Maniacal Ribbons

Twinkle Magic* * *

As someone with an artist’s studio in my 475 square foot apartment, I’ve learned the art of using space creatively.  I need to be able to see my stuff, or I forget that I have it—so lots of glass jars, open cubbies, and stuff on the walls.  I also try to keep my art stuff on or near my work table, so while the creative juices bubble, I can look up, look around, and see the perfect next step.

I love the challenge of it, just like I love the challenge of turning every inch of my apartment into beautiful, useable space.  It makes me feel creative in a different way, smart with a tape measure and calculator—capable.

BacksideWhen Tammy sent me her pile of discontinued silk cord, I knew I needed them out and visible instead of tucked into little plastic bags.  Then, I thought of the huge jar of trim and ribbons that sits on the backside of my table.  I forget about that stuff back there.  Wouldn’t it be great to have ALL OF IT out?  All the reds in one place?  All the greens there for me to sort through  and find the perfect choice?

All last week I sorted, counted, drew and cut patterns, tried and discarded ideas, hit walls of frustration, and went colorblind.  I knew I was leaning into mania with all the ideas flying and the urgency behind finding the perfect solution.  I wasted a lot of card stock, bought gadgets at Menard’s that didn’t work, but I wasn’t so far into the Red Zone that I couldn’t see the spin.  I could still stop and take a deep breath.  I could still put it all away for a while and go do something else.  I could ask for help.

So, I asked my friend, Cheryl, to help me brainstorm.  Cheryl is a Stampin’Up demonstrator and a fellow Crow in her hoarding and love of bright, shiny objects.  So we noodled for a while, looked up stuff online—like how to make your own ribbon spools.  Then, we went down to her treasure trove to dig around.

3 SpoolsShe had saved all the little plastic cores out of her ribbon spools, and uttered the crafters’ creed.  “I knew I’d use them someday.”  She also handed over her stash of thin cardboard, an old glue gun, and a couple of paper punches.  Mission Control, we have lift-off.

Over the weekend, I made 42 new ribbon spools.  I hung two more spindles from the coatrack I use on the back of my bathroom door for my ribbon storage.  Soon, I had all the ribbon of any quantity from my big, backside jar on spools and sorted by color families.  Cool!

After trying several designs for ways to hang my silks, I settled on this smaller card with a combination of slits and holes.

Ribbon Card

It ended up with a greater capacity than I imagined.  I love it when things work better than expected.

Card Capacity

And it took up very little space when hung on the coatrack.

Capacity Hanging

Last night I finished.  When I hung the last card, I still had an empty hook on my coatrack.  Point. Set. Match.

Whole Rack

I still have remnants of trim and ribbon that are too short or too delicate to put on spools.  They’re back in the jar waiting for the next brainstorm.

Now, if I can just find that receipt from Menard’s…

Color Kissed

Fuckin' Juice

I love finding great supplies for art-making.  I’ve stopped being a complete raven, bringing home all the shiny bits and bobs that make me squeal (or caw, if we keep the metaphor).  Now I look specifically for flatter objects and materials—all kinds of paper, fabric, seed beads, flat charms and too-dads.

What I love most are fibers and ribbons.  I order a lot of specialty ribbon and fibers from Flights of Fancy, but my all-time favorite source for ribbon and silk cord is the Etsy shop, Color Kissed Silk.  Tammy always helps me find exactly what I need—or makes makes special arrangements for me.  Because all the ribbons are hand-dyed, nothing in stock stays in stock.  It just morphs into an even more delicious combination of colors.

Solstice 2014A couple of weeks ago, the design for my 2015 holiday card came to me (I love when that happens).  I started ordering my supplies—card stock from Stampin’Up (because their paper is rich, heavier weight, and worth the money), metallic paint spray from Lindy’s (for my required level of grunge and mess), and ribbons from Tammy.

It’s a simple card (not like last year’s major production), but I expect to make about 100 cards this year.  The list of people I love and admire keeps growing, which is only as it should be.  Making my Solstice cards is Christmas for me—sending out all that attention, beauty and love into the world.  Ahh.

Anyway, I told Tammy I needed yardage this year.  And like always, she had everything I needed.  I also planned on making a lot of cards between now and ArtFest in March (I hope to be part of the Artists’ Fair and show off a little), so I ordered a gob of new ribbon and silk cord.  When my order arrived on Saturday, I went into beauty overload.  For two days, I played with my ribbons, laying them out, sorting, figuring out a new way to store them so I can see and feel them all as I pull a card together.  Aren’t they gorgeous?



Old FavoritesAs I sorted my old stuff in with the new, I found snippets of silk cord that Tammy doesn’t make anymore.  I kept them to remind me to ask if she had any of these old colors stuffed in a drawer somewhere, but always forgot.  So I contacted her yesterday to find out.  Here’s what she said:

I have a bag of scraps. I don’t know what is what … I don’t have any of the originals to compare so I can’t identify any of them… I will send it to you and you may find some use for this mess…  keep in mind this is just end pieces thrown in a bucket so they are not at all organized, labeled , or pressed…..I am not even sure what length they are… Put it to use if you can… they will go out tomorrow.

Holy Jackpot, Batman!  I asked what she wanted in the way of payment.

Nothing, they are just scraps… that I should have thrown away long ago, not sure why I ever kept them…

Oh, I know why.  It’s called Synchronisity.  And Abundance.  And the fact that the Universe abhors a void, so while its taken away my compulsive eating, my Beauty Glutton still gets to binge on a Bucket of Ribbons!

Somedays, it’s really good to be on An Adventure.

Solstice Card v.2014

J.K. SimmonsCreating my Winter Solstice cards is something I look forward to every year.  It’s work and joy bundled together, my way of connecting to the people I love and admire.  It’s also my version of a holiday gift.  I stopped trying to give gifts when I went on Disability, but I can still send a little bit of art.

I also send one to a someone involved in making movies, someone whose work particularly touched me that year.  It feels important to tell folks how they help me manage during the worst of my bipolarness.  I don’t imagine they get that kind of feedback very often.  I sent one to Peter Jackson after the first Hobbit movie saved me from a winter of despair.  This year, I chose a long-time favorite, J.K. Simmons (if you haven’t seen Whiplash yet, run to your theater this second).

Original Artwork of Collage Assemblage Artist Andrea Matus deMengWhen I got back from England in September and immediately got sick with bronchitis, I took myself to the Barnes and Noble to comfort myself by looking through art magazines.  I knew I had to start thinking about my Solstice cards as they often take months to complete (I usually make about 60 of them), but had absolutely no ideas in my snotty head.

Then, I opened the September/October issue of Somerset Studio and found the feature on Andrea Matus de Meng.  Her work stunned me.  Could I do something like this for my Solstice card?  Wait.  Instead of using vintage photographs this time, could I draw something provocative?  The thought of doing my own sketching lit a fire and I went to work.

The bronchitis is gone, but the fire isn’t.  I’ve been hard at work on my cards for about six weeks.  I open my Pandora station, microwave a mug of chai, pull on my ratty and paint smeared sweatshirt, sit at my table and let the magic happen.  Here’s what that’s like:

Gathering Materials

It takes some trial and error to figure out what materials to use.  First I pick the card stock for the card itself—this time, Poppy Parade from Stampin’Up®.  I love the quality of their card stock.  This color is discontinued (I can get the “retired” products cheaper), but I had a bunch on hand.

Step 1I knew I wanted to use paint instead of ink this year, so I sorted through my collection of Lumiere acrylics—luscious paint with a metallic sheen.  Then, I just started experimenting.  The photo above shows all the materials I ended up using for each card.  It’s even a little shocking to me when I see everything together in one pile.

As a base for the collage, I took sheets from my parents’ farm bookkeeping ledger, cut them to size, and painted them.  I wasn’t sure which color would look best, so I painted a few of each color.  They all worked, so I continued this first step using six different Lumiere colors.  I like leaving interesting details unpainted (like the row numbers on the ledger), but I knew they’d probably get covered over later.  That’s okay.  It’s my little secret.

Step 2Next, I collaged pages from a tiny, antique book.  I’m assuming it’s some sort of accounting or actuarial text, but it’s in German, and I really have no idea what these little tables are.  I don’t care.  The graphics and foreign language rock!  Once the Mod Podge dried, I painted them.

Step 3Next, I added music from a Temperance song book from the early 1900s.  I love this little book.  Some of the song titles include “Away! Away! The Sparkling Wine,” “The Teetotallers Are Coming,” and “Beautiful Water” (because they tried to promote water as a beverage instead of demon booze).  Music adds a nice graphic, and I love using it.

Step 4After the music dried and got its coat of pain, I added a fun layer of graphics.  This started as pieces ripped out of vintage dress patterns, but I didn’t have many of those.  What I did have was some seamstress’ tissue paper from the 1930s—deliciously yellowed and fragile.  So I drew some of my own simple graphics with a marker and used that.  Tissue is great for adding depth while letting the color and design underneath show through.  Along with this layer I collaged equations from an antique German geometry text.  Again, I couldn’t resist foreign language and numbers.  Yum!

Step 6After drying and painting came the last layer on this background collage—letters from a vintage children’s reading primer, a section from an old spelling handbook, and either bits from another German book on Hieroglyphics or one on Chemistry.  Once that all dried and got a touch of Bronze Lumiere, I was ready to put together my central image.

I drew my Winter Solstice shamans on a 1906 copy of The Youth’s Companion, a newspaper-like publication for young adults.  I thought the small, delicate type face would lend an interesting texture.  The faces also got a touch of white acrylic paint and a touch-up with black gel pen.

Shaman 1

Then, I went to work on the shaman’s headdress.  From my bucket of fabric scraps, I pulled a nice, gold brocade and sewed beads onto strips that would become a sort of drape (think ancient Egypt or Mayan).

Shaman 2

Next came the feathers.

Shaman 3

Then, the headband.  The gold braid and pearls came from a necklace my mom wore before I was born (so, yeah, it’s really vintage).   I added more pearls from my bead stash (I’ve got a little bit of everything).

Shaman 4

And, finally, microbeads to tie the headdress together.

Shaman 5

Step 7I also wanted to do something a little different for the greeting inside the card.  I have a “Solstice Greetings” stamp, but I thought the nature of the outside ought to be reflected on the inside.  So I opted to dash a couple of layers of Lumiere on The Youth’s Companion and hand-write my holiday greeting with white gel pen.  I layered that over a snippet of music from a 1932 The Etude magazine, then spritzed it with Gossamer Gold Moon Shadow Mist from Lindy’s Stamp Gang (great stuff).

I’m pleased with all aspects of this project—the stretch to my creative muscle, the meditative time with my bits and bobs, the chance to give something that delights me, both inside…

Step Final Greeting

And outside.

Solstice 2014

May your holiday season be as rewarding and juicy.



30 Days of Sketches—Day 6

Portrait Sketch

Laney & Barb

A couple of things I’ve noticed while doing these sketches (aside from the anxiety):

I only spend a couple of minutes on them, working quickly and leaving lots of the image undrawn.  This is a completely new way to work for me.  In the distant past when I drew, I spent hours filling in every detail and reworking an image until I ripped holes in the paper.  I like this breezy approach.  It makes me focus on just a few details to “make” the image and keeps me from obsessing.

I can’t erase.  The type of pencil I’m using and the way I’ve treated the pages of my sketchbook won’t allow it.  This was not intentional.  I meant to use the sketchbook as an art journal for collage work.  Not being able to erase means I end up with lots of stray lines and can also see where I’m missing perspective.  I see how I misjudge shapes and dimension.  This is really helping me hone my “eye.”  It’s also creating a completely different look to my drawings.

It will be interesting to see what will happen if I spend a little more time with a piece, use a different pencil or pull out a different sketchbook.  I still have 24 days to play with, so playing around with the tools could be part of the process.  As I get more comfortable with a pencil in my hand again, I hope to do just that.

Feeding the Magpie

To keep myself entertained while I heal from surgery, I thought I’d use some of the images I’ve gleaned from magazines to make a new batch of cards.

I’ve cut out stuff all my life—pictures, maps, headlines, graphics.  Like a magpie, I’m attracted to shiny bits and faces.  I remember keeping a folder or envelope full of paper scraps as far back as fourth grade.  And, yes, I still have some of those gleans.

I used to hold on tight to my collections, not wanting to use up the precious friends I’d gathered around me.  But, these days I use what I collect.  This past spring I finally made a collage of the Spock/Leonard Nimoy images I’d been hoarding since I was eleven.  It felt wonderful to finally put those pieces together and create something new and meaningful to me.

My philosophy on hoarding has changed completely over the past few years.  I buy something at a garage sale because I intend to use it, not keep it in a pretty dish.  Why not use the best, the funniest, the cleverest bits I have to make the best pieces I can?  What’s the point in holding on to primo material if it just sits in a folder?  Plus, the more great stuff I use, the more great stuff I can collect to take its place.  The Law of Abundance, baby.

Digging through my junk and the thousands of words and images I’ve clipped makes me very happy—like running my fingers through gold coins.  So, while I’m laid up, I can cackle to my heart’s content and spin those treasures into art.  Here are a few of the cards I’ve made to keep my magpie happy while I heal.

Delicate Puffs

Grateful, seeds of gratitude are sown

Sprout green and lift

Delicate white puffs among the weeds,

Tremble in the sigh of air.

Grateful, blossoms exhale seedlets

To dust other soil

Sink and


• • •


Climb on top of bronchitis.  Set bipolar disorder to the side.  Make room beside sick father and grieving family.  There is time and space for gratitude.  All month I have worked on crafting Christmas and Winter Solstice cards for the gallery.  Today they were received with joy and praise.  My collage, Bad Clowns, is now on their wall awaiting the perfectly twisted mind that will love it.  And tomorrow, when I go to the flea market in What Cheer with my friends, I will have some money to exchange for art fodder and treasures.

Gratitude fed, cannot be crushed.

Bad Clowns

My creative projects seem to be managing far better than I am at the present.   While I continue to slug it out with all the usual bipolar symptoms and pitfalls, my novel, Callinda, keeps writing itself; new greeting cards appear on my worktable; and a collage I’ve wanted to do for years hangs on my wall.

To the Muse in my ear who refuses to shut up, to the hands that paint and snip with a mind of their own, to the part of me who plugged into the Cosmic Creative Source the day I was born and never looked back, I say thank you.

And now, for your creepification, my new collage, Bad Clowns.

The fear of clowns, or coulrophobia, is the number 3 phobia in the United States.  Only the fear of needles and spiders beats it.  Think about it.  A grown man in disguise around little kids.  Eew.  Remember John Wayne Gacy?  Remember Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as The Joker?  My man, Stephen King, knew exactly what he was doing when he made his monster in “IT” a clown.  No one understands what scares us like Stevie, and his icy little fingers are ruthless.

For me, Santa Claus (at least the department store kind) is just another clown.  My three-year-old self knew instinctively to stay away from that lap.  So, if you ever take your kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, or friends’ kids to the circus or want a picture of them with Santa, and they start whining and digging in their heels, do me a favor.  Don’t tell them they’re being silly.  Don’t scold them and force them to make nice to the funny man.  Just hold their hand and slowly, carefully, back away.

I got this icky rubber stamp clown from my favorite vendor, Teesha Moore.  I knew someday, he’d be central to my Bad Clown collage, and here he is.  I also cackled non-stop while “editing” these Pictionary cards.

I thought busted and bloody-looking balloons would help create the atmosphere of evil and danger.  What do you think?

The central clown figure started out as a teeny, tiny photo of a circus troupe from the 1920’s comprised of midgets and dwarves.  I took the face of one of the clowns and had my print shop blow it up 1000 %.  I transferred that vague image to the canvas, then used paint, chalks, ink and markers to make him my own.  I like that he doesn’t scream “EVIL” but that you know there’s something definitely wrong about him.

I found the plastic clown cake decorations at an antique store a year or so ago, and I knew immediately they’d end up with nails through their heads.  Yeah, that’s the way I roll.  I’ve been saving scrap of circus advertising and early images of clowns for years.  It was a wonderful feeling to put them all together in one disturbing place.

Ahh, how’s that cotton candy tasting?

Easy Peasy

Tuesday, I wrapped up several of my collage pieces, gathered together a bundle of my greeting cards, and trooped over to The Perfect Setting to visit with the owner, Pam Swarts, and her gallery manager, Carol.

 I’d been coaching myself for days about approaching this appointment as an adventure, an experiment in stepping out with my art.  I told myself it would be interesting and useful to see how people other than my family and friends react to my work. Would “arty” people get my sense of humor?  Is my stuff typical of other collage and assemblage works?  Would an art dealer consider my stuff marketable or just amateur crafting?  I told myself this meeting could be informative and useful.  “Profitable” was not a direction I wanted my thinking to take.

Pam asked me to lay out my pieces.  She asked lots of questions about my process, about the stories behind the pieces and my personal story. She and Carol discussed how they might display a piece, who the target audience might be, and which pieces might be too personal to connect with a customer.

Then they pulled out the checkbook.

Wait!  What?

Pam bought all the greeting cards and chose three larger pieces to put on consignment.  One of the larger pieces she like so much, she was willing to buy it outright and frame it herself.  She and Carol called my work “unusual” and “deep.”  They asked me to write stories for the three pieces that were more layered with symbolism and myth so customers could get the “full meaning.”

So, now I have a contract and an inventory list that I’m to bring back “when I have other pieces to show them.”  And I have that first check.  I’m in shock.

Could it really be this easy?

Sandy Sue Studios

Now that I have an appointment scheduled to meet with Pam Schwartz (the owner of The Perfect Setting gallery) next week, the studio is in full production.  There are a couple of new products I want to play with—microbeads, a new color of ink, and an antique Greek text book—and some different techniques I want to try.  What kind of texture can I get when I stamp ink through the mesh bag oranges come in at the grocery store?  What’s the perfect size of bubble in bubble wrap to squish paint into a background?  I got some of my vintage pictures and magazine gleans copied at the print shop last week, so I’ve got lots of fodder.  A few more cards should do it—just enough to show my range from odd humor to contemplative.

This feels good.  I’m not sensing any compulsivity or manic noise, no projecting into the future or unrealistic expectations.  I’m not hanging any particular hat on this hook.  I did my part by stepping into the Void.  Whatever unfolds from there is perfect.

The Etsy Conundrum

It seems like Etsy keeps coming up in conversations lately.  Folks think I should sell my collage cards and larger pieces there.  I’m torn.  While I’d love to get my art into hands that want them, and I’d love to make a little money, the logistics seem overwhelming.  There’s a fee to list the item.  There’s packaging.  There’s postage.  I’ve looked at the cards that are available on Etsy now—thousands, mind you.  And while I’ve run across a couple of original collage-type cards, I haven’t found any that are similar to mine.  But, the average price for these cards is around $2.00.  It just doesn’t seem worth the trouble.

While I’m sitting here pondering all this, I wonder if I shouldn’t contact Pam, the owner of the local art gallery/gift shop, and actually show her my work.  I’ve talked to her a little bit, and she’s expressed interest.  Maybe it’s time to take the plunge.

Okay.  Yes.  This will be my task today.


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