In the Garden

Today I’m feeling like I need an escape; a peaceful place to gather my thoughts and tune out the world. I have it in my mind to create such a place in my own back yard, but for now I’ll just have to pretend.

Here is a simple paper cutting I finished last month. It was a good month for me. I think all the sunshine helped energize my mind and awaken a little creative beast with in me.

I did this tin because Japan during springtime is one of my favorite places to be.  I wanted to capture the serenity of a tranquil Japanese bamboo forest, the soothing sound of bamboo leaves rustling in the breeze and the trickling of a gentle stream.japanese garden papercut

I’ve started to use more of my own hand made embellishments and I like to keep it as true to handmade as possible, but I did use two texture plates for the sky and the grass. Also, I cheated a little and used a small circle punch for the cherry blossoms. I wasn’t feeling up to the challenge of cutting out 50 little tiny circles by hand.

bamboo garden

Japanese garden collage

As I said, this was a pretty productive month for me and I’m excited to be finishing up a few projects, which I hope to share with you next time. But now – I must go tend to the garden –

Cheers!

 

 

Riding the Wave

When I posted I was DONE, you didn’t take me seriously did you? Well, the fact is – I am done, my last post still applies. And no, I don’t have anything profound or truly blogworthy to share, but a funny thing happened – not funny ha ha, but funny interesting…

Lately I’ve had a wonderful amount of “free time” and used that time to NOT stress about making goals, meeting deadlines or planning anything other than using my time to put more thought and energy  into the activities I enjoy.  This is not only true for the business side of things but also for the home life side of things as well. In reality, the daily chores and tasks that NEED to be done are simple and take very little time; keeping the floors swept, the sink empty, fridge full, electricity on, internet connected and having clean clothes – all important and all can be accomplished in less than 5 hours a week. As for business, well a person could fill every hour of  the 24 doing business related stuff and that doesn’t include creating and making. Now I’m just riding the wave of life, going with the flow, enjoying the ride. And with that new philosophy I’ve managed to get some fun “work’ done.

I was, for some reason, compelled to do a paper cutting using Hiroshige’s Thirty six Views of  Mt. Fuji as my inspiration. I decided to use The Sea Off Satta in Suruga Province because it is such a widely recognized iconic piece of work and my reference would need  very little explanation.

The Wave

It took about a month to do this one. There was no deadline and I even took a couple of road trips during the month too, something I would have never done before. This time I just enjoyed the process and had fun with it.  I didn’t even stress out when most the layers had to be peeled off and reconfigured because the lid wouldn’t close properly. Now I know how better to plan out my layers so that doesn’t happen again.

Here is a little peek at the process, the quick sketch and a few of the cut layers with one side assembled.

wave assembly

Well, that’s all folks.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention… I took this piece and about 4 other older pieces with me to an event I had no intention of selling at and what do you know… SOLD. And see, I am so done, I didn’t even bother to fret over the lack of wave metaphors I could have been and should have been using throughout this whole post to make it more you know, “bolgworthy”.

Cheers!

 

 

Signs Everywhere

There comes a time when you must stop and listen to the universe. The universe is telling you something. It is telling me something.

I’m not sure exactly what it is saying, some of it is lost in translation, but I think  I can make out the gist of it: ‘Ridiculous’, ‘irrelevant’, ‘useless’, ‘pointless’ and ‘stupid’ (my favorite) are words that keep filtering through.

I spent the past two weeks attempting to write a simple post on, of all things, time management and making time to do the things you love; the things that are important to you. It should have been a simple post. A post an average fifth grader could tap out in a matter of an hour. However, I can only give my time to so many areas. Writing takes time and for me, quiet. Certainly, I have time. But my time should be spent on more important things. Writing for a few minutes here and there throughout the week is  not working. The time I give to other areas I also consider important is not working. I see that now.

So, yes, there comes a time when you must listen to the universe when it tells you to “STOP! For the love of God, STOP wasting your time!”

Of course there are commitments I must follow through with, but I must pursue the areas that are far more beneficial and important, not those grounded purely in my own self interest.  I mean, how many times must I go through this “I’M DONE” stage? Every month there is another sign thrown smack in front of my face, but I choose to ignore it. The one commitment I must follow through with is committing for once and for all to BE done. Stop saying it to myself and just be done and move on to which ever direction I am supposed to be going. And I am now thoroughly convinced the road I have been traveling for the past four years is not the right direction. I have simply been forcing something that is not there.

So, ok Universe! I quit! I’m waiting for you to take me where I am supposed to be.

I haven’t decided to cut myself off completely from all social media. I’m pretty sure I will not be continuing along with my same goals. But I just don’t have the energy  to bother thinking about all that right now.

Anyway – Cheers! Thank you to all of you who have stopped by over the years. It really did mean a lot to me and is what kept me going this long. If I think of anything truly profound or something I think you can’t live without knowing, I may post again.

IMG_0623

 

What’s up with the picture? Nothing, I just like it. I’ve been trying for a very long time to snap a great picture of a raven. Last week this one just flew up and landed right in front of me – how is that for a sign?

 

Changes…

After weeks of trying to find a witty, entertaining way to explain my absence and lack of motivation to write anything more than a laundry list- I give up. So here it is, my not so grand reentry into the blogosphere.

 

What Has Changed

Sadly, Elliot was growing more incoherent each day and developed a very annoying habit of beating her head against the wall for hours on end. I found it impossible to concentrate with all that racket so we had her shipped off to a very fine sanatarium  finishing school so she might be molded into a more polished version of her twisted little self. But this means our bricks and mortar shop, Twisted Elliot, has officially closed.

Once Elliot learns the art of proper parosol twirling and how to distinguish between a pitchfork and a dinner fork and especially how to control urges to stab someone with either, we will happily welcome her back and continue to love her unconditionally.

Yes, it was a little sad to close the door on Twisted Elliot, but all is well. We are in a new studio space, which is exciting (we have windows!) because I feel it will give me a place to work more and worry less about presenting that work in a retail setting.

Here is a peek at the new studio:

I call this the “Collectors Corner”, it’s a place for all those weird things I find on walks or have been given to me by friends… things like deer bones, dead bees, feathers. Not sure what the feng shui in all this is, but it might explain a few things.

collectors corner

storage and photobooth

A major dilemma I’ve faced for years now is having access to a convenient permanent “photo booth”, a designated zone where an item can be placed and photographed immediately upon completion. Since I make small items, this should be pretty easy… it isn’t. This area in a corner of my shelving units has potential, I’ve had  a little luck with some items, but there hasn’t been consistency in the photos and I’m doing a lot of editing, which can be very tedious and time consuming.  But, notice all the empty space on the shelves?  I always have to make sure I save room for the hoard to grow.

work zone Collage

This area by the window has proven to be a good option for a “photo booth” though not a permanent set up. But all I have to do is drape some white paper over my computer and VIOLÁ! Then dump photos int a photo editor and Voilá! again… the key would be to get the shots right from the beginning… oh well. Again, not perfect, but very little set up is required, and on a sunny day the lighting is pretty perfect. I’m enjoying having these two separate work areas, including my brainstorming area (you can tell not so much as a cloud in sight these days). Two work areas make it easy to move back and forth between tasks and projects when I need a break from one or the other…

comfy place

and the comfy spot is great when I need a beak from both. This also makes a nice cozy spot for the occasional visitor (hint, hint).

And then there is this:

packing station

                                                  The pack and wrap station for all those Etsy orders that are going to start pouring in and flying out. But for now it is a good spot to just hang my coat. Notice my fabulous  Blue Apron  boxes? They are great for transporting the dolls to and from shows.

And that’s all the changes that have been happening here. It’s a work in progress, and we are missing Elliot, but when she returns, there will be a place here for her in the newly padded cupboard.

 

What has Stayed the Same

Pretty much everything else has stayed the same.  Well, not really, but I won’t dare bore you with all the bland and boring details. Besides, most of it doesn’t involve me, and I’m not one to gossip… not online anyway.

So, until my next post, which hopefully will be soon, Cheers!

And I meant to ask… how is the New Year treating you so far? Have you also had some changes going on in your world? All for the better I hope.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Camping Everyone

I’m excited to be doing a few Holiday shows, but I’m also feeling very pressed for time. With that, I can only leave you with a photo:

caravan tin Collage

This Christmas caravan was created from an Altoids tin. The roof is made from Sculpey III  polymer clay and rests on a trailer hitch made from a clothes pin, spool and wood bead. Other embellishments include decorative paper, beads, pipe cleaner and charms salvaged from thrift store jewelry. I decided not to make my own bottle brush tree because, well, I just wasn’t feeling motivated to do so.

I’ve done a good job this year using only items I can salvage from my stash and using the paper scraps I have collected over the years. The only purchases I have made are for products I have run out of and some really beautiful, hard to find decorative paper. Mostly I’ve been working on creating my own background papers using photo editing programs.

Hey, this was supposed to be a quick photo only post. So with that, while all is quite and calm, I must get back to work. I have about 100 more of these to make.(!)

And Happy Thanksgiving:)

What Happens at the Forest’s Edge

After weeks of battling serious artist’s block, I decided it would be best to give up on forcing an idea to develop and not think about doing anything creative. At all. Ever again.

This new outlook was just a little stressful. I was thinking about an upcoming show I’d be doing and I wanted to have new merchandise on display. But I just couldn’t come up with an idea. When there was a flicker of an idea, I lacked ambition to do anything with it.

So I did what all frustrated adult children do in times of stress; I picked up my coloring book and crayons (and my Oreos) and headed to my happy place.

Ahhhhh, there’s nothing like the feel (or smell) of brand new coloring book to transport you to that feel good place of wonder and possibilities. At first it was very intimidating, I was afraid I’d turn those gorgeous, magical illustrations of enchanting forest life into something more of an environmental doomsday disaster. How can a middle-aged adult woman be afraid of a coloring book? I realized how ridiculous I was being and after a few days of admiring and caressing the pages I decided this was MY coloring book and I was going to do with it what I wanted.  I then made the mistake of Googling how others were coloring their books and quickly realized how much I suck… not just at coloring but… MY GOD…. did I actually Google and watch other people coloring?  Well, I embraced my crazy, slammed down a fistful of Oreos, opened the book, grabbed the first crayon within my reach and threw caution to the wind.

After a few days of this madness I started to feel a little happy. After a few more days I had an idea.

I began to gather my pieces.

small bits

I approached this project with the same attitude I did the coloring; I just went for it. The idea was just like the illustrations in the book; there for me to fill in and expand on, but not to be feared. It was ok to color outside the lines. And it was more than ok if things got messy. And it would even be ok if it never got finished.

getting there

I rolled paper (for the scrolls and mini books – not what you’re thinking), picked up and smashed up twigs, broke mirrors, cut up twine, went through my stash and pulled out little pieces I’ve stored away for this very day, then smeared it all with black paint. I worked away and became one with that crazy old cat woman, alone in a ramshackle cabin at the edge of that enchanted forest, collecting and hoarding all the dead and dying things it spat out. All while not having a care or concern in the world.

I created my true happy place. Which is a complete opposite of my zen garden happy place, but there is room for more than one happy place.

LAB Collage

apothecary tins

After dabbling with these pieces,  I was able to easily move on to other projects that required a little more focus and neatness.  I’m still trying to figure out exactly what the lesson is in all this. I think it’s that sometimes we just need to get over ourselves and do something completely different, no matter how silly it may seem. And sometimes we don’t have to DO anything. In doing nothing we allow new ideas to form…. you know, “listen to the universe”…

If you haven’t already caught on to this new coloring craze – I would highly recommend it. I find it to be quite relaxing and meditative. You can find these “adult” coloring books in craft stores, book stores and even in the book section of some retail grocery stores – I suggest picking up a supersize snack pack of Oreo cookies as well – to achieve the full effect of the experience.

coloring book collage

I’d love to hear how you combat and overcome your artist’s block. You can also find out more about the artist and creator of these stunning coloring books, Johanna Basford, by visiting her website johannabasford.com.

Creating a Watermark with PicMonkey

I was certain I knew nothing new under the sun when It came to computers. Usually by the time I’ve figured out a basic skill, it’s old news and there are better and faster ways of doing the same skill. So, imagine my surprise when people approach me with computer related questions. Specifically, how I make and apply watermarks to my photos.

A watermark is the subtle little image, typically the artist or company name or logo, found on a photo.  I’m always asked how I add my personalized mark to my photos, so I thought I’d write a post about it. Personally, I feel a little silly writing this post.There are a million articles available on-line addressing this very issue. All of them much better than this post will be, but, since I’ve been asked, how can I deny requests to share my limited knowledge? If I’ve left something out or you know of a better way to do this, please feel free to share your tips.  I apologize in advance for my lack of tech vocabulary, I’ve attempted to use correct nomenclature when known and I did try my best to avoid words like “doo hicky”and “thingy”, even where, in some cases, those might be more accurate than the words I ended up using.

Before we get started:

1- This is a PicMonkey editing tool. PicMonkey is a free and easy to use photo editing program. You can subscribe to PicMonkey and pay for more upgrades but everything in this post can be done using what is available for free.

2- There are limits to what PicMonkey can do. For one, you can’t “save” unfinished work for later. Once you save your creation or any part of it to your computer, that’s it, done deal. The best you can do is not log out of PicMonkey at all until you have completed your project. I’ve worked on a project for several days at a time by not logging out of PicMonkey – not ideal, but hey, with everything else PicMonkey offers, I can overlook this small inconvenience.

3- I do all my photo editing with PicMonkey. It may be possible to use your overlay created in PicMonkey in other photo editing programs, but I’m not sure how. I know it doesn’t work with iPhoto. I was able to use the cut and past options in preview to add a created overlay to a photo, so perhaps there is the ability to use the overlay in other photo editing programs, I’ve just never tried it.

3 – If you’re interested, you can read my PicMonkey review to find out why it’s my top choice for simple, fast and inexpensive photo editing. No, I don’t get paid to write this stuff.

With all that out of the way, we can now get started.

How to Create a Watermark in PicMonkey 

Create the Transparent Background

The first step is to create a blank transparent background on which to place your watermark. Making the background transparent allows for a subtle image on your photo; one that won’t look like a label has been pasted on your photo.

1 – Go to PicMonkey and choose “collage”.

step 1

2 – You will be prompted to choose photos for your collage from your computer – just click on any photo. You’ll then see the blank collage page with three cells and  a thumbnail of your photo to the left. Delete the photo by clicking on the small “x” located in the right upper corner of your thumbnail. You don’t need it.

step2and 3

3 – Delete all the cells of the collage by clicking on the small x’s that appear in the upper right hand corner of each cell. You’ll be left with one big square.

step 4

4- Go to the back ground option; click on the palette icon at the left then check the box for “transparent background”.

step 5 and 6

step7

When you make the background transparent you’ll have a big transparent square. This is the canvas you will open in edit to create your watermark.

Tada – the first part is done; creating the blank canvas.

Create The Watermark via “Edit”

1 – After you click “edit” your blank canvas will open and you’ll see this checkerboard canvas:checkered background

Now you’re ready to design your watermark. Play around with fonts and other existing overlays and backgrounds until you get the look you want.

For this post I’m going to keep it simple. In my opinion, a watermark should be simple, typically just your name, or the name or logo of your business.

2– Add text by clicking on the “Tt” icon. You’ll see a nice collection of text styles to choose from. Click on “Add Text” and a text box will appear on your checkerboard. My inspiration today comes from watching my cat, who is watching the birds. Well, plotting their deaths more like it. Anyway, choose a font style and enter your text.

texts and overlays

I thought I’d spruce it up a bit by applying an overlay from the PicMonkey stock. You can find an array of overlays in the overlay menu which is located via the butterfly icon.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 9.24.49 AM 3– When you are happy with your creation, crop it tightly.

You can find the cropping tool in the “basic edits” menu.

cropping

Pull the corners in until you have it cropped tight. Now you are ready to save. Cropping it tight like this gives you more control over how big or small you can make your overlay – at least that has been my observation.

4– Now for the most important part – when you are happy with your overlay SAVE IT! Preferably in a place you can find it on your computer. I am so surprised at how many people I’ve talked to who go through all the above steps every time they want to watermark their photos. WHAT????? You should only have to do all the above steps ONCE to create a watermark which you’ll always have access to.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 9.25.35 AM

HOW TO SAVE AND FIND AGAIN

Give it a name.  I edit a lot of photos and I have two watermarks I use consistently. To find them easily I have added the letters “A”or “aa” in front of their titles so they are always the first photos to appear in the drop down list from my computer.

PicMonkey will prompt you to save your masterpiece to your computer, then your computer will likely ask you where. I always save my most used items or current projects to my desktop so I’m sure to find them.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 9.25.49 AM

Again, SAVE. Should I repeat that? And don’t just save it, save it where you will find it easily. Just a suggestion.

So now you have your nifty cool watermark.  But you might be wondering, “How do I put this thing on a photo?” We will do that in the following steps.

Placing Your Watermark on  a Photo

1– Tomorrow, when you want to upload all your fabulous feline fashion finds, or your dinner, to your website you’ll now be able to put your personal stamp on those photos by first opening the photo in PicMonkey “edit”.

Go to PicMonkey and click on “edit”.

1edit photo

Your computer menu will appear. Find the photo you want to edit. Not the overlay – just the photo of your Mac and Cheese… or your Devon Rex… or whatever photo you are planning to add the overlay to. desktop menu

As stated before, I usually put all photos I am planning to edit on my desk top, as well as the items I work with the most, such as my watermarks.  Above you can see the two watermarks labeled with “A” and “aa” so they are the first to appear in my list of choices. This makes it easy to just grab and drop them. Here though, I have the photos I am working with for this post appear first, but you get the point.

Choose the photo you are going to edit.

I chose this one—

profile skull

Do all your editing; cropping, exposure… whatever…then go to the butterfly icon which, if you remember, is the “overlays” menu.

adding overlay

At the very top you will see “Your Own”  – click that and find your amazing overlay that you SAVED. Click on it, click on “open” (located at the bottom of the screen) and it will automatically be dropped onto your photo which should already be opened in PicMonkey.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 9.28.41 AM

Move it around, resize it by pulling or pushing at those little circle thingy’s in the corners. (I had to throw one “thingy” in there).  I like to fade it out a bit to make it subtle. You can fade it  by using the slider on the overlay tools menu, the one that says “fade” . You can also change the color of the overlay which comes in handy if the original color blends in too much with the color of your photo.  Once you have it where you want it, save your watermarked photo.

That’s it. So, this was really two posts in one. The first being how to create the overlay and SAVE IT and the second being how to apply your SAVED watermark to photos.

A watermark is a good way to build your identity or simply add your signature to the photos you share online. Now, go enjoy making your mark all over the virtual universe!

For a great source of tips, tricks and tutorials I’d suggest you swing on over and subscribe to the  PicMonkey blog – you’re sure to go ape over it.