Nov 20, 2013

I Get a Kick Out of iHanna Postcard Swaps!

To quote Cole Porter “I get no kick from champagne/mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all, so tell me why should it be true? I get a kick out of you.” Well, I get a kick out of iHanna DIY Postcard Swaps. Why should it be true? It’s really a perfect fit because I’m a mixed media artist who collects postcards.

This year I’m feeling the 60s, and was inspired by a friend of my mom’s who was the ultimate recycler. Linda used to send notes and letters all the time. She never bought a single piece of paper or an envelope. Sometimes she used fancy hotel stationary, but other times it was the back of a Christmas card she had received or an envelope turned inside out. As a kid I thought it was cool and weird at the same time. Now I realize it was totally cool and wished we’d saved them.

" Yesterday we met some people in the lobby and had supper at the hotel together."
I collect the postcards just as much for the messages written by vacationers as the cool images on the front. I love to sit with a box of vintage postcards and read them. (Cool and weird? Or just weird?) Many are totally boring “We are doing our laundry. Waiting for it to finish.” I love those. Often the messages are downright snarky “How are you doing on your diet? Having a nice vacation.” 

"We are doing our laundry. Waiting for it to finish."
"How are you doing on your diet? Having a nice vacation! See you!" 
"This is our Christmas card to you. Wish we could stay longer." 

"Well, I think maybe I had better send you our address in case Dixie didn't call you.
We will be without news if we don't hear from you." 
This series was entirely recycled. I used original postcards from my collection that had been mailed with messages, a children’s book about Leonardo Da Vinci and recycled paint chips. I created a “found poetry” and used a very minimal design approach to create a kind of collaboration with the card and its original sender. 

I called my last series “Time Warp Souvenir” and wrote about it on my blog as well. Although visually they are very different, they are both an homage to nostalgia, family and friends.

Check out the inspirational Flickr photo pool and maybe you'll be inspired to sign up for the next one. The best way to find out about it is to sign up for iHanna's wonderful blog

Nov 8, 2013

Recycled Pizza Box Surfboards

I am the lucky recipient of all kinds of “gifted” recycled materials. Don't want to schlep that stuff to the recycling center? Just give it to Patti! She'll figure out something to do with it.I come home to all kinds of surprises on my front porch. One day I received a large delivery of empty pizza boxes fresh from a party. (Yes, there were still scraps of pizza inside.) I decided that because the boxes were taking up a lot of space (and because the pizza scraps were going to get gross really fast) that I’d better come up with a project quickly. 

I cut the box tops (the cleaner part) into quick simple surfboard shapes. Actually they are shaped more like skimboards, but those are equally popular around here and extremely cool. The class used acrylic paint from tubes on the brown side because the logo on the other side was difficult to cover with the paint. I encouraged painting freehand but some of the girls also really enjoyed using the hibiscus stencils.  

Those cat food bags are still lingering in my basement looking for the right idea to come along. I did manage use create a pretty amazing dress with my students using dog food bags. The top is actually the bag turned inside out. We Bits dog food bags are very fun to recycle because they are primarily pink, holographic and feature a picture of an adorable Westie.  So you never know, there may be something fun happening down the road involving those cat food bags!

Nov 6, 2013

Color Collage Class Inspired by The Collage Workbook

One of my favorite all time arts and craft books is The CollageWorkbook by Randel Plowman. He is known for his Collage a Day project. Here is a link to his blog where he is offering an online class. Based on his book and the student's work featured online I'm sure it will be terrific!
I sometimes use the single color collage exercise from his book with groups of children ages 8 to 13. I love teaching collage to children because they just take off and do the most amazing things while I walk around the room and hold myself back from gushing too much about how they are creative geniuses!  I think children and collage are a perfect combination. They get so absorbed in expressing themselves that they lose any kind of judgment and really connect with their creativity. I feel that working with collage has this affect on adults too -- it certainly does for me!
Here are some examples from my children's class. They went through magazines to cut out and sort images by color into shoebox lids. I also asked the class to hand color some paper to add texture using oil pastels, paint or crayons and put those in the sorting boxes too. 

Nov 4, 2013

How I Get My Color Fix in Mixed Media.

My beat up old set of Dr. Ph. Martin’s is the second best treasure from my second marriage. My creative, funny genius son with a heart of gold is (of course!) the very best treasure! When my son’s dad left us years ago he didn’t leave us any money, but he did leave a ton of really great art supplies (Arches paper, Sennelier pastels, an airbrush, photographic equipment, etc). I sold most of these things at a yard sale to pay for more immediate necessities (like food) but had the presence of mind to hold on to these little treasures. They are so super concentrated they will last nearly a lifetime if you work on small pieces. If you work on larger pieces they are still incredibly economical because they are so incredibly intense. Dr. Ph Martin’s Radiant Concentrated Water Colors are truly one of the studio staples I can’t live without. The colors are so incredible. Some are almost too beautiful and some are actually ugly. They are all capable of magic! 

They are labelled “Radiant Concentrated Water Colors” but I feel that they are more like a an ink or a dye. Sometimes I thin them with water or use  different kinds of acrylic mediums. I’ve even mixed them into acrylic paint, used them in conjunction with regular watercolors, pastels, crayons and collage. One of the things I love about them is their ability to unify different medias and materials.  There really isn’t anything they aren’t compatible with. And they are non-toxic! I use the gorgeous brights when something I’m working on needs a shot of energy and I use a different range of colors when I need to antique something.
The company has been in existence since 1934. I don’t know if the formula has changed since then or if the current line in production is as magic as mine from the 90s. I’m about to run out of my favorite color (Persimmon, which reminds me of a really intense flamingo) so I’ll have to break down and try the new formula. Has anyone tried these in ways I haven’t mentioned? If you haven’t tried them I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed and hope you enjoy exploring with your set.

May 21, 2013

The Buddy System

Many people are looking forward to summer weekends, but not quite in the same way I am. They are planning BBQs, get togethers with family and friends and fixing up the yard. I have nothing against these activities but my laser focus is one of the biggest yard sale weekends of the year. The anticipation is mounting! Is today Wednesday? Damn, its only Tuesday. The countdown begins!

Its important to have a yard sale buddy if you want to maintain the illusion that going to yard sales to collect more useless stuff makes the slightest bit of sense. In much the same way that having an exercise buddy or an AA buddy provides positive support, having a yard sale buddy does too. Most normal people would say "Why did you buy that? Are you nuts? You just HAD a yard sale to get rid of stuff!" A yard sale buddy says "That is so YOU! If you hadn't been there I would have bought that for you". 

Put a Bird on It!

About 5 years ago I started to notice the "bird on it" trend at the Brooklyn Flea. I seem to have some kind of psychic connection with the series Portlandia because whenever I find some hipstery thing funny it ends up on the show. Then I walk around saying "Put a bird on it" and "I can pickle that" more often than I'd like to admit. 

This bird craze has some serious staying power! Its kind of too bad because there are times I would like to put a bird on something, but now I feel guilty & ashamed. Can you find the bird in this collage? I found him in a vintage magazine and and mixed him up with some vintage fabric, paint & drawing. 

This weekend I went to some yard sales and got this pretty handkerchief.  I could cut it apart and use all the little birds in mixed media -- but I'd feel way too guilty!  Then bird salt & pepper shakers & ceramic figures started showing up at another sale for $1 so I had to buy them. Put a bird on it! 

May 8, 2013

Mixed Media Décollage

I started with some photos from Elle Magazine. They looked new and shiny so I knew I need to age them. I painted a layer of Liquitex Matte Medium on cardboard and placed a magazine photo face down. Then I rolled it with a brayer for a few minutes before I lifted off the paper. I waited until it was partially adhered to give it that look of distressed posters on the side of buildings (décollage). 

I layered a few more images using the Liquitex Medium transfer method then hand colored with liquid watercolors and paint. I've been photographing street art in lower Manhattan for decades. If I ran across this image on the side of a building I'd definitely take out my camera to document it. I'd want to be really large. Pretty street art? Why not? 

May 5, 2013

Polaroid photos vs. the iPhone

iPhone photography is kind of like junk food.  Tasty, super easy but not totally nourishing. But fun, really, really fun. Very clean, not messy. I used to make lots of Polaroid transfers and Polaroid emulsion lifts. The results were unpredictable but with lots of practice they became slightly more predictable. Yes, my name is Patti and I was addicted to Polaroid photography. It was an expensive proposition because each picture cost about $1. I've never run a marathon but when I got a great Polaroid transfer I had that kind of pride. It was hard, it was expensive, it was thrilling!

I'm a big fan of the blur no mater what kind of photography I'm doing. Above is the sky via iPhone. Below is the sky via Polaroid. If I ever get a big chunk of change I'm heading over to the Impossible Project and putting in a really big order. Then I can have the best of both worlds: tasty junk food iPhone photos & stick to your ribs nutritious Polaroids.

Apr 30, 2013

Yard Sale Season Begins!

I'd given up yard sales for two years, but after my "sabbatical" I'm back with a vengeance! I've done some trespassing for a good cause to rescue old bottles. I've brought home absolute trash (like a box of crumbling newspapers for the late 60s). I helped my hoarding neighbor with her sale, which inspired me to have my own. We played 60s tunes on the record player and grilled pizza for the neighborhood kids. It was kind of a yard sale/block party.  I've been back in the yard sale saddle for just a few weeks and I'm looking forward to plenty more adventures.

Pictured above are wooden animals from the 60s. They're clearly luring me back down the road to a cluttered house but how can I resist? They are so cute!

Blast From the Past

Someone gave me a pile of newspapers and LIFE magazines from 1969. I took them for collage material but ended up reading them first. Yes, there were lots of cool fashions and funny ads. But the 60s were also a time when people were exploring issues like race, gender, war, freedom and space. The status quo had to go! 

I started a collage journal based on this treasure trove of trash. Its very autobiographical because I grew up in this era. I was the girl at the slumber party totally cracking up with a tape recorder. The pictures from The Beatles White Album were on my wall too. The text below states "YOU could be a HAIRDRESSER! It's the now career for now people!" I never wanted to be a hairdresser. I knew I wanted to be an artist, and decades later I still working on that. 

Apr 23, 2013

Vintage Illustrations

I'm a Little Golden Book fan. I grew up with The Pokey Little Puppy, Scuffy the Tugboat, The Bunny Book and also shared them with my son. (Another favorite is "What Happened to Piggie?") Seeing the illustrations brings back so many happy memories. I found a title I was unfamiliar with at a rummage sale -- "I Can Fly", illustrated by Mary Blair. It was published in 1950 but looks completely fresh and the color palette is really inspirational. I'm happy to report that this book is included in a selection of Little Golden Book classics available on Amazon. I found a Pinterest board featuring Mary Blair's work. She's my new illustration crush. Some of her work is really sweet (like the illustration above). The work she did for Peter Pan is darker and makes me think of a scene from Samuri Jack.

The Dirty Bottle Caper

Last weekend a friend and I went to a yard sale at the estate of a 90 year old bottle digger & hoarder. I bought a few bottles and after I brought them home I arranged and photographed them. They began to cast a spell on both of us. We drove to the garage sale again to see if we could buy more. The property was abandoned but the crates of bottles were still outside.

None of these bottles were valuable (they weren't even especially old) but they were so alluring that they caused two law abiding women to temporarily take the law into our own hands.  We decided that it was a reasonable idea to drive back "under the cover of darkness" to rescue the crates of bottles from the dumpster looming nearby. Technically trespassing -- but it seemed the "right" thing to do. Why should they end up in the landfill again after they were so lovingly dug and saved by the deceased -- Mr. O. They had "possibilities".

My friend drove the getaway car and I assumed the role of cat burglar. I considered wearing all black but decided that it would make me look even more suspicious if caught. She nonchalantly circled the block while it was my job to carry the crates of bottles to the end of the driveway. The lights were on in the house but it was clearly long abandoned so that didn't deter us. I picked up a crate -- the lights went off & I got really scared. What if someone was in the house and was peering out the window with a shotgun? I froze. Then the lights went back on again. I put down my crate and raced back down the long driveway. After I got to the end of the driveway the lights went on again.

I'm sure there are logical explanations for the lights going on and off in coordination with my movements: there was faulty wiring, there a timer with a mind of its own, there was someone in the house. Or there is the illogical explanation: the ghost of Mr. O. just didn't want me sneaking into his yard taking his precious bottles. It was silly scary childish fun. It reminded me of the perfect Halloween -- going trick or treating at the creepiest house in the neighborhood. To top off the adventure a large meteor streaked across the sky when we drove home.

Apr 21, 2013

iHanna DIY Postcard Swap

I joined the iHanna international postcard swap with an idea to make recycled postcards from contemporary materials ... but I got magnetically drawn to my collection of vintage National Geographics for inspiration. These images came from 1928. I have a large collection of vintage ephemera and I usually use the original images. I scanned these because I couldn't bear to part with them. In spite of scanning them I still could barely part with them! I used to make and send cards to my mom who passed away many years ago. Although its impossible to mail postcards to the "hereafter" I think I really made them for my mom. Her family came from Poland but she loved to dress in the latest American fashions. The rowboat is a reference to the house she lived in along the river. You can see more of my postcards on Flickr.

Clam Shell Necklace

I tend to collect things that other people pass by. I'll walk by the perfect shells to pick up the interesting broken pieces. This is the broken edge of a large clam shell smoothed in the ocean. I loved the organic curve of the shell and it seemed to fit the curve of my neck perfectly -- but it needed a little jazzing up. First I used a hand drill to drill the holes. Then I applied gold leaf and a sealer. I used sterling jump rings and chain because once it got the gold leaf treatment it was looking first class. I think its a more modern take on the souvenir shop seashell necklace idea. 

Apr 19, 2013

DIY Recycled Plastic Flowers

Nature certainly does a great job this time of year. My yard is full of daffodils and narcissus. My kitchen is full of things in the recycling bin on their way out the door. I put these two ideas together and made my own homage to plastic flowers using paper coffee cups and lids, green straws from Starbucks,  a brown paper bag (and a little hot glue). The outer petals are made from the lids, the inner petals from the cups, the leaves from the straws and the pot from another cup and a brown paper bag. I'm old enough to remember plastic flowers -- the fake flowers people used before silk flowers were invented. Boy were they ugly ... and not very realistic. Not surprisingly they're selling on Etsy these days because they're also wonderfully tacky. 

Mar 21, 2013

Crafty Swapping

I'm tired of going to my mailbox and finding only junk mail and bills. No one sends letters or cards anymore. I've decided to help make mailboxes fun again by joining the world of online crafty swaps. What are crafty swaps? In this case the theme was "black and white" and the project had to be specific tag size.

I'm going to mail two of these tags to strangers and then two other strangers will mail me tags they have made. My inspiration was TV shows from the 50s and 60s, so I made a tiny TV featuring the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. Its made from recycled cardboard, buttons, a photo and a fabric scrap.

Mar 5, 2013

Working Quickly

I've been experimenting with online crafting community challenges lately. I joined the Crafty Link mixed media community and made this piece based on one of today's challenges: Use an image of your hand and a quote --and two favorite colors. I love making things really, really quickly before any judgement or doubts have a chance to interfere. Not just because I'm lazy! Its extremely difficult for me to get an idea out if I spend more than 15 minutes on a project. Its like catching a frog or snail or some other little wild thing. Inspiration often doesn't survive in captivity when technique and thought are involved.  (Quote: "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted" -- MLK)

Feb 27, 2013

Go Ahead! Draw Something!

Electronic games are really hard on my self esteem. The Wii Fit regularly tells me that my "Wii Fit Age" is 10 years older than I already am. That's really hard to take, especially on a day the grocery store cashier gives me a "senior citizen discount" -- and I'm not even close to being a senior! The Wii Fit also tells me that every game I play is "not my thing" and gives me a hard time when I gain weight (hey, its winter for crying out loud)! If I play a video game that involves getting killed I just die before I get to play. If its a maze like situation I just go around in circles. 
I've been playing the "Draw Something" game on the iPad.  Real people can be a lot kinder and more patient than electronic games (if you're lucky). The friend I play with (who is very good at drawing) frequently says encouraging things about my drawings. The Wii Fit would be saying "drawing just isn't your thing". 
I enjoy the challenge of communicating simply and clearly in a visual way. That's my criteria for a good drawing. My Draw Something name is Retromac if you want to play along. I promise to be a lot nicer than the Wii Fit. 

Recycled Plastic Shrinky Dink Necklace

I was inspired by the "Sheer & Clear Friday Challenge" on the new DIY site Kollabora. I used a #6 recycled plastic container as my "Shrinky Dink" material, a few jump rings and some chain to make this octopus necklace. Here's how I decided on this particular project:
1) My friend's octopus theme wedding invitation was surprisingly cool.  2) I've been researching Chihuly style art lessons on Pinterest. 1) I have an honorary degree in Shrinky Dinks. It was bestowed upon me by the kids I teach.  
You can find my step by step photos and instructions here.

Feb 19, 2013

Embracing Melancholia

Talking about all the problems in the world puts a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Talking about what's on TV or anything to do with celebrities makes me really, really sad. And sometimes I have to force myself not to run from the room when the the celebrity talk starts. I'd rather hear someone rant about chemtrails than about Princess Kate's pregnancy. When someone starts talking about Beyonce I have to force myself not to gossip about my favorite celebrity Pvt. Bradley Manning

I really like this take on Negative Nancy and can see myself in this skit, cursing out everything that happens from the minute I get up to the minute I go to bed. Being a Debbie Downer is clearly not on trend these days, but I think I'm part of a grand tradition of melancholia

Durer portrays melancholia as "the state of waiting for inspiration to strike, and not necessarily as a depressive affliction".  How many great songs have been written about happy things? Where would modern art be without embracing alienation and purposelessness? And where would this world be without us Negative Nancys & Debbie Downers yelling as loud as we can about all the issues that aren't covered by mainstream media? 

I made and photographed this funny sad face with the plastic debris washed up on the beach.

Feb 18, 2013

Cosmic Upcycled Cashmere

Cashmere can easily last a lifetime (in dog or cat years) if you care for it lovingly. I have sweaters that I've inherited from my mom over 20 years ago. And they were second hand when she got them. Small moth holes can be inconspicuously mended. Bring your sweater to a store that sells thread to match the color. Use a single thread and practice weaving around the area until you've gotten it right. Then steam the area lightly with your iron to flatten & blend it in.  Large moth holes can be very conspicuously and colorfully mended. I was inspired by current events for this mending job. Asteriods, meteors, oh my! I used cashmere scraps I'd gotten on Etsy as patches and wool crewel yarn for the embroidery. Sachets of Lavender, mint or cedar chips will help keep the moths away in the first place.

If you've already shrunk your cashmere sweater in the washer/dryer you should check out Sweater Surgery for lots of inspiring ideas. One of my friends attempted to make cashmere bloomers. The bottom line is that good cashmere should never die. You can always wear a less than perfect cashmere sweater as lounge wear.

If you've found some thrifted cashmere you might as well care for it in an equally thrifty way.  I always use Eucalan to hand wash cashmere with outstanding results. Use cold water then roll in a towel to get out as much water as possible. They lay out to dry on another towel. You may have no where to eat or sit for a few days while you are cleaning your sweaters but think of all the money you'll be saving (and the stuff about avoiding those toxic dry cleaning chemicals too). Does the Magik Fuzz Buster work? Yes!  Say goodbye to all that "pilly stuff" under your arms.

Recycled Diet Coke Bracelet

I have a shameful addiction. No, I don't eat laundry detergent or cat hair. I drink Diet Coke. Yes, I know its disgusting. Yes, I know its bad for me. But a fresh bottle of Diet Coke is like an instantly available Zen moment. Just looking at the bottle makes me feel instantly more relaxed. I simply can't stop!!! As an homage to my shameful addiction I've started making recycled bracelets from the bottles. First I used a utility knife to cut out the shape of the bracelet. Then I decoupage magazine pages on the outside and tissue paper on the inside using Modge Podge. This one was inspired by the fact that I have friends in tropical places (and I'm so not in a tropical place). I used a National Geographic and cut out pictures photos of rainforest foliage and undersea life. I've also done this project with kids. Middle school girls totally heart Modge Podge and accessories so its lots of fun. 

Above, the object of my affection. While I was getting my camera I had the Coke in my hand so I opened it & absentmindedly drank some before I even took the photo. That's why its not full & bubbly. The part I used for the bracelets is just below the label. 

Jan 24, 2013

Imaginary Friends

In my determined quest to overcome my creative block I impulsively signed up for an online class called Visual Journaling based on this simple sentence: "Have you ever wanted to create a story using your own images or ideas but were too afraid to begin or didn’t know where to start??" This was a bit risky because I find it extremely difficult (often impossible) to follow instructions whether its Ikea furniture or something more academic.
But surprise! It's working. I'm suspecting that I was just boring myself and needed a companion on this creative journey. But I'm not talking about the other cool people in the class or the terrific teacher. We were assigned to create a character based on a collage journal. Mine is an alien who happens to be an shape shifter and time traveller. It's like having an imaginary friend who shares many of the same interests but isn't limited by the constraints of reality. I think we're going to have a very interesting day.

Jan 4, 2013

Craft Hoarder Goes Digital

It’s easy for me to get inspired by random objects like other people’s family photos, broken toys and old sweaters (to name just a few of perhaps thousands of things in my cluttered storage area).  But sometimes having a room full of recycled materials can feel like a burden. Its nearly impossible to find what I’m looking for, I make one hell of a mess and have to clean it all up. It’s been difficult to summon up the courage to start a new project lately. But then I got an iPad mini for Xmas and found a way to temporarily avoid the whole mess.

I downloaded an app called Paper. I rarely draw or paint but I thought why not? Paper gives me an opportunity to work quickly with very little commitment and minimal effort. Its fun!  

My friend John uses Procreate and does some amazing sketches  I can see that Procreate offers great features like undo and layers, as well as many more options. But right now the minimalist approach is exactly what I’m looking for. When I see photos of beautiful, simple, organized interiors in magazines I think “Looks cool, but I could never live like that”. With the Paper app I can see what it might be like to live a more minimal and organized life. My brushes never dry out and I always know where to find the colors and tools.  Amazing! And my hoarder craft mess will still be there waiting for me when I'm looking for a more challenging option.