Creating the cover

Adding pages

Sewing it together

Final Product

I can’t wait to teach this class again.