Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Watering a Dry Spell

I'd just about guarantee that we all know the feeling of being in a creative dry spell. Your mind is empty, that piece of writing paper is excessively blank, designs refuse to work the way they should, and you'd rather be sitting in the sun sipping something frothy and fruity than be anywhere near your office or work table. What do you do when the artistic doldrums take root?

Well, I wish I could say I had all the answers to wash away the blahs, but I don't. In fact, here I am, 9:30 - no, now 11:30, the night before this blog entry is due, and I haven't a clue what to write. I feel like I am back in school trying to compose that 15-page paper that I waited until the last minute to write. I remember sitting in my parents' basement (my desk and stereo were down there), dozens of index cards covered with almost illegible notes piled in front of me, stacks of library books covering the old, 1960s Colonial print sofa, pencils sharpened, half-chewed pens at the ready, and my trusty Smith Corona manual typewriter sporting a clean, white sheet of paper. I was all set to write that ground-breaking thesis, except for one thing: my thoughts wouldn't gel. I might as well have been looking at stone tablets incised with hieroglyphics. Nothing made sense. My brain was drained.

"Maybe I will feel more inspired after a snack." I'd appease my inner muse with food to encourage her to return to work. Half a bag of chips or six cookies later, I was no closer to putting my thoughts on paper; the only thing that had been coaxed out by that culinary bribery was my waistline. Maybe I needed a nap. No, unfortunately no time for that. The report was due in the morning. Music...certainly music was well known for enhancing creativity. Luckily I had headphones for that stereo which was playing late into the night.

I am rather embarrassed to say that all my procrastination techniques were repeated quite often during my school days, resulting in papers being written at 3 am, a trend I have retained through my "mature" years, much to the annoyance of my parents, and now, my dear husband. Yet, the curious thing about those evasive tactics is that, eventually, I did write those papers, or later, sew those curtains, or make jewelry for impending craft fairs, and the results were usually better than if I had started early to plan and construct, then worked at a slower, more methodical pace. For me, the creative method that works best is one of collecting information, stewing and thinking (and to the outside world, looking like I am doing nothing) until my mental concoction has sufficiently brewed and is ready to burst forth in a flurry of activity, complete.

I would not necessarily advocate my methods for anyone but myself, of course. Your mileage will vary. However, there are a few elements commonly related to banishing dry spells that are hidden in this approach.

First, step away from the task at hand. Stop trying to force things to come together. Breathe, walk, meditate, listen to music, visit a flower garden, fold clothes, walk the dog, enjoy a cup of tea, or whatever feels right and relaxing at that moment. Don't think of this as evading what you have to do; think of it as clearing the mind in order to open the airways to receive new inspiration.

Original Print of Pink Orchids
by Beth Peardon Prods

If a short break is not enough, sleep on it. A good night's sleep allows the mind to percolate about ideas as well as to rest and rejuvenate the muses.

Perhaps a change of location will stimulate your creative juices. Try creating in a different venue, or even set up a small table outside. Move your supplies to a different room. Use an unfamiliar desk in a different room, or move your work table into a new corner. What do you see from this vantage point? If you can't move to another spot, then change your mental perspective. Really look at your surroundings with a fresh eye and note something you may not have noticed before; jot down some quick observations. Which colors stand out? What objects have you missed during your usual routine? Tilt your head to the left, then right. Do you see anything out of the ordinary? You never know what small detail, previously hidden from view, could jump start a new design or story idea.

Original Painting "Reflection" Watercolor
by The Creators Palette

Play the combination game. Without conscious planning, start putting together random materials in whatever way first comes to mind. These could be seemingly odd matches at first, but keep switching things around to see what appears. The more unusual the mixes the better, for these break old thought patterns and allow you to step outside the box in terms of creativity.

If you are a writer, then play with word sequences and associations. Open a dictionary, close your eyes, and point to a word. Open your eyes and write down what you see; repeat this process until you have a list of words from which to start a theme for a written piece. Try to write until you include all the words. Don't think too hard about this process. Just write what streams into your mind!

Old Glory Beaded Pen
by Ghi-Goo-ie Designs (JStinson)

Maybe it is time to move in a completely new direction. Try your hand at an unfamiliar craft or learn a different method within your current artistic field. Sometimes a break from the norm will re-ignite a passion for your old creative flame, but be prepared, for your crafting direction may shift to something entirely new. This new path may be a temporary diversion or it might be the beginning of a life-changing adventure into a craft which fuels your imagination much better than any previous artistic endeavors did. Don't fret if this happens. It is ok to move on if that is where your heart takes you.

Southwest Heart Treasure Box
from Jill's Treasure Chest

Most of all, be gentle with yourself when you are feeling dry. If you put pressure on yourself to perform the same every day, you will crumble under the weight of undue expectations. Plants growing during a dry spell are delicate and must be carefully and lavishly nurtured. Remember that creativity is not a steady, uniform stream, but rather an intermittent shower. Enjoy the times when inspiration is raining down, and rest when there isn't a drop of it. Go with the flow and your dry spell will eventually be quenched.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Here's Your {HANDMADE} Stimulus Package

Nonnie's Treasures

{37 items priced $7 or less}

I am happy to spotlight just a few of the
BBEST Team creations that can be had for
less than the price of an oven stuffer roaster!
{I'm not even including the fixin's, my friends.}

There are many, many more
beautiful gifts available. I wore myself out
on page 50
searching bbest team by price.
(That's over $1,000 bbest items all priced
LESS than $8!)


cat collar

{11 items priced $8 or less}

Blackbird Squawk

{6 items priced $7 or less}

Sassa Lynne
Chiffon Scarf Pack

{8 items priced $7 or less}

Floral Pendant

{15 items priced $5 or less}

In A Lather
Avocado~Cucumber Granola Bar Soap

{11 items priced $5 or less}


Hand Crocheted small purse with button close

{8 items priced $5 or less}

Paper Paraphernalia
Mini Moo Origami Card Holders
{7 items priced $5 or less}

Blazing Needles
Yarnius Tinyius
{17 items priced $5 or less}

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Carrying forward the message of Earth Day

On April 22, 1970, in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, members of my 8th grade science class trekked to the local creek, where we began cleaning the banks of gum wrappers, soda cans, beer bottles and paper. It was a “feel good” type of activity, but it was also time off from classes, so everyone was in a celebratory mood. We didn’t realize it then, but that day marked the first Earth Day of many more to come.

Earth Day actually had its roots much earlier in 1962, when Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin became determined that the needs of the environment be addressed by politicians. He approached President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, about making a national conservation tour. Both liked this idea, so in September 1963, the President made a five-day, 11-state tour, promoting conservation. While this tour did not make the political impact that Nelson would have liked, it did set the tone for future plans. These included legislation that Senator Nelson authored for the creation of a national hiking trails program and the Appalachian Trail System. Nelson was also instrumental in co-sponsoring the Wilderness Act, which eventually led to the Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act.

Six years later, Senator Nelson made his own conservation tour, speaking on college campuses during the anti-Vietnam movement. It occurred to him that the grassroots energy that students invested in their feelings about Vietnam could be used to protest what was happening to our environment, and thus thrust conservation in the eye of politicians. At a conference in Seattle, Nelson announced that in the spring of 1970, there would be a nationwide protest on behalf of the environment, and that everyone was welcome to participate.

The response was immediate and energetic. Thousands of schools and communities participated, each in their own way. The New York Times reported, “Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation's campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems…is being planned for next spring…when a nationwide environmental 'teach-in'…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned…."

Since that time, Earth Day has been celebrated each spring to remind us of the importance of our environment, and how each of us can make a difference. Ten years before the Senator's death in 2005, President Bill Clinton awarded Senator Gaylord Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, remarking that “As the father of Earth Day…He inspired us to remember that the stewardship of our natural resources is the stewardship of the American Dream."

Although Earth Day is officially commemorated by communities across the nation on April 22nd, the week leading up to this date often includes special events. The University of Massachusetts in Boston, for example, is holding an Earth Day Fair to raise awareness about environmental issues. At the National Mall in Washington, D.C., an event called The Green Generation will launch. The Green Apple Festival took place on April 17-19 in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, New York and Washington, D.C.

While these events are remarkable demonstrations of a unified ecological attitude, we all know that the stewardship message behind Earth Day must be practiced every day in order for a long term positive ecological impact to take place. Members of the BBEST team carry that message forward by developing eco-friendly products and practices, and by creating artistic products that remind us of our responsibilities to this planet.

Sue of maddyandme, for example, does her part by upcycling the leftover wool fibers that are part of her felting process in a Spring Bird Nesting Kit.

Spring Bird Nesting Kit, by maddyandme

Joon of joonwalk makes whimsical Pocketfuls of Starlight that use vintage or reclaimed fabrics, notions and buttons.

Pocketful of Starlight, by joonwalk

Beth of BethPeardonProds speaks about the impact we have on the environment through sand-writing in her ACEO-sized photo, "God's Earth."

God's Earth, by BethPeardonProds

Through her bubblescape titled "Compassion," Diane of DianeClancy reminds us, "Compassion for ourselves, other people and the earth is an important part of protecting the environment."

Compassion, by DianeClancy

Sara of LaughingOtterJewelry suggests the symbiotic relationships in nature with her bracelet, "Earth and Water."

Earth and Water, by LaughingOtterJewelry

Kate of heronkate points to the origins of the earth and how time affects our planet through her Southwestern-colored, pyramid-shaped earrings, shaded like layers of sedimentary rock. According to some, the ancient Egyptians believed that the earth sprang from a mound shaped like a pyramid.

Earth Pyramid Earrings, by heronkate

In her shop, Joni of jstinson features a print titled "Sacred Sites," by Dakota artist Donel Keeler. According to Joni, the Native Warrior in this illustration "is imploring us to protect the ancient and sacred sites of our Native people." This respect for people, their history and their relationship to the earth underscores part of what Earth Day is all about.

Sacred Sites, by Donel Keeler, at jstinson

To read other environment-related blog posts by Boomers, refer to the posts below.

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://sparklines.blogspot.com.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sally Meets Picasa

"Sally," I said excitedly, as I opened the front door. "Come on in. I want to show you what I've been doing!" I exclaimed.

"My, you do sound excited," said Sally. "Just what have you been up to besides making that yummy smelling dessert with its wonderful aroma floating through the house?" she asked.

"Oh, I have learned to do the most fun thing, and it is free!" I replied.

"Well, free is certainly good," said Sally. "Show me what you've been up to!"

"Have you heard of Picasa Web Albums?" I asked.

"No," Sally answered. "What is it, and what do you do with it?"

"Here," I motioned. "Sit down by the computer, and I will show you."

"Does this have anything to do with your Boomer and Beyond friends and some more shops you promised to show me?" queried Sally.

"Absolutely!" I said. "Okay, here's what you do first. You go to http://www.picasa.com/. Then you will sign up if you haven't before, but that is free. Once you have an account, then when you go to the url I just gave you, sign in, and then click on Picasa Web Albums. Next, you click on Upload," I explained. "Now you are ready to make an album and a slideshow," I said.

"Slideshow!" cried Sally. "You know I am not the tekkie type!"

"Oh, but if I can do it, then you know it can't be too hard," I laughed.

"Okay, go ahead," said Sally. "Show me what I would do next."

"After you click on Upload," I continued,"then you will click on Create a New Album. A screen will open, and you can give a title to your album. For example, here is an album I made for Chauncey, who makes beautiful glass items:

http://www.chauncey.etsy.com/ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"Wow!," exclaimed Sally. "Chauncey makes beautiful pendants, and that slideshow is like magic!" she said. "But, you didn't finish telling how you did it," Sally said.

"Okay," I went on. "Before I could make an album for Chauncey, I had to go to her Etsy shop and select some photos, and as I chose each one, I clicked on Save As and put them in a folder I had made just especially for all the photos I was going to use today. I named hers Chauncey 1, Chauncey 2, Chauncey 3, etc. and did the same for the other artists. So, I saved all the photos first. Now, you remember, we are on the page where we add a title. For this one, the title is Chauncey. I scrolled down and clicked on Continue. Then I got a screen that said Add Photos, so I clicked on that. Then I double-clicked on Chauncey 1, and there it was on the screen in front of me. I continued to double click on Chauncey's photos until all seven were on the screen. Then I clicked on Upload."

"You are going to have to write this down for me," moaned Sally. "I can't remember all this stuff!" she cried.

"I know just what you mean," I said. "We will do that in a minute. Let me show you what I found in Jems by J Band's Etsy store.

http://www.jemsbyjband.etsy.com/ Albany/Latham, New York

"Her jewelry is beautiful," Sally said. "I am impressed," she continued. "Your Boomer and Beyond friends certainly are talented!"

"Yes, they really are!" I agreed. "Well," I went on, "to get their slideshows on this blogpost, I had to do a few more things. Remember, I said we were on the page where I had clicked Upload. After that you look at the right side of the screen, and you click on Links to this Feed. Then under that you will click on Embed Slideshow. A new screen will appear with html text on a yellow background. You highlight all that and hit Control C to copy that text. Then click on Done. Then I went back to Blogger (where I had saved what was done so far), went to the blogpost I was doing, and clicked on Edit. When it opened up, I went to the Edit Html tag at the top. Then I scrolled down until I got to where I wanted the slide show to appear. Then I hit Control V to copy the html text onto the blog. Next, I clicked on the Compose Tab at the top of the screen. Wallah! I was back to the text, and there was a black box where the slideshow will appear when I publish the blog post."

"Goodness, me," said Sally. "Do you have another shop you did?" she asked.

"Oh, yes," I said. "Five more! Here are some paintings from Fauve Studio."

http://www.fauvestudio.etsy.com/ Holly Springs, Mississippi

"Those are lovely paintings," said Sally. "How did you choose the shops you wanted to feature today?" she questioned.

"Oh, trust me," I smiled. "It was all very scientific. I went to the Bbest Chat Thread where all of the Bbest Team Shops are listed on the first page. I scrolled down until the screen was filled with a list of shops. Then I closed my eyes, circled my finger around and around ten times to get it dizzy, and then I just pointed at the screen. Wherever it landed, that was my first shop. Then I scrolled down some more and repeated that process until I had selected seven shops!"

Sally laughed! "Only you," she said. "Only you!"

I laughed, too. "Let me show you the others that were selected so scientifically!" I replied.

http://www.jillstreasurechest.etsycom/ Clinton/Jackson, Mississippi

"What a sweet shop," Sally said.

http://www.mysticsilks.etsy.com/ Warren, Ohio

"Her scarves and paintings are wonderful, "admired Sally.

http://www.artsyclay.etsy.com/ Asheville, North Carolina

"What cute pendants ArtsyClay makes," said Sally.

http://www.birose.etsy.com/ Pahoa, Hawaii

"Birose makes really cute and colorful bracelets," exclaimed Sally.

"My boomer friends are the very Best," I said. "They have so many different talents and make such wonderful things! I just wish there were room to put them all on here today," I sighed.

"Oh, well," smiled Sally, "As your grandma used to say, 'The good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise' you'll do it another day!" she said.

"You are right about that, " I replied. "Let's go check on that dessert!"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Silk Painting, the basics

Han_dynasty Silk painting is a truly ancient art.  Silk has been cultivated for over 3500 years, and people painted on silk well before the invention of paper.   Batik cloth seems to have originated in India around the second century C.E and spread throughout Asia over the years.  Batik uses wax to "resist" areas exposed to dyes, leaving the waxed areas the original color of the fabric before it's dyed.  The best known examples of batik are stamped in repeated patterns.   batik

Around the fourth century C.E., Indonesian artists discovered they could use the sap of the pallaquium tree as a resist.  This substance is known as gutta, a rubber-based product that can be stamped or applied in a fine line.  In the past few decades, water-based resists have been gutta developed.  To remove wax resist from a piece requires ironing it between sheets of absorbent paper; removing gutta requires dry cleaning; water-based products can simply be rinsed out with water.   Thank goodness.

Just as the tradition of batik techniques vary greatly around the world, there are also many different ways to paint on silk.  All the methods fall into three general categories: 

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Immersion:  You can immerse the fabric in a dye bath for all-over color.  There are lots of ways to bind the fabric before immersing it, resulting in patterns which vary from free as tie dye to as controlled as Japanese shibori.  To make the piece at right, bird shapes were stamped onto grey fabric -- then immersed in wine-colored dye.
  • Direct application:  By laying your fabric flat or stretching it taut, you can use a brush to paint or dye.*  When you apply color to any fabric, the colors runs naturally from one fiber to chardischdetanother, creating beautiful free flowing areas of blended color (as seen on the left).  sealscarf8If you want to keep the colors from spreading into each other, you must apply a finish to the surface of the silk, just as you apply gesso to a canvas.  Note how the watery layers behind the sea lion do not blend into each other, but look like separate stripes?
  • Gutta serti:  Sertir is a French verb meaning "to contain."  This method emphasizes drawing, as the gutta/resist is used to outline areas of color.  The dye is applied with a paintbrush, and spreads naturally over the fibers until it meets the gutta/resist line.  The figures at right are surrounded by a white line, because that's where the resist was. 

I use the serti method most of the time, because I like the graphic quality of the outline, but also because I think it's magic to watch the color travel from the paint brush to the resist line.  frame1

The photo on the left shows a silk scarf stretched in my studio.  Whether painting a wall hanging, yardage, or a scarf, the method is the same.  All fabrics must be prewashed and ironed.  I sometimes plan my design elaborately, using grid paper and a light table to enlarge it as needed.  Most of the time, however, I just freehand my design directly onto the silk.  I stretch the fabric on a frame and draw the design using clear resist.  Once the resist has dried, I apply professional silk dyes with paintbrushes -- one in each hand and at least one in my mouth. 

The process is meditative, yet immediate, since I must work quickly to keep up with the movement of the dyes.  Once I'm satisfied with the painting, the color is allowed to set for a day or two.  The fabric piece is then rolled in newsprint, wrapped in aluminum foil, suspended over a steam bath, and steamed for 1-3 hours.  Now the piece is colorfast.  After it "cures" for a day or two, I rinse out the resist lines in warm water, let it drip dry, and then iron.  If the hand of the fabric has been affected by the chemicals used to mix the dyes, it gets a bath in professional fabric softener, is dried and then ironed again.   paj4

I could go on and on.  Different fabrics accept color in entirely different ways.  Preparing different types of dyes involves a lot of chemistry, and each brand's chemistry is unique.   Variations in humidity and altitude will affect the action of the dyes.  It's difficult to mix a good brown with French dyes, and turquoise dye smells entirely different than yellow. 

I think most artists are secret alchemists, loving the magic of applying color and line, whatever the surface.  Being a magician is a powerful and addictive business!


*Paints dry as a coating on top of the fabric; dyes bind with the fibers and become part of the fabric.  Paints will affect the hand, or feel, or the fabric when they dry.  Dyes do not change the hand, and the fabrics feel smooth and lush -- what people think of when they think "silk."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hey, Guess What Month It Is

Raise your hand if you knew that April is National Garden Month. Which I guess makes perfect sense as this is the time that even those of us with the brownest of thumbs come out of winter hiding and get grand ideas of what would make the perfect garden. I’m so impressed when reading our team’s weekly thread, to hear of our members that grow everything from lettuce to chocolate truffles. Okay I didn’t read about anyone growing chocolate truffles, I just zoned out in my own fantasy world there for a minute.

Me, I like to stick with flowers. I know… you can’t eat flowers but they sure are pretty. Such lovely varieties that can make even the most humble of homes pop with color and excitement. Designing a flower garden is purely subjective which means no right and wrong. However, in researching for this post I found a few basic principles of good garden design.

The basic structure of the garden. Order can be obtained through symmetry, as in a formal garden, through repetition of plants or colors or through balancing bold or bright features with a comparable weight of fine or muted features

Harmony or Unity
When the parts of the garden work together as a whole. This can be accomplished by using a limited color pallette, repetition of plants, colors or structures and a clear focal point. Themes gardens have built in unity, like: all white gardens, butterfly gardens and cottage gardens.

Flow, Transition or Rhythm
Keeping the eye moving and directing it where you want it to look Gradual changes in height and color prevent the eye from making a sudden stop. Transition can also be used to create the illusion of a larger space by creating depth.

Didn’t mean to get all technical on you, just trying to help any beginners with a place to start. Like in art, rules are meant to be broken. Whether your thing is growing string beans and tomatoes (look out for those pesky squirrels) or roses and daisies, I wish you all a bountiful and beautiful garden this year. Save some of your chocolate truffle harvest for me!

Some favorites of mine from the bbest garden.







Don't forget to stop and smell the roses... Life is Good!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Often when we celebrate our birthdays we relate to our sign of the zodiac as well as the type of birthstone related to the month or period pertaining to time our birth.

Traditionally on the birth of a child they would receive a piece of jewellery that incorporated a particular precious material. Now, depending on which list you wish to adhere to depends the actual stone. For instance if you were thinking along traditional lines the stones would not necessarily be the same as if you were considering a mystical slant or modern one.

It is believed that the custom of actually wearing birthstones first gained popularity in Poland in the fifteenth century. It was suggested that everyone wore the birthstone for each month, since the powers of the gemstone were heightened during its month. For the fullest effect, individuals needed to own an entire set of twelve gemstones and rotate them monthly. You can imagine coming to the end of the year and wishing you could remember which stone came next or where it had been ‘safely’ stored! Below I searched under the BBEST Team tag and found these beauties although it was nigh on impossible to find Beryl. I, personally, had never heard of it but did find a seller on Etsy who had, called goldsmithsk who had created a very pretty bracelet. Likewise I could not find anyone within the BBEST team who had worked with bloodstone but did find a seller called gibscot who created a fun bracelet with Scottie dogs!

January 21 - February 19

Nonnie60 Check out these beautiful, rich coloured earrings!

February 20 - March 20


katzskreations The rich purple colour of this set will make a lovely addition to any jewellery collection.

March 21 - April 20



gibscot If you like Scotties then you will love this bracelet!

April 21 - May 20 image

Annasjewelry Imagine wearing one of these pairs of earrings!

Gemini image
May 21 - June 21

rosegardenfae A beautiful moss agate held in place by spirals.

Cancer image
June 22 - July 22

MagdaleneJewels Fleur de Lis earrings, each consist of an Antique Faceted Emerald Swarovski Crystal – how elegant!

Leo image
July 23 - August 23

NightSkyJewelry Swinging beneath an onyx cylinder is a cute antiqued sterling silver heart.

Virgo image
August 24 - September 23

Figments Carnelian, pewter, sterling silver and wooden beads are strung on 18” of heavy tan cotton cord.

Libra image
September 24 - October 23

eversoDear Swarovski Crystal bi-cone in the new Peridot sparkles and reflects colour and light beautifully!

Scorpio image
October 24 - November 22


This necklace consists of beryl and gold in between making a very pretty and unusual piece.

Sagittarius image
November 23 - December 21

DianasStainedGlass With a swiss blue topaz as a center stone, this is a stunner!

December 22 - January 20

Interestingly enough the Gregorian calendar has poems matching each month with its birthstone. However, you will note there are some slight discrepancies on which stones belong to a particular month. For instance, I found that the star sign Scorpio (October 24 - November 22) quoted Beryl as a birthstone. But, the Gregorian calendar quotes October should wear the Opal or Topaz and April should wear diamonds and so it goes on – very confusing!

Maybe next time I will incorporate the verses that go with the month and the stone. It’s just an excuse really to show off some more wonderful talent within the BBEST Team and, maybe, a few other sellers as well!

Just watch this space!