Saturday, September 27, 2014

Just a quick update to say "hi, I'm still here"... photos from August and September, from art projects with friends to first birthdays and first days of school and ballet to just hanging around the house together. Hope you are all enjoying this beautiful transition to fall as much as we are!

reliving my childhood - a Betsy-Tacy adventure

Monday, September 1, 2014

I've been back in the saddle with lots of custom orders in my Etsy shop this summer, and it always feels great to work on items that have personal significance in some way. My favorite recent order was a set of four necklaces, each featuring a picture of elementary-school-aged Betsy, Tacy, and Tib (plus Betsy's little sister Margaret) from the wonderful series by Maud Hart Lovelace. Elizabeth, the woman who contacted me, ordered the necklaces for her daughter and nieces, who have been reading the books and decided to take a trip to the Betsy-Tacy Society in Mankato, Minnesota to see the childhood home of "Betsy" (Maud Hart Lovelace) and learn more about the books and the author. I was thrilled: I have fond memories of my own visit there as a child, and it made me nostalgic for my home state and those charming stories. What better project, really?

I wish I had thought to take a picture of the completed set of necklaces, because they were so sweet and some of my favorite pieces I've created, but I was in too much of a hurry to get them in the mail and to Elizabeth in time for their big trip. Luckily, however, she took some beautiful photos of the girls having the time of their lives in "Deep Valley" and gave me permission to share this collage with you (you can see a great shot of the "Betsy" necklace in the lower left, and you'll notice the girls wearing their pendants in the other photos as well):

I'm so honored to have been a part of their adventures "Over the Big Hill" - thank you for sharing, Elizabeth!

Blog Hop: My Art and Process

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I was tagged to participate in a blog hop about my current artistic endeavors, and I wrote the post below a few weeks ago but wasn't able to post it due to being on vacation with only my not-at-all-trusty iPod Touch with me. So, without further ado, here's my belated entry:

My friend Robyn, who is an amazing artist and all-around creative genius (evidence here, here, and here), recently blogged about her current work and inspirations and tagged me to do the same. I'm feeling a little bit daunted by putting my post up next to hers for comparison, because she is always attempting amazing new things and I'm, well, doing the same old, same old in between diaper changes. But here goes.

1. What am I working on? I've been making more of my story bracelets - wooden bangles onto which I decoupage selected lines of text from vintage books - to prepare for an upcoming [edit: now past] show, the Rockford City Market. I'll have a few of my items on display there alongside Robyn and our friend Ann as part of the Lucky Penny Collective, the name we've given ourselves for our joint ventures as crafters and (fingers crossed!) art market creators. Anyway, it's been a year since I've made any of these, so it feels good to get back in the saddle.

I've also been hoarding vintage fabric lately because I have a vision for a slightly new direction for my shop: I'd like to sell, in limited quantities, some purses, clutches, scarves, and headbands repurposed from vintage sheets and handkerchiefs. It's an idea I've been working on since last summer, but I haven't had the time to bring it to fruition yet, especially since experimenting with a new idea takes so much longer than churning out more of what I already know how to do. I have visions for some vintage book page buntings made with vintage lace and ribbon, too, but I haven't gotten farther than just collecting the raw materials so far.

As far as writing goes - since that's the other part of my "creative self" - I have slowly been getting caught up on a small, private blog I keep just for close friends and family with updates about my two daughters. I consider this my public writing space, but the other blog is just the quiet, ordinary details of our day-to-day life that I try to keep for posterity purposes. My ultimate goal is to publish the blog entries as a series of "yearbooks" for the girls - a virtual scrapbook printed on actual paper that they can keep just as they would treasure a photo album. I'm really behind on the entries, though, and it's overwhelming trying to edit photos and write the little stories that accompany each entry. I'd like to be up-to-date with it by the end of the summer.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? To be honest, I don't know that it does. I often feel that what I create is derivative. I do think that, with my English teaching background, I tend to be pretty particular about the text I use in the jewelry I create, whereas some other Etsians who make similar items don't seem to be as choosy about the words they feature. I've also noticed that a lot of book jewelry out there is actually made from good quality photocopies or scans so that the artist can make multiples of a great segment of text that works well for a pendant, for example - and I'm just not willing to do that, which means I spend a lot of time poring over the books I've collected to find new pieces to use.

3. Why do I write/create what I do? It's pretty obvious if you've been a long-time blog reader, but I'm a bibliophile and I desperately need a creative outlet of my own while I'm at home with the girls. I certainly have to be creative coming up with activities to keep Lorelei and Phoebe busy, but I find that if I don't have a mental and psychological space of my own, I get very restless and resentful.

4. How does your creating process work? In fits and starts, because I don't ever have long blocks of time any more. These days, I work faster than I'd like, and so sometimes things don't turn out the way I've been picturing in my head. Maybe in the future I'll have time to linger over the creative process again, but for now, it's mostly hurry-hurry-hurry. I do spend a lot of time envisioning future products while I'm awake with a baby at 3am, so at least things are percolating around up there! When I do have a chance to work, it's usually in front of something on Netflix - I like to have noise on in the background while I'm creating. When it's clean, I like to work in my craft room, but it's also a guest room and - to tell the truth - a dumping ground for lots of kid project materials and other random things, so I find myself at my dining room table more than I'd like.

I'm tagging three other artists/writers/creative types - hoping to read all about your own creative processes on Monday, July 7th if you choose to share!

Manda of Captain Apricot
Meg of Boho Mama
Stephanie of Adventures of an Artist, Wife, and Mom

a Frog and Toad birthday party.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lorelei turned three a few weeks ago, and for a month or two before the actual big day she kept telling us she wanted a "Frog and Toad party" in honor of her favorite book series. Pinterest informed me that, sadly, this is not a very common party theme for the toddler set - so I was on my own to come up with the details.

This was Lorelei's first-ever kid party, and even though we were keeping it fairly small, I decided that having it somewhere other than our house was the best plan - and where better than a pool, since one of the best Frog and Toad stories is all about going for a swim in your funny-looking bathing suit? We're lucky enough to have an amazing kids-only pool in our community, so once we reserved our day and time, I drafted up the invites, using an old copy of one of the books for the illustrations and border.

Lorelei at first requested a Frog and Toad cake, but I'm not anybody's idea of a cake boss, and after rejecting several local bakeries that are known for their Crisco-laden frosting or boxed mixes, I started to worry that I was going to have to break the bad news to her that a cake like this one was never going to happen. Luckily, she changed her mind - and once she started asking for chocolate cupcakes instead, I knew I'd have no trouble making and decorating those myself. Twenty minutes, a box of toothpicks, double-sided tape, and some craft punches were all I needed to turn the rest of that worn-out copy of the stories into cupcake toppers. (I snagged the polka-dot cupcake liners and the oversized white sprinkles on Amazon.)

For the party itself, most of the time was spent in the pool so I had very little to prepare - perfect! We went with green decorations (with a few rainbow touches thrown in for good, girly measure) and I served ice cream in paper drink cups alongside the cupcakes - a trick that seemed to really help contain the mess.

At the end of the party, each child went home with a Frog and Toad-themed gift bag. If I were a better blogger, I'd have taken pictures of all of the contents - instead, you can barely see them in the background in this shot:

I'm just as overwhelmed with stuff as the next parent, so I wanted to make something for the party guests that wouldn't just add to everyone's household clutter. I thought it'd be fun for each of the kids to have a set of activities to do connected to some of our favorite Frog and Toad stories, so I burned a CD for each child with an audio recording of Arnold Lobel reading "The List," "The Garden," "Cookies," and "The Letter." Then, in addition to the CD, each bag held the following (edited to add: I found most of the supplies in bulk at the dollar store or used what we had here at home, so each bag was less than $2.50 per kiddo):

* a small green notepad (for making their own lists)
* a pot and a small packet of wildflower seeds
* a half-pint Mason jar filled with the ingredients for making a toddler-sized batch of cookies
* a blank white card in an envelope, complete with a stamp (for best friend letter-writing)
* 6 markers to go with the list and card

The bags were decorated with a classic Frog and Toad image and had an explanation of the contents so parents could help kids with the activities once they got home.

All in all, a pretty simple little party - but I think the birthday girl and her 6 buddies had a great time!

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