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!



happy days.

Friday, May 16, 2014

I've been microblogging my #100daysofhappiness over on Twitter. I decided not to follow the directions and I've been photoless so far - it just feels artificial to have to document everything with a camera instead of just living it, you know? It's been fun deciding which moments from my days to celebrate and document, and I feel like it's really in keeping with my goal to be more intentional in my words and actions.

Yesterday started out gray and rainy and chilly. We're attempting to get rid of Phoebe's swaddle for good this time, so she's crazy overtired and her naps are almost nonexistent. Both girls got covered with food at lunch and I had to eat standing up because a certain baby was too fussy to sit still. I wrangled both girls on my own at dinner and bedtime because Jason went to Chicago for a "work conference" (ha, ha) and ended up needing to stay the night after having a little too much fun. It would have been super easy to focus on all of that and be frustrated about the whole day.

Instead, I happily watched my little girl in two Pippi Longstocking braids and her favorite pink shoes head off to visit preschool with her Daddy. I got to have lunch with two great friends who took turns bouncing my baby and laughing at Lorelei's antics. I was stopped multiple times on a stroll around the pond in the afternoon with compliments about my "funny" and "cute" toddler who is a "great little walker." I managed to get Phoebe in the back carry position with the Ergo all by myself so I could get some work done. Lorelei had a blast in her "girls' night" bubble bath. And I got to finish the last of the black raspberry frozen custard all by myself because no one was around to fight me for it.

This morning? Snow (!?), Phoebe was up crying at 5, the house was a mess by 9, and Lorelei had an epic tantrum. But you know what? I bet I'll still have trouble picking what made me the happiest. (Find out here!)


back to school.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

When we first decided to move here back in the spring of 2009, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to find a teaching job, so I was ready to take some time off, study for the GRE, and figure out a new direction for my career in education. Then, an on-paper dream job as a literacy coach fell in my lap, and I was very happy and lucky to hold that position for two years before I quit to stay home with Lorelei. Now I find myself at that crossroads I had expected all those years ago, trying to decide what to do once the girls are both in school. I'm finding the process of deciding what to do next even more complicated this time around.

Before I became a mom, I thought I'd do some soul-searching and pursue a degree, and eventual career, in whatever field I felt most passionate about, and that was rapidly seeming to be the world of instructional coaching. (I love teaching, but I love helping other teachers refine their craft even more - part of the reason I was so thrilled to get the job when I moved here.) I thought about enrolling in a master's program for curriculum and instruction, but I also wanted to take courses in adult education - to better prepare myself to work with teachers instead of the teenagers I'm used to teaching.

But being an instructional coach would most likely require me to do a fair amount of traveling and commuting to various school districts - and would mean a lot of hours before and after school in addition to over the summer, since those are the times when teachers are free to work with a coach. As passionate as I am about teaching and education, my heart now lies with my two beautiful girls, and I know that a job that takes me away from them isn't right for me, right now. And finding a job in this town, with my skill set, that fits their schedule and isn't regular classroom instruction? Pretty slim pickings.

I know that finishing master's coursework is my next step - I'm not going to be able to do much without it, even though I was lucky to get my last job based on previous experience and a lot of obvious passion for the work I'd be doing. But getting a degree just to have it, as opposed to studying what I'm excited about, feels like drudgery.

So I'm starting to study for the GRE, just like I thought I would be five years ago this month. And, even though I'm 33, I'm feeling like I have a lot in common with my 22-year-old former students who are all wondering, as they walk off the podium with their college diplomas this month, what in the world to do next.

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