Sunday, 11 March 2018

Recent Mail Art

I have been very active and busy in the last few month with some mail art projects over on Afa, and this post is about those projects.

Firstly there is a monthly arted envelope trade with an assigned partner, and I am not quite sure why but I just had to make some envelopes with opening doors recently. One of my partners had stated in her profile that she was doing a lot of gardening design and floral arrangements. I decided I wanted my envelope to her to reflect that and I went for a walled garden (like a secret garden) with an opening wooden door. I am not showing the front as it contains my trade partners name and adress.

If you look real closely you can see the texture of the nails on the door, I used Lumiere metallic paints for those (not a sponsor), and my trusted inktense pencils for the rest.

I also found some tiny brads in my stash and I used them for the closure as you can see.

Now I hit a bit of an obstacle, drawing perspective properly is incredibly hard and I found no way I could draw the view from the gate into a walled garden in a way I found pleasing and with proper dimensions and so I had to go back to the drawing board for inspiration. Eventually I decided if I can‘t give my partner a garden, I might at least give her a lot of.... Space!

It doesn‘t come out in the picture, but I used an iridescent medium on the planets and the polar caps.

Up to this day I am not sure if my partner has received her space garden, she went to stay with relatives for a month about a day after I sent it and I have no idea if she is back yet or even if the envelope made it. Because it has the opening door I wrapped it in a clear bag for the journey. I will wait another week or so and then contact her via message to see what the story is.

And then there was February which is the month for Valentines Mail Art. For this people sign up and then make a valentines card for everybody who signed up for it. In the last few years this list had grown to over 20 participants, thank goodness this year „only“ 16 people had signed up. I had just before bought some mulberry paper online and as it was not how I thought it would be I had not used it yet and so I decided I would use it for this project. And maybe carve some lino stamps, too? I must admit, I carved some very elaborate lino stamps, but they did not work out for printing on the mulberry paper, I was very dissapointed. Instead I found some Indigo for dyeing hair in my arty stash pile, my husband had gotten it for me ages ago in a set together with Henna, and when I did research about maybe using indigo on paper I found only answers that said the Indigo for hair wasn‘t suitable for fabric dyeing, nowhere did it say anything about paper. And so I went ahead playing...

I loved the process, and I also found that a little water applied on top of the freshly soaked paper changed the indigo colour slightly. Unfortunately the mulberry paper itself wasn‘t thick or strong enough to be used a postcard on its own, but I used it as key feature on ebery card and my partners February envelope, too.

Now I just had to make some card for the background, and if there is one technique I started to really enjoy, then it is splash dyeing paper with fabric dye. It dries waterproof (a must for arting over it), the dye comes in wonderful colours and you really don‘t need much at all, the splashes are wonderfully random and add a surprise effect to watercolour and inktense pencil drawings. It really is playtime and highly enjoyable. 

For this particular project I chose a very pink colourscheme, it was for Valentines after all...

Unfortunately I did not take pictures of the process, but the first card you see here is for the birthday babe in the envelope and Valentines trade, it has the pink splash paper as base, inktense pencil writing and a little heart garland made from the indigo dyed mulberry paper

Up next is my February partners envelope, another one with an opening door, I used a different splash paper for the envelope and I used my pink fabric dye to dye the heart shaped door. The medium size heart on the door is indigo dyed mulberry paper with some fabric dye added also, and then a tiny indigo heart over it.

When you open the door you can read a message inside the door and the envelope turned into a shaker card with some heart shaped confetti and lots of glitter inside...I loved making this one. And the indigo dyed mulberry paper was used for every single card and envelope that month, I still have loads left over so I will be using it again.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Happy New Year with more disturbed Ladies

I had started a girls head series last year, with each of these ladies depicting a different mental process or problem, be it thoughts being on fire, keeping struggles within or having trouble to think clearly with all the mental quicksand hampering you. 
So the girl series continues, simply because I love making them and also they help me to put an image to emotions or impressions that keep coming up. They are part of a creative personal therapy process one might say.
I am starting my post off with my Hex 18 girl. I know it is a weird title, it relates to the I Ching hexagram 18: Decay/ Work on What Has Been Spoiled. 

A very good friend of mine used to make me cast some coins and derive the hexagram from that for me. I honestly don't know how many times hex 18 came up, but it must have been a good 20 times or more, and there are 64 hexagrams in total and throwing the coins is used as a sort of randomiser as to what hexagram will come up.
The first line in the text for Hex 18 tells us that it represents a bowl with worms breeding inside. It wants to tell is that there is an issue that has arisen out of conscious neglect (or procrastination) and that needs to be dealt with. Eventually I got the message and I started realising that it wasn't a pointing of fingers but a pointing out of a source of a problem I was having and so I decided to firstly deal with the Hexagram and learn about it properly, since it wanted to tell me something that badly I owed it that much at least. During this learning process my Hex 18 girl was born. Although in retrospect I have to say she is a bit of a misrepresentation of the hexagram, as the hexagram tells us to work (and repair) on what has been spoiled and so maybe another fitting image might have been a broken bowl repaired with gold as in the japanese traditional craft of Kintsugi

Since I made this girl and learned more about hex 18 I took the time to make a study of the I Ching as well and I have never since gotten the 18th hexagram as a result of casting my coins. I hope for now I am dealing or have dealt with the issue it was relating to.

This next girl is what can happen if I feel quite contented for a while, no major internal struggles or anything so I could devote some time to drawing a Magnolia Girl in front of a desert ghost settlement. She is a nighttime creature and so she has some moths gathering around her blossom like a living crown.

I hope you enjoyed these gorls, I have some more to post and write about but I also would like to pace myself. I haven't posted anything in half a year and I have done plenty of arting since but all the pictures are on a different device that is currently not compatible with Blogger. Until I have worked something out I have to make do with what I have but that means a lot of my projects I can not show here just yet. 
Until next time, keep arting...

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Origami bag

I have had the good fortune recently to be invited to another part of the beautiful country I live in and spend the weekend with a couple of very good friends. They moved to their new old cottage a few years back and as it is a good 4 hour drive to visit them and my pregnancy with twins got in the way of my last planned visit I had not spend more than just a few hours with one of them in the last years. I decided to take one of my sons with me and I was very happy when he got along splendidly with my friends daughters.
We drove down on a Friday evening and on Saturday morning we went to a lovely market in a neighbouring town. There was plenty of organic good food, antique jewelry, semi precious gemstones and lots of other goodies to be bought there, my local towns do not usually sport such an interesting array of stalls (my local towns market has 2 stalls).
In one of the sralls a little carved wood figurine caught my eye, it was a small sculpture of two baby elephants. My youngest son is very big into elephants so naturally I spot them everywhere. And this one was particularly special since the sculpture has twin elephants and I happen to have twins as well. I bought it and when I went home I spotted 2 small holes underneath it in the base. I remembered a few months back a friend over on had shared something about a type of japanese carved button (?) and I spend about half an hour going through all the relevant threads this post might have been in, I think I finally found it in a post from March of this year. 
This type of "button" is called a "Netsuke", and back when Kimonos without pockets were a common garment in Japan the Netsuke was tucked behind the belt to secure a small box called an Inró. Both the Netsuke and the Inró could be carved and decorated in the most elaborate and skillfull ways.ō

Now, I am not claiming to own an antique or very valuable Netsuke, but to me it holds a special value because I had heard of them on my online trading site, admiring the craftsmanship then, and then to discover by coincidence that mine has clearly found me.
I had to make something with it, and what better thing to make than something to put it to its intended use? An Inró would be way out of my league, but a small drawstring bag? I had seen tutorials for origami drawstring bags on Pinterest in the past and here is the tutorial I ended up following.

It is in russian but the pictures are an excellent guide.

These are the two contrasting fabrics I chose to use. I cut them to 10" square size.

I then marked my seam allowance on the reverse of the lighter fabric and pinned all around. For some reason I already forgot I decided to be lazy and not take out my sewing machine for this but to sew it by hand. Now I wonder how this decision ever made sense, but hey...

I will spare you all the different steps in between, if you checked out the tutorial you have seen them. So instead here is the finished little drawstring bag, with decorative buttons and the little Netsuke on the left.

Side view...

And this is what it looks like when it is opened. I am not sure yet when and how to use it but it was a bery satisfying process making it anyway ;-)

Friday, 12 May 2017

Random dyed paper

The country I live in (Ireland) is known for a few things: St. Patricks day, Guinness, celtic designs and... steady weather throughout the year. And with steady weather I mean rain. Rain in all its wonderful shapes and forms: drizzling, pouring, lashing and even the kind that looks like less than a harmless drizzle and has you soaked to the skin in 2 minutes.
In the last two to three weeks however we were very lucky because the weather was beautiful, sunshine and a slight not too cold breeze made a welcome change to the usual damp conditions. 

I decided to use the opportunity to create a new stash of pre-dyed paper to use later for arting and drawing on. I came to appreciate the random effect of the dye to create a background for the drawn design.

To dye your paper for later drawing you really want your dye to be waterproof; I tend to work a lot with Inktense pencils and watercolour and I would not want the background colour to reactivate and interfere with my intended later drawing. So I started doing a lot of research until I came across a number of artists on that use fabric dye for exactly this purpose. Some use Jaquard dyes, I have Dylon dyes readily available in the stores around where I live.
The following picture shows the basic supplies I use for pre-dyeing my watercolour paper: warm water, dyes, paper, pipettes and - yes - coffee!

I like to vary the colours I use each time, this time I used Sunflower Yellow, Bahama Blue, Blush Pink and Goldfish Orange. The blue and yellow are suitable to make a lovely vibrant green together.

On the ground I spread an opened rubbish bag to sprinkle my dyes onto and dye my paper.

I do an initial layer of dyes, and I tend to to this layer with tone in tone colours like yellow and orange in the next picture. Then I let that dry completely!

After the first layer is dry I go at it again and this time I can use contrasting colour as well, like the lovely green shows. If I was to add the green onto a wet layer of orange I would get a murky brown colour.

Sometimes I want the two colours to mix, like the yellow and blue, and create a paper with a green hue to it, I can then go back later maybe with an orange or another colour.

Here you can see a little murkyness happening with the orange and pink and blue, I admit I did not wait long enough to add the paints. Right now the Dandelions are in full swing spreading their seeds and a few landed on my wet papers. I left them on and hoped for a nice effect like you would get from salt on wet watercolours. The effect is too subtle to be noticed, and maybe I would have had to dump a tonne of seeds onto my papers to really make a difference.

Now I have a good supply of pre-dyed watercolour papers and I hope they will last me for a few months. Who knows, maybe if you are trading on you might be a future recipient of drawings made on these?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

My new Mehndi supplies box

I am doing a lot of Mehndi inspired art for a few months now, trying to learn more designs and patterns, coming up with my own, too. The one thing that annoys me is that I still have all my Henna related supplies in a paper bag on (sometimes under) my art table. In this baggie I have my mylar foil to make the cones, a supply of sellotape, spare stockings for filtering the powder and de-clumping the henna paste, just simple, basic Henna sundries. 
So I decided to take another one of my blank wooden boxes and art it up to hold my supplies, of course when I get to do Mehndi in public it will also come with me. 

I started out by painting it all black with acrylic paint, and after it dried I took a chalk fabric marker to sketch out my designs I wanted on the different sides.

I then used some metallic rusty colour to mehndi up my box.

All the sides have a different floral design on it because I really enjoy painting different kinds of petals, but they are all kept simple to allow for further embellishment with...


The light blue glitter in the flower and the paisleys was white in the little pack. Depending on how you hold the lid it now shimmers blue or green...

The best part about this is that I have sooo much glitter in my stash, sooo many different types of craft glue, and making your own glitter glue is sooo easy! I love easy! 

Making your own glitter glue also means you have greater flexibility, you can choose from more colours, how fine you want the glitter to be, and even how you want to apply it. I used an old paint brush but I have also used a mylar cone filled with glitter glue for previous projects.

The picture above shows one of the short sides of my box, the two holes are for a carrier rope. I have replaced the rope in the holes since I took the pictures.

So this is my new Henna supplies box, after the last bit of glitter glue had dried I gave it a couple of coats of thinned waterbased varnish to protect the wood.
Inside I store some small bowls set aside specifically for mixing Henna paste, some small spoons used only for Henna, my stash of mylar/wrapping foil for my cones, sellotape, scissors and it also fits a small notebook for my designs.

Confetti Quilt Scene

I had the great pleasure last November to participate in a class held by an extremely talented and innovative quilter by the name of Ethelda Ellis. You can check out her blog here

She was giving this class for my monthly patchwork group and she was teaching us a technique she calls confetti quilts. This is a great technique as it utilises the tiniest pieces of leftover and scrap fabric you might find in your sewing room and under your sewing table. 
Ethelda was so kind as to provide us with enlarged copies of photographs she took of forest scenes and trees, we each picked a picture and went to work to create a little quilt, approximately 8" x 11" in size, depicting what we saw in the picture.

Here is the picture I chose, I was drawn to the autumn colours.

She then taught us how to break up the big picture into small colour sections and we gradually built up the fabric and fibre layers to show the scene (or individual tree) we each had chosen. Everything was then covered with netting and quilted roughly with invisible thread to hold the layers together, but for me the great fun started with the real quilting, with coloured thread. I made leaf shapes in various autumn colours, chose a different quilting pattern for the sky and the underbrush. The only thing I did not get finished that day was shading the trees and binding the piece. I finally got a chance to do this during my patchwork groups last patchwork meeting and I am very pleased with how it turned out. I might still appliqué some single leaf shapes onto the border in a corner, to be honest, I haven't yet made up my mind. What do you think?

Here is a close-up of some of the quilting and shading. You might be able to see how small the fabric pieces are.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Henna on wood

Todays post is about an art fail. I still love the end result but I made several mistakes along the way, little things I knew better at the time and ignored my own cautionary council.
Recently I made a hennaed wood box. And I loved how it turned out in the end, the thing that bugs me is that it could have gone better. When you henna wood (or anything for that matter) the key is patience, henna takes some time to work and stain properly as well as heat, a little acid and sugar. The acid (eg lemon juice) releases the lawsone, that's what stains your skin. The heat makes the stain stronger, the sugar prevents the paste from drying too quickly and flaking off prematurely before a good stain is achieved. 
So far the basics, I have a lot of pics in this post and we will get to the rest as we go along. First up is the beautiful box without anything on it. This was a wine box at some stage, now it houses different treasures.

In the next few pictures you can see the henna design on the box, I had to leave the sides to dry in between so I would not smear the design as I worked along.

The following photo shows the front and bottom, the front was dried when I signed the bottom and you can see the henna on the edge flaking off a bit. Here is one of my mistakes, I had done henna on wood before and I had added sugar and had then trouble taking the henna off the wood without scratching the stained surface off. So I left the sugar out, resulting in paste cracking and flaking off as it dried. I also have to admit I was a bit of a miser here, I used some very cheap henna I had from a few years ago and had not stored properly. You have to store the powder in an airtight container in the freezer, else it looses its staining power...

Now you get to see the box after all the paste was taken off, the stain is usually quite light after paste removal and has to oxidise a little to mature to a darker shade.

However, below you can see that the henna stained the wood differently all over, depending on how and where the grain was positioned. I don't know enough about wood grain directions and its influences on stain absorbancy to make an educated guess about what happened here. In part I made the paste maybe a little too wet and so the moisture started "bleeding" into the surrounding areas, leaving the design fuzzy and with very little contrast, and in another part the wood grain messed it up, too. On the bottom of the next pic you can see how the stain is "supposed" to turn out, nice and sharp, a lovely shade of reddy brown.

Well, once you start the henna process you are commited to it, and as we are dealing with organic materials here there will always be unexpected aspects to the outcome. I left the box to mature for a few weeks, the stains took on a nicely browny shade instead of the initial fresh green they were before.

And then I sealed it inside and out with several layers of clear satin waterbased varnish. I usually thin my varnish with water for workability and so it takes more than just one coat to achieve a proper seal. The box looks slightly yellow in the next few photographs, it is not. But you can compare the outlines to the first few pictures with the paste on and you can see what I mean by fuzzy outlines, especially on the sideview. The outlines should be sharp and crisp.

I have stained wood with henna before and I will see if I can do another post for you, showing you what the outcome usually is. All in all I really like my little box, I like the design and even the "mistakes", it is a pretty reminder to not take shortcuts with this sort of thing... and maybe research woodgrain information for the future. Until then I might give wooden items a coat of acrylic paint and do the meh di design with acrylic paints also, that makes for quicker drying times, too. And greater colour variety... maybe even glitter?

Would you like to see the treasures I have in my box now?