Category Archives: play

Better.

That’s my word for 2018.  I began this practice of finding a word that describes how I want to define the coming year when I read about this cool website called oneword365, where you do just that – ruminate on how you want your year to go.  Last year, my word was “direction”.  When I saw the tweet yesterday that asked, “What’s your one word for 2018?”, I didn’t even hestitate – it just came to me. BETTER. 

I want to be a better instructor. I have been teaching for 10 years now, and as it is with many things one does for a long time, it’s easy to get in a rut.  My students deserve better than “rut”!  I want to have even more returning students than I already have.

I want to be better at time management. This year, when we got our two Pommies, I had to change how I use my studio.  Because they like to gnaw on things, I’ve had to keep my studio door closed when I’m not working.  This has brought about a change I wasn’t even looking for, but has made me more aware – that by closing my door at the end of the day, I am signaling that I am done working. And by making that connection, my time in the studio is more precious than ever. And I’m spending less time online (ironic, but YAY!) and WAY more time in the studio.  I’ve got a new stash of jazz records I can play, and I love spending full days doing nothing but working.  It’s a dream come true, and even though I’ve been a full-time artist for 8 years now, I’ve never been more aware of how damn lucky I am to have my studio time.  I love it so much, even more than I did in 2010.

I want to be better at saying “no”. I have really improved in this arena over the past couple of years, mainly because I just don’t have the time anymore. This is a great thing, because it means that my art is my priority.  As it should be.  Alas, that means less volunteering and fewer long lunches, but my practice has improved tenfold.  And my income has more than doubled in the past year. This year, I want it to double again.  So there’ll be even more times where I don’t allow my fear of being disliked to overwhelm my resolve to make my art the most important aspect of my workday.

I want to be even better at trying new things. Last year was the first year I did outdoor art markets.  It was terrifying for me.  But I did three, and they were fantastic (even if the weather was awful for the first one). This year, I’m seriously contemplating applying for a residency that would be two weeks long, in a very remote place. EEK. But I have to try, right?  🙂

I want to be a better artist. This one’s a no-brainer, or it should be! Of course I want to be a better artist!  I love learning new techniques and also combining techniques I’ve already learned in new ways.  I am currently doing that for a show I have in a month called “A Cut Above”, which will run from February 1-23 at ArtSpace Collective in Oshkosh.  It’s my solo member exhibit, and I’m combining printed letterpress blocks with collage.  I’m super excited about it already, and I’m only 1/7 of the way through!

(Here are two of the pieces that will be in the show – they’re called Mail I and II and are each 2″ square. The two men are the letterpressed blocks incorporated into the rest of the collage.)

I want my world to be better.  Okay, I have less control over this aspect, but there are things that we can all do if we want our communities, our government and our surroundings to be better.  And I want to be better at using those resources to make a difference, however small. I also know that I can be a better human being, and that means more kindness, more acceptance, more patience (I REALLY need help here) and more courtesy toward every other human.

I want to take better care of myself. This means eating better, exercising more, and moving more.  The older I get (and I turn FIFTY this year!), the more I realize that one’s health is the most important thing we have.  I’ve been too lax for too long in this department, and while I enjoy a pain-free life, I understand how important it is to keep it that way.  We just take it for granted, but if 2017 taught me anything it’s that nothing’s for certain, and we have to be proactive to live the life we want.

What’s YOUR word for 2018?  Follow the link and you can play along!! 🙂  Happy 2018, everyone! May the new year bring you happiness and well-being, and better things.  🙂

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Ten Years of Live Trades

Think for a moment about those things you like to do in your free time – do you belong to a club?  Is there a hobby you have where you meet with folks who share your passion? If so, have you enjoyed these meetings for a long time?

For me, the answer to all three questions is a resounding YES. And yesterday, we celebrated TEN years together!

Some background, and I apologize to those readers for whom this story is a repeat: back in August of 2006, I was enjoying a lunch break at one of my favorite downtown places, Bagelmeister. I had picked up a new (to me) magazine called Cloth Paper Scissors, and immediately fell in love with its contents.  But they kept referring to these ATC things, and I was lost.  What the heck was an ATC?  When I Googled “ATC”, the first thing that came up was Air Traffic Controller.  Apparently more research was needed!

When I realized that it stood for Artist Trading Cards, I was instantly obsessed.  I checked out every book from the library that I could; I read every article online; I scanned Flickr (this was pre-Facebook for me by about two years!) and created my own account; I looked through Yahoo! Groups.  And in my searching those groups is where I “met” Carolyn Brady.

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One of my favorite ATCs – it’s really simple but I love how I found a vintage invoice and a kid’s book illustration that so beautifully worked together. Looks like I made this one on November 20, 2010.

I had been trading ATCs online for about a year when I first started chatting with Carolyn, who was looking to start a live trade in the Milwaukee area.  I LOVED this idea, and while I couldn’t make the first meeting for some reason, I started going by the second one, in September of 2007.  None of us knew that, ten years later, we’d have only missed ONE month in that decade, and that was only because of a snowstorm last December.  None of us knew that we’d be around in 10 years.  None of us knew how awesome Carolyn would be, and how many wonderful friends we’d make because of this group, which is still going strong.

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Here’s Carolyn (middle), Pauline (right) and me at my very first trade ever, at the now-defunct (but always fabulous Artist & Display in Milwaukee. Notice that this was pre-glasses and short gray hair. 😀 (Photo courtesy of Carolyn Brady, as is the featured image)

I found out yesterday that in the ten years we’d been meeting, I’d attended 65 of the 119 meetings, which put me in the Top 20 of attendees.  I’m really honored and proud to be in this group, which has meant so much to me in the last 10 years.  It’s such a comfortable group, which is extremely organized by Carolyn but at the same time is totally laid-back and super fun. There’s ZERO pressure in this group to be anything – you can do anything you want, there’s no judgment, and there’s always a feeling of inclusion and camaraderie. Those are rare and wonderful things in any group, especially after meeting every single month (except that one) for a decade.

If it weren’t for this group, I don’t think I would’ve grown enough as an artist to have the courage to leave my job and persue an art career full-time.  Indeed, when I think back to that time, at which time I’d only been making art for about 3 1/2 years, I feel a little sick to my stomach at how brazen and confident I was.  That was the ATCs talking, for sure.

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As you may already know, this was the ATC that literally launched my full-time art career!

I love this group so much, and I’m so happy I found these wonderful people when I did.  I won’t be able to attend a meeting again for four months due to (ironically) all of my other art teaching gigs.  But I’ll be there in December for my favorite trade of the year – our annual holiday potluck and funtimes in Cudahy.  I can’t wait.

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P.S.  If you’ve never heard of ATCs before and want to learn more, Carolyn’s FAQ is an invaluable resource!!  Start here and become obsessed yourself.  Perhaps like me, you’ll realize that you’ve made over 1200 ATCs in the past 11 years.  🙂

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Teaching – and Learning

In the past four days, I have either taught or taken a class!  That might be a record for me.  It’s going to take me a while to actually process all that happened, so why not move it along with a blog post?  😀

Last Friday, I had the pure joy of leading a one-day artist residency at Brandon Middle School for the Art Club kids.  They have to “earn” this day by attending a certain number of meetings during the year, and they either get a field trip or a visiting artist.  This year was the artist year, and their teacher Barb Bellmer asked me if I would be their guest.  Would I?!?  I love residencies!  I had the kids (6-8th graders) do a large-ish collage in the morning, and then use encaustic in the afternoon.  Here are some photos of their great work!  😀

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On Saturday, I was lucky enough to take Megan Woodard Johnson‘s “Intuitive Collage” class in Grafton.  It was a wonderful class, and also fun to play with paper not from my own stash!  (It totally makes a difference, because Megan’s collection, while very similar, is much more “curated” than my own and her color palette is far more discerning than mine.) It was really fun to just PLAY, with no thought about anything except the process. It was much-needed fun, and lots of my friends were in the class, too!  😀 Here are the collages I made during the class!  😀

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On Sunday, I had two dear people over to my house for an Individual Art class – my friend Monica and her daughter Ivy wanted to do encaustic collages.  HOLY SMOKES! I am still in awe of the pieces they made – they couldn’t be any different, but they’re both amazing!!

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Yesterday, I FINALLY was able to take a class with the fantastic Heidi Parkes – I’ve been wanting to take her class for literally the past year, but it just never worked out.  So I decided to just take a private lesson yesterday instead! She is a fiber artist who lives in Milwaukee and is a champion of the Slow Fashion movement.  She believes that mending our clothes is not only thrifty, but also employs the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, which celebrates the imperfect.  It was a relaxing and contemplative (and totally fun!) way to spend a rainy Monday afternoon.  And I’m also going to be able to wear my fave jeans and t-shirts again! 😀

 

In writing this post, I am reminded once again how incredibly lucky I am to be living this kind of life.  Am I insanely busy?  Yes.  But I love both teaching AND the fact that I am able to learn new things as well!  And as every teacher knows, you always learn something new from the people who take your classes.  I know I do, EVERY time.  All of these processes and collaborations; the ability to learn more about and spend more time with wonderful people; the act of living one’s life in and about art – this is what it’s about for me.  I hope to live this life for as long as I am able to enjoy it.  🙂

A Week of Encaustic Collage

WOW!  The fall got away from me.  It’s been a really busy September, October and November, with many classes and exhibits.  December’s been a great month so far, with even more classes and notifications of being accepted into some wonderful shows!  More about those in later posts!  😀

So last Saturday, I taught at the Plymouth Art Center for the first time!  It was a fantastic class, one that I had never taught before for a group – Encaustic Collage.

I love encaustic collage!  It takes collages and adds so much versatility and so many more possibilities for layering.  I had stations set up – one for the colored encaustics…

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…one for collage materials…

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…and one for the initial encaustic process – taking encaustic medium “beads” and melting them on to the collage with a crafting iron.

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The class-goers were fantastic, and made amazing collages!  I am always inspired when I teach, because I always know I’ll learn something as well.  But in this class, the inspiration was over and above what I expected!  Check out these gorgeous collages!

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When I teach, I take my supplies with me in big bins.  (I always include all supplies when I teach.)  I had created two encaustic collages as samples:

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But since the bin was still not put away, I thought I’d do some ATCs (artist trading cards) for our upcoming live trade in Milwaukee!  I spent wonderful hours making these little guys, and I can’t wait to trade them in January!

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Incidentally, if you’re interested in taking the Encaustic Collage class at Plymouth Art Center, I’ll be teaching this class again on March 25, 2017!  You can see the classes here sign up here!  😀  Thanks so much to Flossie McKeown and the Plymouth Art Center for having me teach!

Still in the groove….

Whoa.  Here we are at Friday!  Yesterday was another fantastically productive day.  Now, a little insight as to how my (and I know many other artists’) brain works – I started to feel the “I’m out of ideas” feeling yesterday morning.  It’s weird – I have this abundance of supplies before me, yet my first thought is, “I can’t make anything with this.”  I think it’s because we get into this routine of what we’re SUPPOSED to create, and if we can’t see that idea in front of us, we default into surrender mode.

NOPE.  I wasn’t going to let that happen, not when I’m at this amazing place and I have the entire day stretched out ahead of me.  So I grabbed one of the paper pulp pieces I made on Monday and started applying some encaustic medium, and then a teensy bit of Shiva paint stick.

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To me, it looks like waves crashing against rocks.  At least three people told me it looked like cake!  I’ll admit – I was a bit deflated after those remarks, because I didn’t convey what I wanted to.  But I still love it!  Onward!

After this project I still wanted to experiment with my encaustic supplies, but because of something I saw Ricki (the other artist-in-residence this week) doing, I wanted to try that – using my Lutradur as a stabilizer for my emboidery, especially on the very thin muslin that I used to rust-dye.  So I put some behind a square of that fabric and just started mimicking the markings in the fabric with some dark blue thread.  Afterward I just used encaustic medium over the top.  I was REALLY pleased with how this turned out!  😀

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At this point I needed a break, so I went down the hall and visited Claire at Fox Valley Found + Collected, which is the super-cool shop attached to Standard Projects’ workshop.  It’s got SUCH a great vibe in there – it’s instantly calming.  She’s curated it so beautifully, with her own fantastic leather accessories and other makers’ work as well!  And she’s also got this amazing, tiny “gallerette” right in her shop called The Vault, because, well, it’s in an old vault.  😀  I LOVE it in there!  😀  She’s open Thursdays and Fridays from 1-6 and Saturdays from 10-3.

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So after my break, I tried yet another project that I’d actually been wanting to try for over a year but never did – a weaving on this tiny loom pendant!  The pendant itself is so adorable, isn’t it?  So I searched through my box of fibers that I’d brought with me and got going.

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I LOVE how it turned out!  I think I’m going to add tassels on the bottom when I get back up to the studio this morning.  😀

Speaking of pendants – here are the other seven that I completed on Wednesday!  The one on the far right is already sold (YAY!) but the rest are now available at Found + Collected for $15.  🙂

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I’m off to enjoy my final (WHAAA!) day of creating at Standard Projects, and I’m also REALLY looking forward to the Deconstructed Collage workshop tomorrow!!  I can’t wait!  😀

 

Getting Stuff Done!

I love those prolific work days, don’t you?  The kind where you set out to do certain tasks and it all gets done?  That was me yesterday.

I wanted to do more of those pulp pieces yesterday, and I did three of them.  They’re STILL drying!  It was so humid yesterday that they’re taking their sweet time.  I still have two full work days (YAY!) so I’m sure they’ll be set by later today.

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I spent the majority of my day creating another of those Lutradur/machine embroidered pieces – this one I decided to do in earthy colors, and it’s quite a bit larger than the one I did on Tuesday.

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This time, I also cut around the non-lacy part and used some ancient bulding materials (from a nearby building that had been renovated!) for the background.  I think it looks either like a piece of rusted metal, or some sort of embroidered petroglyph.  🙂  I went through four whole spools of thread for this piece!  That’s a lot of “scribbling”.

I also made eight new pendants!  Here’s one of them (I didn’t manage to get a shot of the rest before I left for the day).  I used my rust-dyed fabric and just followed the lines on them with my sewing machine.  These will be for sale at Found + Collected!  😀

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After my coffee, I’ll be heading back up to the studio to make more stuff.  Who knows what’ll happen today?  I can’t wait to find out.  😀

Adventures in Experimentation

AHH!!  I can’t believe it’s Wednesday already!  I knew the week was going to go fast (it always does when you’re having fun), but it’s just flying by.

One reason for that may be because I’m doing so much work that’s new to me.  Yesterday I started the day finishing a deconstructed collage I had started on Monday – another sample for the upcoming Deconstructed Collage workshop on Saturday! – but then I delved into a new project.

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I had never really worked with Lutradur before, but had ordered a large bolt of it a couple of months ago.  I hadn’t even opened the package until yesterday, but as with all my projects this week it was the perfect time to try it.  I got the “thick” stuff (it comes in two thicknesses), and I immediately started to burn it.  Because it’s a 100% synthetic fabric, it melts when you apply heat and creates tiny holes, almost like lace.  Plus, it’s just fun to set fire to things sometimes.  😀

I then applied some poster paint I’d gotten at Richeson’s a week or two earlier – they were super cheap in their Bargain Room so I picked up every color I saw.  I decided to try just primary colors yesterday, because that’s not my normal palette and it’s all about straying from my norm this week!

I then machine-embroidered over the painted areas in the corresponding thread color.  I used my free motion foot and just “scribbled”:

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You can see the uncolored “lace” that happens when you apply heat!

SO fun!  It did take a while but I was having so much fun with it, I didn’t care.  I’m not on any timeline this week, so I was free to just explore this all day.  And I did!  😀  Here’s a close-up of the piece:

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Sorry for the focus issue!  😀  After I was done, I put a book page behind it and framed it.  Here’s the piece, all framed and ready to go!

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I want to do more of these today and try more colorways!  😀