Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Finding Home...

I've always thought of myself as someone who would create no matter what the circumstances....that creativity was some how my savior, or at least a large part of my happy place.  I created during the most stressful 4 years of my life, as a student at Bastyr...one of my saving graces was "drawing" my anatomy notes.  I was creative during bouts of depression in my early 20's, but somehow 2014 was different...and really it all started mid 2013.

July 2013 my husband and I decided that our life in Italy was unsustainable and we need a change, a great big, gigantic change.  After much discussion, research and consideration we settled on moving to  New Zealand.  At this point in the story it is easy to say, "Oh, poor baby, moving from Italy to New Zealand," and in many aspects you would be correct....but the reality of completely uprooting your family and changing hemispheres is quite unsettling.

In August 2013 we began the visa process.  From August until March 2014 we fretted daily, sometimes hourly about whether or not we would get the visa, and what we should, or should not do if that became a reality.  Think of a really intense roller coaster ride that lasts 7 months.  Add to that the worry of finding a new job from halfway around the world.

March 2014 found both the visa and the job....we were going!...going into the the complete unknown! In June all of our possessions where boxed up and put into crates. We said "good-bye" to our home of 7 years, to the only home my daughter had ever known, to all of our friends, to the friends my son had had since preschool.  We said "good-bye" to our adopted Italian family, to the children's surrogate grand-parents....it was rough, very, very rough.  By mid-June we had left the summer heat of Italia and entered the beginning of the New Zealand winter, in Wellington.

I had managed to arrange temporary lodging for 10 days in New Zealand.  During those first 10 days my husband started a new job (after 3 days), my children started school, and  just in the nick of time I managed to secure more temporary housing.  The last day of June we moved into a little furnished apartment in a lovely little suburb just outside of central Wellington.

Wellington winter is rainy and cool and extremely windy!  So while the rest of the family was at work and school I was at "home," trying desperately to make good use of my time and do something creatively meaningful....anything would do.  Alas, "Funk" became my middle name, and on some days my first and last name as well. Creativity was not flowing, not even a trickle.  I had bouts of depression in college, it made for some great "dark" art, but this was different.

September 2014 the tides began it change, we found a fabulous "character home" on a hillside, with an amazing view, and moved in the second week of October.  October I was busy getting everything unpacked and getting everyone settled...no time to worry about creativity or the lack there of.

I also started a new job, in October, working once a week as a tutor at a really amazing Art Workshop space in Wellington.  As part of my training, I attended a zine making workshop taught by one of the other tutors there. I attended the workshop to learn how workshops were run, but came away with so much more....or at least the spark of so much more.  

I went in to the workshop with no idea what so ever as to what I would make a zine about, and just started working on the first thing that popped into my head.  I named my zine "7 departures....7 arrivals...Finding Home."  It started out to be about the physical journey of arriving here, but ended up being a realization that it was this idea of "home" that I had been missing.

I am well aware I can create through stress, and through depression, but I was surprised to learn that the creative juices dry up with out the security of "home."  They say home is not a place, but a feeling, and I suppose that is true, but I needed a place where I knew I didn't have to pack up and leave any time soon, a place I felt secure, that is home....so for me it turns out home is both a place and a feeling, and an absolute necessity my creative process.

Which leads us to November when I was approached by a costume designer from Boston.  She inquired as to whether or not I did custom mask patterns.  I ended up acceptingd a challenge that at other times I would have politely declined, and have spent the last two months in the throws of mask designing and making!  I put the last of the masks in the mail yesterday.  I feel like I might be back to my normal Creative Compulsive self....I have about a million ideas right now.....


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Raccoon Mask

rocket raccoon mask
OxeyeDasiey Raccon Mask
Today is the Raccoon Mask's premier in the Etsy shop!  Yes, we did see Gaurdians of the Galaxy, and yes, we are Rocket Raccoon fans, and yes, it may have influenced the decision to make a Raccoon Mask!  Fun, fun!  Hope you enjoy the new mask!  

Fun for girls....

raccoon mask
Raccoon Mask
and boys (of all ages)!

raccoon mask
Raccoon Mask

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Muskox Birthday

When I asked my daughter what kind of birthday party she would like, I was not expecting "MUSKOX!"  In fact my first response was something along the lines of, "REALLY?!"  Unbeknownst to me muskox are fluffy, and comfortable, AND her favorite animal!  Who knew.  After the initial shock, I must admit I was really, really excited to have a muskox party.  She knew exactly what she wanted, a muskox pinata, a Pin the Tail on the Muskox game, muskox masks for all her friends, and a muskox cake.

Party preparations started with the muskox pinata.  "So what color would you like the muskox to be?" "BLUE!  I would like a BLUE muskox!"  Obviously, what a silly question.  So early on the muskox party turned into the blue muskox party.  During the making of the pinata, we went from just any ol' blue muskox to "Rachel"...."Rachel the Big Blue Muskox".  

The only problem with naming a pinata is that it makes the thought of breaking the pinata terribly stressful....which is how I ended up making two pinatas and Rachel became a party decoration and NOT a pinata.  

Finally the day of the party arrived!  As requested, we played Pin the Tail on the Muskox.  In my experience, Pin the Tail on the Whatever is wildly popular with the young ones.  Muskox tail pinning was no exception.  

I enjoy making the games a part of the party decoration.  As it turns out, I found painting blue muskoxen very satisfying.....so satisfying we add another game/party decoration....and another blue muskox....

This game we called "Wrangle the Muskox".  Basically a game of ring toss, we used hula hoops and a the muskox painting attached to a post.  We had three hula hoops going at once which made waiting for your turn much shorter, and the game more enjoyable.  

Rachel had her moment in the spotlight when we played, "Feed the Muskox".  I wrote a blog post a few years ago titled, "The Ultimate Birthday Party Game Guide".   Bean Bag toss is one of the tried and true favorites, and can fit almost any themed party.  Like the hula hoops in the ring toss, we had many bean bags making it unnecessary to wait long for a turn.  My son and his friends helped things run smoothly by tossing the bean bags back to the waiting crowd.  

We used the muskox masks in a game of chase.  I gave all the children muskox masks and one a wolf mask. Once you were tagged by the wolf you switched your muskox mask for a wolf mask and became a wolf until everyone was a wolf.  The kids played this game for a very long time and when it was finally over we were very ready for cake! 

OK, fair warning.....no mocking the cake.  If you are ever tasked with making a blue muskox cake with cream cheese frosting and you succeed in making an amazing cake, then you can mock my cake...but until then, only smiles and nods allowed.  It tasted good, and she loved it.  

Our last hoorah was the pinata.  As promised, Rachel was spared.  The pinata was filled with candy and small plastic animals.  

Blue Muskox turned out to be one of my favorite themed birthday parties to create.  Most importantly, our 7 year old had the, "BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!!!"

Friday, July 18, 2014

Capturing a Moment in Time....Our Pressed Flower Book

There are so many tender moments I would love to place in a bottle and save for later....  

I love to take walks with my camera, noticing all the flowers, insects, and other little wonders.  On our walks together, Mini Me likes to walk and take pictures, too.  It was her idea that we should make a flower book together.  She had a very elaborate plan.  However, in trying to be just like Mommy, she turned the extended lens of her camera....which doesn't work so well for a point and shoot.  She was devastated.  

Fast forward through the tears and wailing ...on to Plan B...Let Mommy take the pictures and you can pick and press the flowers, and we will put them together in a special book. Plan B was a brilliant success.  

Though we made our book in the late Winter and early Spring, this project would work well in the Summer and Fall, too!

You can use a flower press, but I chose to keep things simple and used a manageable sized book when were out on our walks. Carefully place the picked flower or leaf in the book so the petals will be well displayed later. Practice makes this task easier.  If the plant you are pressing is plentiful, press a few different samples. 

Once you are back home, you can transfer the pressed plants to a larger book.  I used a Physicians Desk Reference...which is huge. Phone books also work well.  I found that placing the plants on a sheet of paper and then placing them in the book makes it easier to remove the plants later. The sooner you place the plants in the larger book, the better.  When the plants are still fresh you can gently move the petals and leaves a bit so they are arranged how you would like them.  

Stack some more books on top of the one where the plants are being pressed, or place another heavy object on top to weight the book down.  Wait for a few days...we waited a week.

There are several ways to preserve and arrange plants after they are dried...the internet is full of ideas...this is how we made our flower book....

I cut squares of acid free paper.  I used Bristol board because it fairly thick, and I knew could handle the moisture in the following steps.  

We arranged the plants of our liking.  To hold them in place I used a small amount of acid free glue behind the larger parts of the plant.  

Next, we carefully painted on Acrylic Medium.  I think Mod Podge would have worked just as well, but I had Acrylic Medium handy.  We found it most successful to paint out from the center of the flower.  This took a little practice, and some trial and error.  

Finally, we set the plant and paper above the radiator to dry.  The Acrylic Medium only took a few hours to dry to the touch, but I let them sit over night for good measure.  

After the plants and papers were dry we placed them into a special photo album. We arranged the dried plants on one side and a photograph of the same plant on the other side.  I wrote the botanical name, common English name, and the common Italian name next to each plant.   

The book is our special treasure.  A store of fun times spent outdoors together, and fun times spent indoors working on projects together. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Herbivore vs. The Mask Maker

Bunny Mask
Rabbit Mask

Ahhh, the dilemmas of the mask maker. I've made several animal masks,  most recently, a Bear Mask and a Rabbit Mask, simultaneously.  The simultaneous making of the Bear and the Rabbit highlighted one of the challenges of mask making.  We have forward facing eyes.  Our forward facing eyes make masks of carnivores and omnivores less challenging than those of herbivores.  Herbivores have spent their time on the evolutionary food chain with their heads down munching grass.  Their eyes are on the sides of their heads so they can munch away and still be on the lookout for what may eat them.  Eyes on the sides of the head present a special challenge for the mask maker. When you put forward facing eyes on an animal that otherwise would have side facing eyes they go from a sweet little bunny to vicious bunny...dare I say "evil bunny"... if you aren't very careful. 

And now pictures of the Bear and the Rabbit.  You decide, vicious or cute? ....

Grizzly Bear Mask
Bear Mask

Easter Bunny

Grizzly Bear Mask

Easter Bunny

Grizzly Bear mask

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A New Quilt

The last project of 2013 was finishing my son's quilt. A few days into the New Year design work began on my daughter's quilt.  One day early January, as we were sitting in the chiropractor's office looking through an interior design magazine together, I realized she really likes bold geometric shapes.  I was happy for this realization, because it probably would not have been my first choice for her.  A few days later I worked up a preliminary drawing that she like, and she picked out fabrics.  Before I began cutting out squares the two of us sat down and looked at different quilt boards on Pintrest...just to make sure she really liked the design. She found a quilt with an eight pointed star and asked if we could add stars to the quilt.  Who am I to deny the child stars on her quilt? The original design had red squares, so with a wave of the magic wand we added points to the squares and voila!  We have stars.  I think the stars were a wonderful addition to the quilt, it seems like a nice blend of traditional and modern.  She loves it.

Last night I finally began the quilting.  I wanted to quilt it with concentric circles, she wanted it to be quilted with fun things, like her brother's quilt.  So we compromised, I am doing concentric circles of fun things.  I've been "collecting" different embroidery stitches.  It is slow going...I'll post more later, but the early report is favorable.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Potato Print Snow People

So, my New Year's Resolution is to "finish unfinished projects," and I am careful not to say, "ALL unfinished projects," or "to not start new projects until the old projects are finished"...but, simply to finish unfinished projects. I wanted to finish these snow people before Christmas...last year. I found them today when I was looking for something else entirely. They seemed like a perfect candidate for realizing the resolution.

These are so fun and easy....

I began with black cotton velveteen rectangles. Why cotton velveteen? Well, I had just finished a holiday dress and it was handy.  Most any fabric would work, but I like the look of something with a nap and the black was a good contrast to the white of the snow people.

Next, cut some potatoes in half, I wish I had a picture, but really, this was a year ago, and I think you can handle a mental picture of a potato cut in half.  Then, dipped the cut side of said potato in white fabric paint mixed with a little glitter paint...the glitter is very important.  Press the potato paint side down on to the fabric to begin "building" snow people.  Doing a test run is highly recommended, you do need to apply a fair amount of pressure to the potato.  Making the potato print is great fun for all ages, definitely enlist the help of a wee one or two, if they are around.

After the snow people are dry...probably 24 hours or so...begin sewing features on to the snow people, to personalize them.  This part was a big hit with the younger crowd, sorting through and picking out beads and buttons, how could it not be fun? My lovely assistant did a smashing job.

I cut up some holey shirts to use for the hats and scarves (once upon a time, that red scarf was my favorite shirt).  The hems of the shirts make perfect hat bands. The red hat, on the shortest snow person, is from the sleeve an old sweater.

Here is how to tie the scarves...

First, with right sides together, sew two scarf halves on either side of the head.

After the scarf halves were sewn down, tie a simple knot.  To finish, tack the knot down.

At this point I let the project sit for about 13 months....it helps the paint cure...not really, but if it helps,
you can tell yourself that.

Finally, find the project buried in a pile of unfinished projects, and turn the neglected, but still adorable snow people in to incredibly handsome pillows.  And don't worry, snow people aren't just for Christmas...Winter has barely begun here in the Northern Hemisphere...Go forth and make snow people....

...make a whole snow family...

....or just one rogue snow dude in red boots...it's SNOW much fun!