Mind The Gap (Part 1)

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This is the first in a series of vignettes inspired by travelers of the London Underground.    

Descending Below

He seeks a reprieve while seated on a park bench, yet cannot escape the briefcase at his feet.  Business calls wherever he lands. The day is long, but feels much too short.  Bright rays of the sun cannot warm or distract, nor can a crisp breeze awaken or detract.  A tired, yet sharp mind pushes forth and leaves the heart behind. He dons a black suit and polished shoes; perfect attire for a boardroom or a funeral.

Three ravens fly overhead, but their wild caws fall upon deaf ears.  He stays focused on pie charts, spreadsheets, and an endless array of numbers.  Concern sharpens the ridge above his nose, for no matter how long he stares, there is too much red and not enough black.  Fountains spray sparkling drops of water, but he does not think to look.  He slams the portfolio shut and stuffs it into his briefcase.  There’s no relief for bloodshot eyes.

In a rush of movement, he makes his way to Lancaster Gate station and descends far below, where he takes the seat of one who has just departed.  Fluorescent lights rob the color out of his cheeks.

Three stops later he disappears into the void.

– – –

Unforeseen

They catch the train just before it departs.  He pushes the stroller and she holds the hand of a little girl wearing pink wellies.  Dad carries a bag filled with a picnic blanket, umbrella, and games.  A family day is the plan regardless of the rain.

The younger child sits still, strapped tightly in her stroller.  She nibbles on a piece of celery in one hand and a slice of apple in the other.  Mom reaches over to fix a few stray hairs and wipes the drool from the young one’s chin.  Older sister can’t sit still, her rambunctious little body hangs from hand rails and bounces from one seat to the next.  Mom laughs for a moment, but soon has had enough.  She asks her little girl to sit still, but has no authority.  The girl in pink wellies giggles and skips around; her mother is wrapped right around her finger.

Dad holds Mom’s hand, but his eyes wander across the aisle towards another.

At Hyde Park they depart, whole for now.

– – –

Calendar Girl

She pages through a pocket calendar hoping to find an extra day.  A fine tip pen adds more things to do on a long list and scribbles new appointments in already full squares.  Heavy make-up darkens a stiff face that has yet to smile today.  Long black hair is wound into a simple bun and not one strand has broken free.  She’s buttoned her trench coat from collar to hem and knotted a belt around her tiny waist. Page after page, she searches over and over again.  There is no blank space or empty memo.

As the train rocks, she closes her eyes.  There are a million more things to do and here she is trapped in a slow-moving tube where all she can do is wait.  And wait.  And wait.  She checks her watch and turns away disgusted.  The sun is surely down and she hasn’t eaten since dawn.  No one waits for her at home, she’s not getting any younger, and nothing seems to change.  She grips the pen in her hand and scribbles in the corner of tomorrow’s agenda.

There are still nine stops to go. What is it all for?

c.b. 2011

Project Art Journal: Page 1

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Project Art Journal is all about creating  a representation of my passion for traveling.  The world is a beautiful place with so much to discover, which meant the pages I created had to be just as eclectic. Page one is very simple at first glance, but there are a number of little surprises hiding in every corner.

Click for full-size image

Supplies:

  • Card stock
  • printed paper
  • postage stamps or general ephemera
  • rubber stamps
  • ink pad
  • gesso
  • acrylic paint
  • foam brush
  • decorative string
  • marker
  • double-stick tape

Just like the cover, page designs are completed in a series of layers.  Like any work of art, each layer builds on another until you get a finished piece.

Layer 1: Card stock foundation

I like to create a thin frame around each page to set off the artwork, but also to serve as a foundation.  Start by cutting a square out of black card stock that’s a hair smaller than the journal page.  This is the base that will be used to support subsequent layers.  Don’t attach it to the journal just yet!

Layer 2: Background

To create the green background,  cut a square out white card stock that is slightly smaller than the black.  Using a foam brush, cover the square with gesso using broad, sweeping strokes.  Go in all different directions to create a strong texture.  Wait a few minutes for the gesso to dry.

Dab a clean foam brush into the acrylic paint and slather it over the gesso with broad strokes.  The color should settle into the gesso texture in a cool way.  If it’s too thick, add a tiny bit of water to the paint.  When the square is covered, set it aside to dry.

Once the paint is dry, it’s time to stamp some text into the background.  My journal is dedicated to travel quotations, so I used a stamp with the same theme, but any text will do.  To make it interesting, try stamping the design in various directions.  Tip: Avoid pigment ink as it sometimes doesn’t dry completely when used on acrylic paint or gesso.

Layer 3: Quote Square

Cut a smaller square or rectangle out of card stock or printed paper.  I chose something that had minimal design so there would be room to write the quotation.  The quotation I used on this page is one I’ve always loved.  I’ve written about what it means to me in The Art of Wandering.  Tip: Map out the location of the words and lines in pencil before whipping out that marker!

To give the space a little more ooomph, I stamped a compass with the same ink I used in Layer 2. A vellum sticker would probably work just as well.

If the ink is dry on Layer 2, attach the quote square using double-stick tape.  Then attach the whole piece to Layer 1, (the black square).

Layer 4: Embellishments

At this point, it’s all about adding flare and filling in the bald spots. Stickers, stamped squares you create, or any other piece of ephemera will work for this process.   I used a combination of postage stamps and stamped paper.  The woman’s face is a stamp that I inked and cut out for dramatic effect.

So, pick out some fun pieces and start playing!  This is my favorite part of the process because its so much fun to experiment with different shapes and placements. Once you figure out where everything should go, a little double-stick tape is all you need!

Lastly, I added some sparkle with a fancy piece of string I found in my embellishment box.  If you use string, be careful not to pull it to tightly.  Instead of tying, tape the ends to the back.

When Layer 4 is complete, its time to adhere the whole piece to the journal.  Use long strips of double-stick tape along the edges on the back.  I even throw in a few diagonal strips in the middle for good measure.  Stick it down to the paper bag page and press all corners and edges with your fingers.

Now, sit back and admire your work!

– – –

Next week there will be chalk, fire, and gold thread.  Until then, stay inspired!

c.b. 2011

Wreck This Journal: Go Wild!

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Click for full-size image

In my first Wreck This Journal post, (Letting Go), I promised to explain the rip in the binding.  In the original image of my journal, there is a rather large tear at the bottom of the spine.  Never in my life had I allowed something so destructive to befall a book and I should have been horrified. However, a wild bout of activity has a funny way of changing a long held opinion.

At one point in the journal, there is a page that literally gives instructions to attach the journal to a string and swing it wildly.  The book lover in me cringed, but the curious explorer within was already looking for the yarn I knew was hiding in the closet.   I nestled the yarn along the spine and tied it into a good knot. The last thing I wanted was for the yarn to come undone and send the journal flying towards the two other people in the room.

With the yarn secure and a tight grasp on the ends, I started to swing the journal over my head, around in circles, and with flailing zigzags all around my body.  The journal hit the walls and the closet doors several times, all while flapping open and closed.  As for me, I giggled with primal joy.

Upon inspection, I found the yarn had torn an inch long gash up the binding!  The destruction was severe, but to my utter and complete surprise it felt great.  I decided it gave the book some real character and provided the first real evidence that it was living up to its title.  I documented this adventure with some markers and a silver metallic pen so as to never forget my journal’s wild flight. Like so many other journal activities, this one changed my perspective in a profound way.

The idea of breaking so many rules (without hurting anyone) reminded me of how much freedom there is when it comes to creativity and imagination.  I can do anything.  I can create anything.  I can. I can. I can!  These are powerful words and they kept repeating in my head as I whipped the journal round and round.

This experience made me go back and think about how much freedom I allow myself when I write.  Sometimes we get so caught up in wondering what everyone else will think or whether a publisher will be interested, we forget the true essence of what it means to write.  A writer can create any character, any story . . . anything.  For a long time, I jumped into my novel nitpicking every “right” way to write a story.  Then, I realized I didn’t set out to write my book because I could figure out a novel formula.  I had a story to tell and I had to give myself the freedom to tell it in my own voice and in my own way.

I can.  I can.  I can.

– – –

Previous Wreck This Journal posts:

Letting Go

Keep Reaching

Ignite the Spark

Be Unpredictable 

Embrace Imperfection

Mess

Insomniac

Time Flies

Inner Critic

Freedom

c.b. 2011

Blue Ribbon Mania

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The Arizona State Fair opened this weekend complete with a ferris wheel and a myriad of deep-fried foods on a stick.  No matter how old I get or how many times I’ve gone to the fair, it’s still exciting to hear the gates are opening once again. Bring on the livestock shows, fast-spinning rides, and homemade fudge that makes my mouth water just thinking about it!  However, my favorite part of the fair happens inside the exhibition halls as my family has had a long tradition of competing for ribbons in the Arts and Crafts shows.

I’ll be the first to say my family is a talented bunch.  My mom makes amazing wreathes, ceramics, and mop dolls, while my sister is the ultimate paper crafter and gives Mom a run for her money in ceramics.   Grandpa constructs amazing model trains and Grandma sews quilts so beautiful it feels like a crime to touch them.  As for me, I do everything from sewing, paper crafts, cross stitch, quilting, and felt applique.  The fair always gives everyone a project  and a reason to try something new.  No matter the category, it’s all about that blue ribbon or better still, the coveted rosette.

Over the years, I’ve collected a number of ribbons for various projects and with the fair opening this week I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic.  The fair always brings out the best in my family not only in terms of artistry, but in creating strong connections and wonderful memories.

My collection of State and County Fair Ribbons

It took some doing, but I managed to track down some of my previous projects. Many of my projects are given as gifts or even disassembled for spare parts, but I do keep track of what wins on the back of each ribbon.  They have pesky rules about entering a project more than once, so its important to remember what’s been entered and when!

  

When I was very young, my Grandma taught me how to sew.  It’s a skill I use to this day and its brought me some luck at the fair, too!  Most of my ribbons were won in sewing categories including quilts, felt applique, and stuffed animals.  The sunflower quilt was the first blue ribbon I’d ever won and it remains one of my all-time favorite projects.

  

Ever since I was a small child, I loved Barbie and that love has yet to subside.  I’ve made everything from evening gowns, wedding dresses, and vintage designs for my dolls.  A number of my dresses have won blue ribbons, while the rest raked in the red second place ribbon (still nice!).  There are at least three more dresses floating around somewhere, but try as I may, I could not find them.

  

The nice thing about the fair is that it occurs in October, which is well before Christmas and right before Halloween. I like to make holiday decorations for my home, so most of the holiday projects I make for the fair have a long life after the ribbons have been awarded.  The felt applique advent calendar is one of my favorite pieces.  It hangs in my house every Christmas and it has the added bonus of being a blue ribbon winner.  The cross stitch Santa is one of those projects that took years to complete (it’s the largest cross stitch I’ve ever done).  I’m pretty proud that I actually finished it and even more thrilled that it won!

  

The Halloween placemat is the one and only decoration I have for that holiday.  I’m usually not inspired by black cats and pumpkins, but for some reason I was compelled to make this using three different patterns.  It goes out every year and I still love my “boo-tiful” felt project.

Its been a few years since the family has competed.  The fair stopped giving rosettes and life has interfered with a few distractions as it often does.  However, we are planning to get back into the game next Spring with the County Fair.  The spirit of competition calls and we can’t help but answer. Besides, we are crafters and creativity can only be kept at bay for so long!

c.b. 2011

Project Art Journal

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A few years ago, my aunt taught me how to make an art journal out of brown paper bags.  She is an incredibly artistic person who always inspires me to be creative and try new things.  I’ve made more than a few paper bag journals since, but one stands out as my favorite – an art journal dedicated to travel quotations.

I thought it might be fun to share the process of the project from start to finish.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some of my favorite pages and techniques.  I am by no means an expert, but  I do enjoy creating and inspiring others to do the same.

The construction of the book is pretty simple and only requires a few supplies.

  • 4 brown paper bags
  • Paper piercer (or an ice pick)
  • cotton string (DMC Pearl Cotton is my favorite)
  • needle (a large embroidery or crewel needle works well)

Step 1: Gather four brown bags and fold them in half.  Stack them so that the open (top) and closed (bottom) ends alternate.  When the book is complete, the open ends double as pages and pockets.

Step 2: Poke five evenly spaced holes on the fold line.

Step 3: Thread needle with thread and stitch in the following pattern:
Down through #1 and leave a long tail of thread.  Either tack it in place or hold it with your thumb.

Up through #2 and down through #3

 

Back up through #2 and down again through #1.  Hold onto that tail!

Up through #4 and down through #5

 

Back up through #4

Grab the tail coming out of #1 and the tail coming out of #4 and tie them together with a good knot.

All done!  You’ve got a hand-stitched book!

Usually, I save the cover for last, but the idea came so quickly I had to act!  The cover is constructed in three layers of paper collage and embellishments.

Layer 1: I cut out a square of black card stock so I could mount a collage of postage stamps from around the world. Most craft and hobby stores sell bulk bags of stamps for around $6.00.  To add some sheen, I used some gold nail polish to paint a thin coat over a few of the stamps.  It’s a subtle touch that gives the stamps a little ooomph.

Layer 2:  I took some gold thread and wrapped it around the entire square at a variety of angles.  I didn’t plan the route of any thread, I just let them land where they may.  At multiple points, I taped the thread down on the back to keep it secured in place.

Layer 3: I added three textured fibers along the left side.  Each strand has a charm, bead,  and a word tag at different intervals.  I created the word tags with a set of alphabet stamps, ink pad, and eyelets.  To give the tags a distressed look, I ripped the edges, crumbled the paper and ran a translucent brown ink pad over the top.  After the creating is done, all it takes is a few strips of double-stick tape to attach the collage to the cover of the book.
Note: The postal string on the right is simply a tie down so I could get a good photograph.

– – –

Pages and layout ideas are on the horizon.  Stay tuned and stay inspired!

Want more creative inspiration?  Visit  Salmagundi Arts,  a fantastic blog about bookbinding, knitting, making handmade soap, and other amazing craft projects.

c.b. 2011