Tuesday, July 8, 2014

'Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it's found.' James Russell Lowell

 I have had a life-long habit of collecting 'stuff'. Some would call it trash or junk but I think they're treasures. I have been collecting seashells for as long as I can remember. I also collect other bits of 'stuff' at the beach, like driftwood, rocks, coral, sometimes I've even brought home seaweed and broken bits of palm trees. I find beauty in these offerings from nature. I also collect bird's nests, leaves, acorns, seed pods, etc. But those items will have to wait. Today's post is about my love of beachy related items.

I bought a beautiful white howlite donut at Bead & Button last month. I didn't really have a plan when I bought it but I loved it's crackled look and it has a very matte finish which really appealed to me.

As luck would have it, I was cleaning up my jewelry workspace a few weeks ago and inspiration struck. The howlite donut would look great with some coral I picked up in Grand Cayman and the little bitty white rocks, beach glass and shells that run from white to off-white to light tan. Perfect for the white howlite. Then I sorted through my driftwood stash and found the perfect piece to hang the whole thing from.  I wasn't sure about leaving the donut hole open or using something to cover the hole then I searched my shells and found the PERFECT limpet shell to attach over the center with a bead. The limpet is white with tan and charcoal markings.
I sorted through my beads as well to look for white, off-white, tan, brown and black. As usual I always choose a ton of different beads when working a project so I can have lots of choices. I end up using about a third or half of the ones I choose but still I like to have them all out 'just in case'.
I chose black ultra suede as the base and glued the donut down and also the piece of coral as seen below. (You can really see the beautiful markings in the howlite in this photo)

Once, the glue dried it was time to start beading.
I did a simple peyote stitched bezel for the donut in tan and matte white seed beads. Using a couple small beads I stitched through the top of the limpet shell (it already had a hole in the top)and through the donut hole to the ultrasuede backing. Then I wrapped some tan beads around the coral just to make sure it stays put since the back of the coral wasn't flat.
When I was satisfied with the beading I cut the shape I wanted around the beaded donut and coral. I also cut a piece of thin cardboard the same shape to sandwich between the beaded front and a backing of plain black ultrasuede. This gives it a bit more stability.
Once the glue dried from layering the ultrasuede/cardboard it was time to bead around the edges of the pendant. I chose to only bead from the bottom edges of the donut and around the coral. I liked the larger beads that were the base of the bezel. I let them be at the edges, which means I clipped the ultra suede very closely around the donut being careful NOT to get so close that you clip any threads.
Then it was time to 'freak out'!!!! I have never beaded a bail to attach the pendant to a necklace. NEVER. So I searched through all my beading books trying to figure out what would look best around the driftwood. I decided on a square stitch making it just barely long enough to wrap all the way around the driftwood. Tricky, since the driftwood wasn't perfectly round or symmetrical. To make up for one side not quite fitting I just added a few beads to that side and then stitched the bail with driftwood intact to the top of the donut. I used more of the size 8 beads that surround the donut to attach from the bail.
Once the bail and driftwood were attached it was time for a little fringe. Since it's such a large pendant I didn't want to have too many dangley shells, beach glass and stones. Originally I had planned to load it up but decided less is more. So I chose one little white beach stone, 2 little pieces of white beach glass and 2 little shells which appear to be minute snail shells.
After the fringe came the actual necklace to hang it from. I went with the same tan beads size 11 to wrap around the driftwood and then added the larger 8 tan beads and a single white howlite bead on each side. These attach to black braided leather with bronze end caps and then I created a wire clasp.
And VOILA! My new necklace. Love all the little bits of things I collected making this necklace truly a one-of-a-kind piece.
Every time I go to the beach I tell myself I don't NEED to pick up any more 'stuff'. Thank goodness I don't listen to myself. I have an almost endless supply of goodies to choose from. 

Since I never finished cleaning my studio 2 weeks ago when I stumbled onto the inspiration for this necklace I MUST go NOW to finish cleaning. Who knows-I may just come up with the inspiration for several more necklaces or perhaps other beaded items.

Live your life creatively~

cathy

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Creative Organization

Whenever I go into my studio it's like Christmas morning when I was a kid. I don't know what to play with first!  I always have a bad case of ADD when I walk in without a plan. SO, I definitely have to have some sort of schedule before walking in there.
My friend Cindy & I embarked on a goal setting plan at the beginning of 2013 and for the most part it has been working well. At the beginning of every month I write down my artistic goals for the month.
Then on Sundays I write up a plan for the week. Each day Cindy & I email each other our goals for the day. Sounds a bit regimented and doesn't sound as though it would allow for a lot of spontaneity. Emailing each other keeps me motivated to reach my daily goals.  I try to stay accountable.
You'd be surprised at how prolific I have been for the past year and a half. Even though I haven't posted on my blog regularly I have been busy.
Writing down the daily goals gets me in my studio and with a plan in place it keeps me on track (for the most part)!
Then there are those days where I'm in my studio and working on a project and my mind starts to wonder. Then my eyes start to roam about the room that desperately needs cleaning. Sewing table is a mess. Ironing board is piled high with works in progress and the beading/jewelry table looks like a disaster. Knitting needles are on the sewing table, in a tote bag and also spilling out of a vase like spikey flowers. So what do I do then?
Decide to tackle a project that has been on my mind for a while but I had not put it down as a goal. I just HAVE TO to create a knitting needle case for all my needles I have been collecting.
They were scattered about with no place to call home.
I decide to 'wing it'. No pattern, no particular design in mind other than I wanted to use some vinyl screening that I already had. I thought that would give it some structure. So I grabbed a couple remnants of ulpholstsery fabric and my vinyl. Gathered all my needles to see how many wide I needed to make it. Then I started cutting and sewing. 
Not perfect. I didn't even use my straight edge or a ruler! 
Just stitched the fabric onto the screening, leaving the screening long enough at the top to fold down over the needle pockets to keep them in place. And I have velcro to hold the top part in place.  I also stitched pockets for all the different size needles.
And Voila!


Knitting needle case with top flap folded down

Needle case with top flap opened up to reveal the pockets

All rolled up 
The only problem is. I haven't tagged each pocket with the needle size. Which isn't too big a deal since the straight needles have the size at the top. The only problem is my circular needles. I left them in their original case for now and put them in the pockets but it's creating too much bulk. I do have a needle gauger that I can use to determine which size they are if I decide to throw their original cases out. But then there is the length issue. Although it's pretty easy to determine the length of the circular ones.
I only have one set of DPN (double pointed needles) so far-so no problem determing their size.

I didn't actually accomplish all the goals on my list that day but I do have my knitting needles all organized in a pretty little case.

Now, I am off to work on today's goals!

I vow to update this blog on a regular basis. I guess if I put it in my goals then it will get done!

Live your life creatively~

cathy


Monday, June 16, 2014

Blog Tour Monday

I was invited by my long-time friend and art buddy Sandy to be a part of this blog tour monday.
She has been an inspiration to me for years.  She recently created her own blog and it's awesome so go check it out. Hopefully, this blog tour will spur me to get back to blogging regularly. I must confess, I sort of got sucked up into the vortex of Facebook. It unintentionally became my 'blog'.  That has been where I've been posting updates to my work and finished pieces. It was quicker than going to my blog and creating a post. Sad, I know.
I have become a tad bit frustrated with Facebook and have vowed to stay away from it except to post artwork and a link to my recent blog posts!  With that said here are my answers to the blog tour monday questions:

                         what am i working on?

I usually work on several projects at once.  I currently have several necklaces laid out on the jewelry design board to finalize and I have a couple of bracelets to finish. Then I have a much larger project that I've been working on for a group I'm in called Womens Journeys in Fiber. We have a yearly project that is due by the end of July. We self-publish a book and usually have 3 group exhibits over the next year. The photo below is a small portion of what I'm working on. This beaded piece will be a small part of my project. Sorry I can't say more about it but we try to keep it a secret until our first exhibit in early November. I will post photos on my blog of the whole process once we go public.
Besides the jewelry and the BIG project, I am also in a bead group that has a monthly color scheme. In the sidebar you can click on the Bead Embroidery Project to see my '12 months of Buddha' that I'm doing.
I have just finished June's Buddha in shades of salmon & coral

how does my work differ from others of its genre?

Wow! What a question. It differs because I'm me. I know that sounds a bit snarky or sarcastic. 
But really, why is anyone's work different? If you are creating from the heart and doing 'your own thing' then it will differ from everyone elses. If you are trying desperately to replicate someone else's beautiful work then it will look like someone else's. I have taken many workshops and devoured art books and how-to videos. I now have many tools in my toolbox! And I'm trying to take what I've learned and make my own art. I don't really fit into any one genre.  I do feel I am still finding my voice so to speak. But, it takes time and many, many pieces of work to find your style or your voice but I'm getting there!

why do i write/create what i do?

I create because I love it! I create because I feel the need to make things with my own two hands.
I create because I have to.
I have always created. I learned to embroider at the age of 8 and learned to knit at the age of 10. Prior to that I was drawing and coloring in coloring books nonstop! 

how does your writing/creative process work?

I have no set process. I have never really been diligent about keeping a sketchbook. Although I do have many sketchbooks with various things written and sketched.  But the problem is, I never sit down and say "Oh golly, I don't know what to make". I always have a bazillion ideas in my head.  What usually happens is I pick up some beads or some fabrics and threads and just begin.
From there it takes on a life of its own. When I have tried to 'use' one of my sketches or ideas I either don't like the way it turns out OR I just take off in a different direction and it looks nothing like the sketch!
Take for instance, the BIG project I mentioned that I'm working on. It took several months of research and planning and digesting and reworking and right now-it looks nothing like the original sketch I made! As a matter of fact it isn't even made from the materials I had originally set out to use.
Once I started it become what it wanted to be. I kind of like not knowing what things will turn out like.
Sometimes things are great, sometimes not so great. It's like when I used to play with clay and did raku.
It was a gamble. You pull your clay piece out of the kiln and stuff it inside a container full of combustible materials to let it catch on fire. And you never really know what it's going to look like until you pull it out of that container a while later. It was surprising and oh so exciting! 

 Since I haven't kept on top of blogging in a while I didn't have a long list of people to invite to join in the blog tour. I do however, keep up with Natalya Aikens' blog (through Facebook). Her art quilts are magnificent! And she will be on the blog tour next Monday.
Natalya says the motto for her art is: Architecturally inspired, delicately stitched. The core of her art is deeply rooted in her Russian heritage and the architectural images of St. Petersburg and New York City coupled with the use of recycled materials such as paper, plastics & vintage fabrics. Computer photo manipulation and intense hand & machine stitching, and translucent effects are the techniques she favors.

The other person I invited had already been a part of the blog tour and I had missed her post on it, but you should still go check her out. Kathryn Dyche Dechairo Here's the link to her blog tour Monday post in case you didn't see it. Her photography, photo manipulation and her artwork are amazing as well as her poetry!






Monday, June 9, 2014

Evolution of a Bead Embroidered Buddha

I have become obsessed with beading. I've always liked beads-making jewelry, stitching them onto art quilts, buying them just cuz they're pretty.
But last year I embarked on a year-long art journal project to try out some new techniques and to refresh my memory on a few old ones as well as hone some of my skills. In the process I learned quite a  bit about myself and about what I love to do. One of the things I learned was just how much I love to do bead embroidery. The process is meditative.
In January, I embarked upon another year long project-this time a bead project. I am doing this with a small group of friends. We have a color for each month and the only other rule is it has to be 8x8 inches.
Being the art nerd that I am, I wasn't satisfied with doing just ONE project per month. So I decided to stretch myself with TWO per month or more if inspiration strikes me in that color scheme.
One of my pieces each month is doing a beaded Buddha. I have chosen to do the beading on 4x4" heavy pellon that is fused down in the center of a square of fabric that is slightly larger than the required 8x8.
I've had several people ask how I'm able to create one each month and have them all so different yet similar. I've also been asked how do I begin the project. Do I have a design in mind? Do I sketch out something first or do I work from a sketchbook?  Well, the answer is... I just do it!
I learned a long time ago that I don't work well from instructions so to speak. Never did, probably never will. I do my own thing. Sometimes it turns out good, sometimes not. But I feel like I have to just begin and let it flow. I do better when I don't have to worry about staying in the lines if I have drawn out a pattern. I also work intuitively, letting the beads and the shape of the objects I'm beading around dictate where I bead and how I bead.
Photo below shows Stage one-Buddha head charm and his sliced agate body glued down on the heavy Pellon fused to the background fabric.



Stage two-Begin the beading around the head charm and the body. I sometimes do peyote stitching to form a bezel around the body and or/head. This time just around the agate body. (The color for April's bead project was anything pastel-I chose lavender and minty green)

By day 2 or 3 I'm on to figuring out how to fill in around the Buddha. Sometimes adding larger beads and sequins to fill space.

I generally try NOT to be symmetrical. I like asymmetry with a bit of balancing using the right amount of focal beads and colors.

Also, as I've gone through 5 months of beaded Buddhas, I've started to go just beyond the borders of the Pellon with beading. Adding little fringes and loops just because I can!

The best thing about beading each month is I tell myself "there are NO rules" (except color and size). So have at it-do your thing and have FUN!
This is the completed Buddha below.

After I finish the beading I back the background fabric with batting and another piece of fabric. Then I free motion stitch with the machine. Each one is different, yet similar. So when they are all complete I will stitch all the squares together and create a small wall hanging.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Home...



How do you define home?

Webster's defines it as 'the place where a person lives';  'the social unit formed by a family living together";  'a familiar or usual setting'; 'a place of origin'; etc, etc, etc…..
It is all of these and so much more.

I have been thinking a lot about homes, families and the memories made there lately.  It was provoked by the guild I'm in- North Suburban Needlearts Guild.  We have a yearly project challenge that is purely elective. I had not participated in a couple of years due to time constraints and the subject matter.
But this year's was different. The theme was 'Shirt Tales".  Create your tale on a shirt whether it be an old shirt, newly constructed shirt, deconstructed or even No shirt at all. Your choice, your design.

It eventually dawned on me that I had finally thrown my favorite shirt EVER into the scrap fabric bin in my workshop. It was way past it's prime. Actually, the shirt was my husband's very briefly until I chose to start wearing it around the house as my 'comfy-lay around the house' shirt. That was about 18 or so years ago! It had stains on it-most likely ink and/or paint as I also wore it while working in my studio at times. (I've never been good about wearing aprons). It had numerous holes in it. The collar was threadbare around the back of the neck and there was a long rip from the bottom up toward the mid section of the shirt tail. Most likely due to me getting it caught on various things due to the hole that WAS there prior to the giant rip. So the shirt was deemed unwearable unless of course I patched it up which is why it landed in the fabric scrap bin.

So I knew I had the perfect shirt to tell my tale on. The only thing left was what sort of tale did I want to tell??  My life has been a veritable whirlwind of activity through the years. I have all sorts of tales.
As I contemplated what to 'say' on my shirt I starting 'sorting' through my memories. For some reason I store memories in my mental filing cabinet by the houses I've lived in. All my memories can be recalled by date according to where I lived. I'm not sure if that's odd but that's how I can recall what happened and when it happened.  The good times, the not-so good times, the ups and downs of life are stored in little boxes in my head with a photo of the house we lived in at the time the events took place.
To me, it seems normal. How else to you remember all the stuff that happens when you move around a lot?

I decided that the title of my shirt tales project would be "A Tale of Seven Cities". Not exactly original and all the places I lived weren't all technically cities BUT…artistic license-ok?

I started by searching through photo albums-the real thing, not just my digital files!Which of course conjured up lots of happy memories. Fortunately before the digital age I was very good about keeping my photos together and up to date. Like my memories, my photos are arranged into photo albums with dates and there are about 3 albums per home that we lived in.  Just don't ask about my digital files (they're a mess).  Photos were all found, scanned and printed onto fabric. So then it was time to arrange and stitch.
Front of shirt-houses 1-5
 I fused the printed fabric onto the shirt as well as some other bits of fabric to cover some of the holes.
I left some of the holes because life isn't perfect-there are some bumps in the road of life as well as potholes!  The long rip was 'sutured' together as you can see in the above photo.  I added stitching around the houses. I used a fabric marker to write the # of each house as well as the city of each house and the years we were there. After writing with marker I stitched with the machine. Added a few stars and heart buttons as well as some decorative ribbon with flowers. I became a vegetable gardener in house #2 but not an avid flower gardener until house #4. The flowers represent all the flowers I have planted along the way.


The back of the shirt with houses 6 & 7. I chose to do two photos of our current house #7. The seasons are so dramatically different that I feel like I live in two different houses. So I chose a photo in spring and a photo with 3 feet of snow!

In the shirt pocket I've written little nuggets of happy memories-red letter events that took place at each home on tags.

Our first home was especially sweet! It is in my hometown and so it's not the first home I lived in but the first home of our married life.

Since I only put the city under each photo I decided to machine stitch the street names of all the homes across the upper back. Around the collar is the street number of each home.

Oh Boy! If this shirt could talk… the shirt was with me through quite a few of these homes- I'm sure it would have lots to say.


Through all the moves and all the houses there is a constant thread-the people that loved, lived and flourished together. We are family, these are our homes.

"home is where the heart is'
"home is where you hang your hat'
'make yourself at home'
'a man's home is his castle'
'there's no place like home'
'you can never go home again'
'home sweet home'

Life your life creatively~ no matter where you live!

cathy




Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wordless Wednesday…Reflection

The Terrace at Trump Towers on the 16th Floor-Chicago