Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Teaching a Book Class at Katie & Co.

A picture of the class hard at work

A few weeks ago, I taught two classes in how to make a quick, easy, repurposed book.
I was really nervous, as this was the first time for me to teach this type of class.
My goal was that everyone would finish.
And they did!

If there is one thing I hate when I am taking a class,
it is leaving with an unfinished project that I have no idea how to finish.
And without a skill, that leaves me with the inability to replicate
the process again.
I think everyone could do this again.
And that makes me very happy.

Here are some samples of their work.
When I told some people I was doing this,
their thoughts were, "I'm not sure you should do that.
You don't want to give away all your secrets."

I want to teach others how to reuse things.
How to take nothing and turn it into something.
And they taught me as much as I taught them.

A sample of one of Mayson's page - I just fell in love with seeing their work.

Brenda brought scraps of cyanotype printing to add to her pages.

Laura did these crazy folds that were so cool & really inspired me.

Look what you can do with an old trim from a discarded pillowcase and some buttons!

Mayson's cover of her book - I am CRAZY about the bow

Brenda's book made from a gift bag!

Roberta's amazing stash of stuff that she brought.

Laura's finished travel book. Total serendipity.

And Ms. Roberta (whose book I did not get a pic of!)
who really has encouraged more than I could ever express.

Kisses to you!

Thank you to everyone who came.
I appreciate it very much.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tuesday Time To Be Thankful

It's Tuesday and dark outside.
And I am alone and working on taxes.

Sometimes when I know it is going to be a gruesome day,
I try to spread a little sunshine throughout my house.

The sunflowers are on my dining room table.
Hard to be sad when you look at them.

And when I know it is going to be a really long day of paperwork
and not the type of work anyone likes to do, I start making a list of all the things
that people give to me to be thankful about.

My mom gave me this whole quite last week.
A man that lives by her asked if her quilting group could do something with it, to restore it.
They could not - it was just too old.

So, I started thinking about what I could do with it to
make it into something else.

And I started cutting it apart, and used it to embellish
some head wraps that I made that are made with felted cashmere.
I like the way they are looking.

And I have gotten so many buttons lately.
It is like everyone has cleaned out their grandmother's stash.
I use these like crazy, so I really appreciate them.

My friend, Saint, just gave me a ton of stuff, stuff she was going to throw out.
Old wine labels, stamps from cool places, foreign postcards.
I know anyone into paper arts is salivating right now.

Thank you to everyone that believes in repurposing and trying to help me along the way.
I really do appreciate all of your thoughtfulness and generosity.
And even on a dark Tuesday, you brighten my day.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I Really Altered My Louis Vuitton Tote

My favorite LV Bag

I am not crazy. I promise. Swear. Cross my heart.
I am brave, though.

Many of you know I worked for Louis Vuitton for many years. I love LV products, because they are handmade. My passion for handmade items started way before I started my current company.

One of the pieces I own is this rather large tote pictured below in an old ad from Neiman-Marcus. I used it as Lucy's diaper bag, which I am sure was ghastly enough for some people. The fact that I would carry something like this for that purpose. But that is what I think things like this are for - to be used and carried and worn out.

Align Center
One day, I had it behind the seat in the car, and somehow, when the seat got pushed forward, it got caught and developed this terrible rip. The only way to replace it would be to order a new panel for it. And that new panel . . . would be about the price of a weekend trip to Austin at a five star hotel with all our meals included. No, I am not kidding. And since I was the Leathergoods manager, I know how to repair something like this, and I won't bore you with those details, except to say, no shoe place or anything like this could do a better job than what I did.

So, I decided to hot glue it back together (please stop screaming) and then cover it up. At least, I can still use the bag. And if years later, I come into a small fortune and want to get the panel replaced, I still can do it. But here is a LV tip for you . . . if you EVER have a shoe repair place touch your bag and repair it, and then try and send it back to LV, they will refuse to touch it. That's the French for you.

Digging through all my piles of things

The final product is a very happy bag

It looks better in person, I swear.
I cannot wait to go to Paris and sport this around town one day.
I might get stoned, but I will rock this bag. I promise.

Scooter, who I think, watches all this and often thinks I might be crazy

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cyanotype Printing

This is a Cyanotype print. My friend, Brenda Benkenstein Cooper, invited friends to her house this past Saturday to share with us how to do this spectacularly easy and rewarding printing process. She learned the technique from taking a class at The Museum of Printing History here in Houston. Brenda and I met in a letterpress class at the museum last fall.

Brenda has been posting pictures, like these, on Facebook and people have gotten so excited looking at them and wondering about the process. Every once in awhile, I get the pleasure of seeing an artist emerge. Brenda has gone gun-ho since our class at the museum. Her abilities have expanded rapidly as she is just soaking up all the joy she is receiving from learning and doing. She will be a force to reckon with, I guarantee it.

Do you want to learn how to do this? Here is how . . . and these instructions were written by Brenda. She is so organized!!!!!

These are the supplies you need. Only 2 chemicals and a sponge brush, and these chemicals, as Brenda learned in her class, are not terribly toxic. You can touch them with your fingers, but she still suggests using gloves. Bostick & Sullivan sells the kit online for $26.95, under the heading of alternative process kits. With priority shipping, it's just under $35. Here is the link.

After you have the chemicals, you treat the paper. And when the paper dries, it looks like the ones above. The green stripes are the spot where you will lay your negative. You can brush very precisely, or if you are like me, unprecisely. Brenda already had all the paper pretreated for us, so we just had to go and select the size paper to match the photo we wanted to print. And it is important to use watercolor paper as you will have to rinse the photos, and this weight of paper tends to handle the water bath well. I want to try using grocery bags next - will let you know how that works.

Next, you'll need to print negatives on transparencies (at a copy store, or on your home printer if you have good ink). Here's a link to prepare your negatives using photoshop or a free program called GIMP.

Last step, select your paper and negative in a place with as little sunlight or fluorescent light, as you can. Because once these papers hit the light, they start exposing. I did it in my studio, with lights on, but not near where I was standing. At Brenda's house, we did it in a dark bathroom and she had the lamp on the floor with a bulb in it that cast very little light.

This is what your negative looks like. Now, lay a piece of glass on top of it. When I got home, I took a piece of glass out of a frame, cleaned it, and used it on some of mine. Brenda said you can also buy pieces of glass from Texas Art Supply (from the paper counter). So, you have a piece of glass on top, then your negative, and then the paper directly underneath it. Put all of this between 2 pieces of cardboard. This just ensures that no light touches this before you get outside. When you get outside, take the cardboard off, and be sure your shadow is not on the picture or paper. And let the sun expose the negative for you.

How long it takes depends on the time of day you are out there and where the sun is. We found 3 to 3 1/2 minutes was a good time, but you might have to test. Make sure you bring your cell phone to time it!

This is an example of the same picture, but exposed differently.

Next thing you do, when you feel like it is done, cover it back up, go inside and rinse the picture 3 times, dumping the water each time. Immerse it. And then let it sit for about 10 minutes in the water. Now go do another picture. When you come back, take it out of the water and let it dry on paper towels, and blot it on the top with paper towel.

That is it. I liked this picture the best. It's Joby in a Mardi Gras mask. I think it is stunning.

Monday, August 2, 2010

New Book Idea to Replace Photo Calendars

I have a new idea brewing in my studio. A very good idea, I think. It was not mine. It was gifted to me by the manager of The Houstonian Sports Shop, Roberta Hethcox, and the buyer for the store, Holly Tuten. They had seen agendas I had done in the past, where every month had a separate page with that month highlighted through greeting cards or a collage.

This is a sample of one I did for Lucy.

They suggested I expand the idea into a book. Twelve pages of months and a blank page provided for someone to add a picture of their child or family for that month. Like the idea behind photo calendars, except this would never expire.

I like showing what the book looks like from the side, b/c they are 3 dimensional.

And with mom's so busy, the idea of a book already done, where all they had to do was pop in 12 photos and keep it for themselves, or give to the grandparents . . . this could be achieved.

So, this would be September.

This is the October page....

And then the page filled with pictures.

See how easy? The book is made. All you have to do is add the pictures. Anyone can do this, I promise. And if you can't . . . I could be persuaded to do it for you for an additional cost.

I will have ten of these ready for the show in September. When is the show? September 29th and September 30th at The Houstonian Sports Shop.

Here are a few more pictures of pages. I will add more embellishing and writing to mine, maybe later tonight.

My girl and her boyfriend, Brett.


Yes, these are Barbie Slippers.
Finally a place for all this little crap that lies in waiting at my house.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Role Model In My Life is Alice Schuette

A Teapot that Alice Made Me

Do you have people in your life who, subconsciously, you model parts of your life after? I do. Many of them. And all for different reasons. Alice Schuette is one of those mentors for me, even though she has never, even be made aware of this fact.

Alice and I met in high school. Although, I cannot really say we were friends, but we were in some of the same activities and shared some of the same friends. Mostly, our lives did not cross until later in my life, after college, when she became someone I wanted to watch and sort of "take in."

I remember she drove this red Audi, and she kept a bag in her car to accumulate things she used during her day to add them to her recycling bin at home. This was in the mid 1980's, when all the recycling was done by you - no curbside pickup, no nothing. Even though I was recycling at the time, and getting tremendous grief about it from my parents, her act made me start doing things differently. I had only thought of recycling what I was throwing away in my house . . . she revolutionized my thinking about something very simple.

She was an artist. She taught at The Glassell Junior School of Art, which is the school associated with The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She had her own studio down by The Last Concert Cafe. I thought her life was so revolutionary; I just did not know how to have one just like it. But I wanted it. I loved going to her studio, with no air conditioning and all the projects lying about, how the door of the studio would open just like a garage door and the view looked out into an empty lot with all that air coming in. It smelled divine, and everywhere I looked I saw something inspirational.

Our lives now mirror each other in many ways. We both had our first child much older in life. We were both married at The Rothko Chapel, unknown to each other until recently, when she posted a picture on Facebook of her wedding. I have my own studio with no air conditioning that has a garage door just like hers. How about that?

I blogged recently about the 5 Things I Would Save in A Fire. Alice commented on her five, and it brought me to tears. I asked if I could share it with you. It makes me want to, once again, be more like her.

I have a photo of my dad dressed in drag when he was 8.
I have a photo of my great aunt and her cousin in 1920's dressed up like Pancho Villa. I have a stick that my dog Flash played with in our backyard at 811 Wade Hampton before she died in 1995.
I have a lock of Emile's hair from the first haircut.
I have several rocks from different trips that I've collected.
And I have a St. Martin (now sadly headless) and his prayer card that I got in Ecuador. These are just some things.

Aren't these things the real treasures? The ones we hold in her hands to evoke a memory or a feeling. I have a little drawer of this stuff too. I think I will move these bits and pieces into something a little more worthy of their significance to me.

Having these types of mentors, even in your head, is a powerful tool in my life. You do not even have to be close friends with this person in order for them to affect you profoundly. I wonder who you know that inspires you?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bookmarks Inspire Me and Aggravate Me

Some bookmarks I just finished

Books inspire me. Making books makes me feel purposeful. It makes me feel alive.

Bookmarks also inspire me, as well as aggravate me. They are a very HARD format for me to create, b/c they are small. And I like to pile stuff on to things and create lots of dimension. But working on this tiny type of canvas is really critical for me, because it helps me to learn to edit. I also think it's a great way to use all your paper scraps.

The bookmarks I always seem to like the best are the ones made out of complete junk. When I actually have to make something out of nothing . . . my mind creates more. And since I am very passionate about repurposing, reusing and recycling, that passion comes through.

Made from bottle caps found in a parking lot, an old earring, and a dry cleaning tag

Made from a Bandaid box, Lucy's discarded paperdoll bits, crepe paper, and some junk

Button, Bottle cap, and another discarded earring

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Soul Collage Is Beyond Powerful

I don't make a proclamation like this lightly. Soul Collage is one of the BEST tools I have found to not only unlock my creativity, but to work with my intuitive side. It lets me create without knowing what I am creating. Which is something we forget about doing as we get older. We constantly do EVERYTHING with purpose. This is not always the best mode for creativity.

I took this class at The Earth Sanctuary, and have blogged about it previously. The class is taught by Glenda and Sandra - who make the MOST incredible cards, btw. One piece of advice - don't try to make cards like theirs - they are amazing enough to be licensed products, and if you get immersed in trying to make yours as worthy as theirs, then you miss the point of the class . At my last class, I brought my mother, which is a whole other blog post, if you know what I mean.

Here is the process of the class - pull images for a period of time, sort of organize your images and then start creating a collage on one card. I have to go SUPER fast, or I find that I am censoring myself or making my cards with intention, and I want to make them intuitively. After you make the card, it is helpful to journal about it. You may not even know what the images are trying to tell you, which is just fine. Just go with it.

When I made this card, I was sort of scared of it. It is daunting. Fierce. Sort of spooky. This is NOT how most of the things I create look - they are more about happiness, lightness, and color.

I will share with you what I wrote, which is extremely hard, as I do not let anyone read my journals. However, if this helps someone take this class, and learn about the process, it is worth some minor embarrassment. You start each statement with "I am the one who..."

I am the one who feels beaten down by life.
I am the one who has fierceness and fortitude.
I am the one who works tirelessly to get where I need to go.
I am the one who finds refuge in church.
I am the one who feels dragged down at times, tired, and afraid of not getting ahead.
I am the one who is pulling my own cart.
I am the one who feels darkness.
I am the one who is strong.

It is interesting to note a couple of things about the context of this card and what my mind has been processing lately. My Bible study group, through Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, has been studying Ephesians these past weeks. A few weeks ago we talked about dressing yourself in the armor of God. There is a church in the background. And this man looks a little ready for battle, right? He is carrying a rickshaw - a detail that is hard to see. And I recently read a book about rickshaw drivers and other types of laborers in India. My point is that your subconscious mind is like a machine always processing things - things you may not even know need processing.

I am reminded to stay strong. Stay the course. No matter what my hopelessness can feel like in any moment, it can never equate to the feeling of hopelessness that a man in this situation must feel. And yet, he pulls his cart one step at a time. Isn't that how we get through life? One step at a time. And it helps to have your armor ready.

You Are Enough And So Am I

Picture by Andrea Scher

I have been taking an amazing e-course this summer, where this picture originated from. It is transforming my life one step at a time, one action at a time, one play date at a time. I found out about it from this artist, and I am eternally grateful that from taking one class, you learn something about another one, and so on. Both Kelly Rae Roberts and the originators of Mondo Beyondo are people well worth getting to know. This e-course is about....

Play, Kindness and Respect

Now before you stop reading... I know this sounds simple. I even thought I don't need a class about these things, I need one about getting organized and setting goals and blah, blah, blah. I don't have time to have fun, and if I did have time, then how far behind would I get?

But something nagged at me to take it. I also had a friend and artist, Celia Clowe, who was doing it, and so with peer pressure and nagging thoughts, I signed up. This class has infused my life with things I had forgotten about. Things like silly string, ding-dong-ditch (where you leave a happy for someone on their doorstep), jumping rope, having tea ceremonies with Lucy. It has inspired my life in ways I cannot even begin to tell you.

But our assignment today is to tell you. To make a declaration to others that We are enough right now. Today. I made this collage in honor of how I felt. Notice, dark scary background, happy woman coming out of it, and a caged mouse at the bottom. I made this in my Soul Collage class this past Saturday. It was sitting on my desk as I writing this, and I was looking over at it, and then had the Aha Moment.

I am the woman who has come out of a very dark time with a long battle against postpartum depression, and am now overjoyed with life, and no longer a caged mouse (mouser is my nickname). The dishes are dirty in the sink. I am tired. I have been beating myself up for not getting this or that done. Enough. I am enough right now.

And you want to hear the CRAZIEST thing? I am now MORE productive than I was before I took this course. All those worries about getting behind . . . this has opened my mind to more power, strength, organization, less stress, and a lot more JOY.

And if I just set aside 30 minutes every night to have a play date with my daughter...than all is well with me, with her, and with the world. You would be surprised how this one practice can transform your life. Won't you try it? What do you have to lose?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Blank Books Are Intimidating

Book Created by Katie Gonzalez

A lot of times people look at the books that I create and like them, which is not just cool, it is thrilling, I have to admit. Then, I see, sort of a puzzled and sometimes embarrassed look on their faces, and then they ask, "What do I put in it?" I have been making books since I was a kid, so it might be very easy to be flippant about this question and say, "What don't you put in it?"

But I don't say that. I honestly don't think that. I know how hard it is to write in a beautiful book. You might feel like you have to use your best handwriting. You might feel like it is just to bare and too blank, and that bareness intimidates you. And there are many more fears.

I bought the book pictured above for Lucy. I blogged about the maker, Katie Gonzalez, awhile back. She uses a type of bookbinding process called coptic stitching. You can read more about her work here.

I would like to share with you what I wrote on the first page of this beautiful book:

Lucy, I think when anyone starts a blank book or journal, it is intimidating. You think things like...what if I make a mistake?, what do I have to say that is so special?, what if I misspell something? These are normal fears. Ones I hope that you will get over as you grow up and start books of your own.

I want to fill this book with all the funny things you say to us, because we forget them so quickly. And if it is one thing your dad and I treasure - it is words. We love to read them, write them and say them. You do too. We can already see such amazing things forming in your head and coming out of your mouth.

My hope is you will learn to use this as a book with me (see...I messed up here...does not matter one bit). When you say something funny or poignant, you will scream, "Where is my book? We have to write it down."

Yes, this is my hope, dear one.

Some books that have been really beneficial to me in the process of writing are:

There are many more. I spend a great deal of my time reading books about what to write in them. Sounds funny, I know. But it inspires me. To think for one minute that I could create something for you to record your life . . . that is motivation. It sure is.

Detail of a book I just finished - just digging this butterfly imagery

A very tiny detail of something I find VERY true

The finished look of this book