Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chilly December

Sub-zero temperatures, snow, freezing rain...this is what we have had for the past couple of weeks. The positive side to this is all I want to do is hang out inside the studio with the heaters on, so some projects are actually getting done. My calligraphy guild had its annual Christmas party last weekend, we have a gift exchange where everyone brings a hand lettered piece, numbers are drawn and you get a lovely piece of calligraphy done by a guild member. A couple of posts ago there were pictures of some letters I had done, this is the one I took to the party to exchange, all gussied up with some machine stitching, rhinestones, and layering on fabric and paper.

I have just finished a elegant little CD & Memorabilia book, holds 5 CD's and a great presentation when you give someone music or photo CD's. This is a class I look forward to teaching in 2010.

The plate will be full after the New Year, I will be attending ArtFest again this year with my Art Posse (you know who you are!) so there are 32 ATC's due by Feb 15th and about 80+ trades to come up with and complete before March 23rd. I figure if I lock myself in the studio with the iPod on shuffle and a case of Merlot...I should have everything done by March, hopefully. I have many ideas, just need to get them from the brain in the real world, I foresee large piles of STUFF on every available surface, but it's important stuff as every artist knows, even if the spousal unit or non-arty friends don't see it that way.

As this is the holiday season I must of course share the obligatory Christmas pictures. Our Christmas lights did not make it up this year, the wind was blowing stink the weekend we had planned to put them up and I did not think it was really fair to make husband go up on the roof to swap out bulbs when it was blowing 60 mph. Here is a pic of lights from previous years, we tend to go the Tackiest House On the Block look, the neighbors may be blinded but its very pretty!

Yes, that is a giant penguin and polar bear, the power company LOVES us. My Christmas village is a staple every year, the cats love it too, there are usually a couple of times when I come home at lunch and the tiny Victorian people have been trampled beneath the paws of Catzilla.

I just noticed in the picture that the house on the left doesn't have a light on, oops...they must have not been able to pay the power bill because they blew all their cash on plum pudding and those highly over-priced Christmas Trees being hawked in the Town Square.

Of course no Christmas is complete without the usual Pet Humiliation pictures, here is one of Dana, from a couple of years ago after being stuffed unwillingly into the Santa outfit.

 And here is Wolf, Rest In Peace big guy, you're picture is on the tree, Momma misses you this year.

Happy Holidays to all, be safe and see you in 2010!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bad Cats and Funky Letters

Winter has arrived in our little corner of Washington State, the garden has been buttoned up for the winter and all of the neighbor's leaves have come to live in my yard. The southwestly winds always blow all the fall leaves right into our lawn and front flowerbed. I know they are not from the only tree I have in the front yard, they are a totally different shape and size.  Short of conducting a full CSI investigation as to the exact source of the offenders and knocking on the neighbors doors demanding they take them back I am stuck with them and have a hot date next weekend with the rake. The neighbors already think I am a little nuts anyway and I am pretty sure they all call me "That Crazy Cat Lady Down The Street" behind my back. Case in point about 3 weeks ago I thought Apollo (studio cat #2) had made it out of the yard. I could not find him anywhere, searched the yard, studio and house completely, not even the lure of shaking the kittie kibble container got a response.

So now I am in full blown panic, scouring the neighborhood in the pitch black, shining my flashlight into everybody's yard, garage and porch within a 3 block radius, yelling the requisite "Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty". Nobody came out to see what the hell I was doing, probably because they were saying to themselves and their guests "Just ignore her, Crazy Cat Lady, she loses that damn animal all the time". After an hour the husband yelled at me across the street, "He's in the house!". Apparently he had been in there the whole time, sleeping off his latest cat nip hit somewhere,  and could not be bothered to wake up and assuage my heart palpitations. I staggered into the house relieved, but filthy from getting down on my hands and knees to peer under vehicles, into crawl spaces through assorted shrubbery.  All I got from him was a sleepy "Dude...whassup?" look, similar to this one....

 If you don't talk to you're cats about catnip, who will?

The studio had been completely gone through, a futon that was taking up was too much space removed to the attic in the garage. I have gone though every single art supply I own, things are looking far more organized. But of course that only lasts for about 5 minutes once I start working on a project...sigh! I was able to spend most of the day in it though, working on some fancy letter techniques I picked up at Letter's of Joy last may. Spoiler alert to members of RainWriters who may be reading this, one of these may be my Christmas Party exchange gift.

Picture is a little blurry, I will need to get a small tripod to make these shots of smaller pieces.

Happy Thanskgiving to all.

Monday, November 2, 2009

New Journal

I signed up for an online class from Carla Sonheim here at Joggles.com, a nifty site for shopping and some very cool classes. I have taken Carla at a couple of ArtFest retreats and loved, loved, loved her as a teacher. The class is Rags to Stitches and a great project for me as I really did need to dust off the sewing machine that I received for Christmas a couple of years ago. I requested one from Santa with all sorts of big intentions, but only managed to make 2 napkins, 1 placemat that was unattractive enough to be re-purposed as a cat food catcher under the cats bowl and 1 extremely basic duvet cover for a foam mattress. I had acquired several books of fabric samples a garage sale and had tons of smaller pieces which were perfect for this project. Basically you sew fabric bits onto cardstock, embellish and sew in signatures. Ever since I lost my beloved Wolf kitty in January I was waiting til the loss wasn't quite so raw to make a journal for his pictures. After running one of my favorite pictures of him through some photo filtering software to give it a colored pencil sketch look I printed it onto some fabric to use as the focal image for the journal. Here is the finished product.

It was really great to get this project done, I will making more. The sewing maching got a good workout, there was no couture looking sewing involved on my part that is for sure but it was a fun journal to make. The inside pages are mix of cardstock and some Arches Text Wove. For the front I glued on some green trim that came with the D-rings already attached and hung some cat theme charms and the tag from his collar (sigh!). The second part of the class is making a scrap fabric purse, I will post pics of that when it is done.

My usual routine is to clean up the studio after I finish a project, as with most artists by the time you get to the finish line there is stuff piled everywhere and you are working in a tiny space on the desk. As I was tidying up (i.e. shoveling crap back into its allocated space) I thought of the magazines published lately that showcase peoples studio's. They always looks so very thoughtfully organized and clean as opposed to my typical pile's o' art stuff decor. So I think somebody should start a new magazine showcasing the studio's in their "natural habitat". There could be articles entitled, "Your Studio, Nuclear Fallout Zone or Hurricane Katrina?" or maybe "So How Long Has In Been Since You Lost That Favorite Stamp/Book/Inkpad/Piece of Ephemera?" Or has my husband so gently puts it "How On Earth Do You Find Anything In Here?". So I present to you in its glory the Blue Dahlia Studio, in a slightly cleaner state than usual.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Winding down to Fall

I am not quite sure where this summer has gone, I had many grandiose plans for all the things I wanted to see, do and get finished, but sadly most did not come to fruition. The tomatoes are ripening fast and I think I will have to book a day off work next week and spend it canning my salsa. I like it with some heat and always get compliments so that will definitely need to get done. Despite a few days of rain the garden is still going along, some things have been pulled out and I find myself looking forward to winter where all I need to do with it is look out the window of the studio and peruse it instead of constantly watering, weeding and fussing. Here is one of my African Daisies still going strong....

The Chinese Lantern plant pods are at their brightest orange now, I will be picking and drying them, they look wonderful piled in a bowl for some autumn color in the house.

The cats absolutely adore the garden and spend most of their time outside. We have a cat fence attached to our 6' cedar fence and they cannot get out of the yard. What is a cat fence you ask? It is a system of metal elbows attached to the existing fence with black mesh strung between, the elbows bend inward (like Alcatraz for kitties!) so they cannot climb over it. Here is a picture, if you look closely between the metal elbows you can see the mesh. It keeps the cats in the yard and I have peace of mind knowing they will not wander off, get hit by a car or attacked by dogs, etc.
August and September were full of fun events, I went to the Fair in Lynden, the first time I had actually made it out there. Never would I have imagined there were so many different kinds of chickens and rabbits, the 4-H barns were great fun. Had my mandatory Elephant Ear, chock full of greasy, cinnamon-y, sugary goodness. Here are a few of my favorite critters from the Fair.

September was my brother-in-laws wedding in Victoria, BC, the ultimate tourist trap. We stopped by the world famous Butchart gardens, took a zillion pictures, especially of the Dahlia's and roses. I have this new Canon camera that takes pretty good pictures, including good macro and I have been going a little crazy with it. There are tons of features on it, including stuff a pro would use but I figure I will need to take a class at the community college to learn all the bells and whistles as I am pretty much "technology challenged".

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I'm teaching at Paper Zone!

I will be teaching my Shrink Plastic Charm class Sunday, September 20, 2009 at Paper Zone here in Bellingham, here is the link for the class calender. Call or stop by to sign up! http://www.paperzone.com/classes/calendar.cfm?Store=23
These charms are fun and easy to make, you can use them for wine charms, jewelry, luggage tags, key chains, embellishments and so much more. Here are a few samples:

In other news we had a great time at the Washington Renaissance Faire, even though it was in the 90's in the shade. Here I am with my best friend Caryn, melting in the heat, and some pics of the other fabulous faire folk in attendance.

We camped at the site they have for folks staying overnight, although our "camping" was pretty plush as we took our fully loaded camper, with air conditioning, hot and cold running water and refrigerator/freezer. The campground was basically a fallow corn field and so we had a great little spot backed up against the corn that was growing on the borders of the field. This is the last weekend for the Faire but they run it for 3 weekends in August every year so put it on your calender for next year! http://www.washingtonrenfaire.com/

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Summer heat

It's hot, hot, hot today in the high 80's and climbing, they predict 90's for tomorrow. It's been constant watering of the garden to keep it in tip top shape. This has been the best summer we have had in several years I think, last year all I had for tomatoes at the end of summer was a ton of green ones that never ripened. This years lots of big green ones now, so they should have ripened nicely by the time it's time to make salsa. Here are the main tomato plants, one Sweet 1 Million, one Early Girl and one Jet Star. Yes, those are prayer flags hanging from the top bar, all those good thoughts are doing good things for my plants, along with my dedicated application of Miracle Gro for Tomatoes. Carrots are planted at the base of the bed, it's a old companion planting fact that Carrots Love Tomatoes.

The beans are humming along also, destined for the pickled bean canning extravaganza in the fall. They are planted by the door to my studio and have already reached the eves and are heading for the roof.

Our county is one of the biggest raspberry producers and the bushes are loaded this year so we went out to a U-Pick field and picked 5 buckets of berries. Using some of the blackberries I had picked and frozen last year I canned 20 jars of jam, I prefer my jam sugar free and when I make it myself and get all that wonderful fruit flavor without all the refined sugar.

Some more garden pictures.....one of my white dinnerplate Dahlia's, Fuchsia's and Dusty Miller.

Next Friday we head off to the Renaissance Faire south of Tacoma, so I will post the highlights and some pics of the debauchery. My best friend and I have full Renaissance garb, including the mandatory cleavage-boosting corset, we usually make our way into the Faire as soon as it opens in one outfit and stagger out a couple of hours later in a whole new one. They have so many vendors selling garb, jewelry and accessories its hard not to Shoppe Til Ye Droppe. The day usually goes something like this...

Early a.m.: Bloody Mary's for the pre-Faire attitude adjustment.

Late a.m.: Finishing purchases of new Faire wardrobe, usually involving a corset change and much cursing and sweating as we stuff our aging bodies into said corset.

Early Afternoon: Off to Ye Old Ale House for more attitude adjustment and singing of naughty medieval ditties, watching the joust and sword fighting and more shopping.

Late Afternoon: Stagger back to camper for dinner and discussion of all the cute Pirates (girl conversation) and sassy Wenches (boy conversation) we saw that day.

I have actually been trying to get some things done in the studio, but that pesky day job keeps taking up so much of my time! I did play with some calligraphy, after having taken a 2 hour class with Lisa Engelbrecht I came up with funky little "M".

Monday, July 6, 2009

Calligraphy Retreat in Minnesota

Well, I am back from my international calligraphy retreat at St. John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, MN. I traveled to the conference with my friend Suzie, a wonderful calligrapher and top notch roommate. We both have a distaste for flying so we decided wouldn't it be fun and interesting to take the train from Washington State to St. Cloud Minnesota? We booked ourselves on Amtrak, on their website they have this lovely picture of an (apparently) roomy "Roomette", which is supposed to comfortably seat 2 with sleeping bunks. We were quite excited to get on the train in Everett and eager to settle into our what we thought would be a snazzy accommodation...imagine our surprise when we were shown to the T.I.N.E.S.T. "room" I have ever seen, literally a sardine can.
Of course we were packing 50 tons of art supplies with us, plus our regular luggage, thank god they gave us free champagne right away, we were literally hysterical by the time we managed to shoehorn ourselves and our crap into that itsy bitsy space. Those people they had in the website ad must have been on drugs to be that damn happy in that teeny space, somebody was VERY creative with the wide-angle lens and photoshop that's all I have to say. Granted, meals were included, they were pretty good and they did lull us with a free wine and cheese tasting to help take the edge off. We made it to St. Cloud 35 hours later, hauled our sorry butts off the train at 6:00 a.m. and called a cab to take us to a restaurant for breakfast as we could not check into the conference til 11:00. Up pulls "Buck", John Wayne's long lost brother and we pile our 50 tons of art supplies into the cab. After more hysterics and lots of coffee we finally made it to the St. John's University and were able to check in early to our room, spartan student housing, but looking pretty dang luxurious after the "Roomette from Hell".

St. John's houses not only the university, but a Benedictine monastery and school of theology, the architecture was absolutely amazing. Here is the main abbey church, the front is solid concrete and houses the church bells.

I had two 2 1/2 day classes, first with Reggie Ezell, learning pressurized Romans, tough for me as I have never attempted those before. I learned a lot and came away with a bunch of handouts so I can continue to work on it at home. The second half of the week was with Carrie Imai, a wonderful instructor from California, teaching "Luscious Letter and Marvelous Marks - Playing Near the Edge". A fabulous class, taking familiar letterforms and letting them out of their box to play and romp around. Here is a sample of some of the work done in class on the first day....

Carrie asked us all to think of a word that had special meaning to us and she would letter it for us in her fantastic, unique italic. I chose the word "Wolf" the name of my wonderful boy kitty that I lost in January to cancer (insert tears here). I told her he had been a cat with a lot of personality and was kind of a bad-ass and this is what she made for me.

There were so many little beautiful spots on the campus, on the far side of the lake there was a little chapel dedicated to Stella Maris, Mary in her incarnation as the protector of travelers at sea. I hiked the mile and half around, in the 85 degree heat with humidity, no less, to take some pictures, and boy was it worth it.

It was hot and humid most of the time we were there, although they did have some humdinger thunderstorms at night. Thank goodness the cafeteria had all you can eat soft serve ice cream, we managed to refrain from having soft serve for breakfast but did indulge in big cones after lunch and dinner, so now I am in ice-cream withdrawal and wondering why my pants are too tight!

Here are some of the other sights from around the monastery and campus. Wonderful pieces of art and sculpture tucked here and there and in the old "Great Hall" church and surrounding buildings.

The trip back was on the train again, this time in coach, although the coach seats actually had more leg room then the "roomette". Notwithstanding the drunk chick who spilled her drinks on Suzie and the nutty guy who talked to himself when he slept we made it home in one piece, totally exhausted but thrilled with our week, although I think next time we'll fly!

I also had some great news when I got back, I had won the People's Choice award in the Stiletto's on Parade contest! Here is my darling little trophy..