Thursday, February 26, 2009

When Creativity Knocks

During the CHA Show I filmed an episode of When Creativity Knocks with Ana and Megan. Hope you'll take a few minutes to view it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Creative Stirrings

I'm not sure my energy level today can be attributed to a feeling of Spring in the air. The temperature is far too cold and the winds are much too brisk, yet I can feel something exciting headed this way. I haven't seen any buds on my trees or tiny flowers peeking out of the mulch, and yet my sense of impending surprise and delight are overwhelming.
Part of my excitement may well be because the studio is spotless (had to clean up for last week's stamp club don't you know), and because I have a few new products in stock with lots more coming in March and again in April. Another reason could be the purchase of two more drawer units from IKEA for the studio as I slowly change over to a more streamlined floorplan. But I'm guessing it's because classes are about to begin again in the studio.
I've got numbers and letters in my system, along with rusty, vintage ephemera mixed with vibrant paints and inks. I know that doesn't sound like a possible combination to you, but trust me, it's coming in the form of classes.

It takes so much energy to prepare class submissions for conventions that I'm drained of new motivation once they're shipped out into the world. Having said that, I'll be headed back to Stampfest in Orlando at the end of June and I've got new classes to create for the selection process, which means more brainstorming in the wee hours for me. Designing bangles, pendants, and beads for CHA was also an ongoing effort for months, continuing right into my hotel room in CA just days before the show actually began. I do my best work under pressure and flying out a week early for vacation was more pressure than any one person should ever need.
I can tell you I'll be teaching three classes again this year at Stampaway in Cincinnati. One will be at the store, Stamp Your Art Out, on Wednesday night, August 5th. I won't say this is the best of the three, but I will say this class uses the most new product from CHA. Think new techniques mixed with new goodies and an explosion of color, and you'll be on the right track.
It's far too soon to give away all the details or to post photos, but ladies, if you're going to find yourself in OH in August, don't hesitate. I'm told there are fewer classrooms at the new venue (Sheraton) and that they're smaller, which means you'll need to register straight away once Connie has them posted.
No doubt receiving official notice of the classes selected has given me a boost. Working on submissions 10 months in advance can be daunting. But the good news is that for all three of my classes I'll be adding more new products discovered at CHA than those mentioned in my descriptions or used on my samples. And just think...there's another CHA in July which means the possibility of even more!!
I'll be posting a new studio class schedule in the upcoming days. If you're local, or willing to make a day trip by car, check back for the details. And of course I'm counting on my local guinea pigs to sign up for the Stampfest and Stampaway countdown classes in the studio in May, June & July. If you've never joined one of these adventures, I'll give you a brief explanation. I have a loyal base of ladies willing to be my guinea pigs in the studio where I do a dry-run of an out-of-state class. If I'm tempted to provide 12 products in a convention class that's limited to 2 hours, I have my gals play all day and I time each product introduction & application. If it takes too long, it's cut from the final class. On the other hand, these jewels are honest enough to tell me when to say when, advising which techniques to keep and which to rule out. If I give them too many options, they select their favorites and its up to me to tweak what I pack so that class time isn't lost choosing from 8 colors. Instead I limit the color choices to allow more time for actual play with something else that's brand new.
I think everyone who's taken a class from me will agree that the colors I provide may not have been their first choice, but they learned a few new tricks, went home with new toys, and most importantly, the knowledge to duplicate it with their own color palette. I'm constantly inspired by artwork featured in magazines and publications, even though I may not have cared for their choice of color. But I look further than their finished piece anyway.
A perfect example was 2 years ago while my husband was in surgery. I sat in a waiting area at the hospital with a tote bag full of magazines, a packet of post-it flags, and a journal & pen. I found a table by the window, selected a chair, and pulled out one magazine after the other, wasting no time reading articles since I knew I couldn't possibly concentrate. Instead I'd flip the pages until I spotted something and immediately thought of something else I'd do. So I'd flag the page, jot myself a note in my journal, and keep flipping.
Finally, another woman sitting nearby asked what in the world I was doing. Seems several people were intrigued by my concentration and couldn't imagine what I was up to as they sipped cold coffee and looked at the same newspaper sections over and over as the minutes turned into hours.
So I turned back to one of the many flagged pages and showed her a photo of children's party hats complete with bright colors, pom poms, and a sense of frivolity. What I saw wasn't a child's birthday party setting at all. Instead I saw one of my retreats, with tiny party hats as place cards. Each hat would have a person's name to mark their seat for a specific class. If you've attended one of my retreats you know that you're seated at one table on Friday night for the paper arts, but you're moved on Saturday morning for the wearable art. And you weren't the only person to move. Each participant was also moved around the room over the course of the 3-day event, giving everyone a chance to meet new people. So that simple magazine page gave me an idea for a new party favor my guests would take home at the end of the weekend, but would also enjoy following around the studio during the 5 different projects of the event.
Another magazine showed tulle used on a card, knotted in the center to create the look of a bow. So why not a flower made of tulle puffs in a variety of colors, pulled through the holes in the center of a button? Then the button could be added to a canvas or a purse or a tote bag, not just to something made of paper. Why I could even see them sewn onto my luggage so my black bags aren't lost in a sea of other black bags on that airport carousel.
Creative inspiration is all around us if we slow down and really look as we're going through the motions of our day. Have you got a dirty looking mouse pad next to your computer? Why not cover it with some of that new sticky-back canvas Ranger offers as part of the Claudine Hellmuth Studio line? Use her paints to dress it up. Stamp it with a fabulous flourish in black. Then grab a small foam stamp of a flower or use a pencil eraser and add some polka dots in different colors to create a bright spot on your desk.

You don't need a studio to create art. You need inspiration, a few supplies, and time. I hope I've given you the inspiration. Now gather your supplies, and give yourself 10 minutes to make something fabulous.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Time for a little fun!!

There are days when I wish I could be a kid again. We had it made and of course didn't have a clue. When I was little and my big brother started school I wanted to go too. I couldn't wait for the next year to join him. I can still remember showing up at JY Joyner Elementary School and being given the choice of my first grade teacher. I could pick Leon's teacher (she was covered with the biggest freckles I'd ever seen; even bigger and darker than mine) or Mrs. Hilker, a well coifed, petite little thing who smiled at me so lovingly. Of course Mrs. Hilker won me over right up until she made us sit in rows, alphabetically, and let me tell you, Vinson was always at the back of the room. Even then my vision was poor, so the blackboard seemed much too far away.
Art was always my favorite thing about school. I loved cutting construction paper, folding those large pieces of newsprint into grids to draw in, and I loved paste more than anything. I should go find a tub of paste, just to smell it if nothing else. Can you remember making simple things as a child, like pinwheels? We used straws because you could push a straight pin through the folds of paper and the straw for quick, easy assembly. And that makes me think of those cartons of milk in the cafeteria with paper drinking straws. Remember those? These days it seems they're all plastic. What a loss.

As children we had lots of pets. Our dogs were always named Trixie. We also had turtles that lived in shallow goldfish bowls. And hamsters and guinea pigs, and of course goldfish too. I'm not talking about fancy aquariums that needed cleaning. Nope. Just a simple glass fishbowl with that colorful rock in the bottom. We brought the fish home in plastic bags and carefully poured them into the bowl, sloshing the rocks around. Funny thing, when one would float it was never mine. I was satisfied that it belonged to my sister and mine was still famously alive and well because of the tender care I adminstered.
When I think back to my childhood I remember great times at Pullen Park in Raleigh, riding the carousel (though we called it a merry-go-round at the time), and the train. Now they have paddle boats but back in the old days they had a boat ride that was my favorite. Tiny little boats that went round and round on spider arms in water. Wonder if that's still at the park? We didn't swim at the Pullen Park pool; instead we had memberships to Hayes Barton pool where Daddy would take us each night after work. I can still smell the chlorine and I can see the locker room with those funny keys we clipped to our swimsuits. And learning to swim, diving between daddy's legs in the shallow end of the pool. My specialty was floating on my back and it's what I do even today.

My favorite candies were Sugar Daddies and candy necklaces, BB Bats & Kits, which were tiny little taffy candies, and of course those Safety Suckers on string loops instead of sticks. Mother used to walk us up to Mr. Ben's store on Whitaker Mill Road and I'd buy wax lips, wax crayons filled with colorful liquid, and candy cigarettes. Surely those are no longer PC, but hey, we loved them. And bubble gum cigars! Kids these days eat all these gummy things and don't have a clue what they're missing.

Childhood playtime was surely the best, with simple toys like Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys, both made from real wood. The original Slinky was the best because we had 28 stairs to my bedroom on the second floor and 5 more on the front porch. I did love a slinky til the metal coils got all tangled and couldn't be straightened to spring down the stairs anymore.

Playgrounds were a real favorite, whether at a neighborhood park or at the school. I loved a see-saw the best but I was such a scrawny little kid that I did a lot of bouncing when going up and struggled to bring it back down with a heavier friend on the other end. Sometimes we'd sit 2 on my end for more balance.

Everyone had a sliding board back then. Ours was pretty dreadful and we were constantly running in the house, begging for wax paper to give us an edge on the downhill runs. Do you think kids still do that? Or are all the new playgrounds equipped with plastic slides? Another loss.

I was killer at jump rope, wearing my Keds and dresses. I can remember pedal pushers but not long pants. Just dresses and jumpers (my favorite was denim, sleeveless, with white buttons running from the neckline to the hemline, cinched at the waist with a rope belt).

Every year we'd vacation in Norfolk VA with a great aunt & uncle and their 4 kids. They lived on a culdesac with a lake in the backyard, complete with a brick patio at the water's edge. I can still see the picture window overlooking that water; I'd never seen one before and I was awestruck. Just up the street was the neighborhood park with one of these spinning rides. We'd climb on and one of the boys would run alongside, round and round to get us going, and then jump on with us. I especially loved to lay down with my hair dragging in the dirt and we spun around day after day. I must have had some nasty hair but I don't remember that part at all; just the fun and all the laughter.

March is right around the corner which makes me think of kites. We got a new one every year, always paper with real wooden sticks. Mother would give us old clothes we'd outgrown so we could tear the strips of fabric to tie on the tail of the kite. I'd love to tell you we flew kites successfully, but even my memory's not that bad. We'd go up to Wesley United Methodist on Whitaker Mill Road to fly them because it gave us room to run without overhead power lines. Going to Grandma's was even better because you could run forever in the fields. I remember that running, with my kite bumping along in the dirt behind me. Rare was the day that I got enough wind to get it up and keep it up, but every year I'd get my new kite and give it my all like everybody else. It's just what we did.

Hop scotch was another favorite pasttime. Our driveway wasn't paved so we drew them with chalk in the street in front of our house. The little girls next door to me now draw them out in the culdesac with multicolored chalks that wash away after a rain, to be replaced on another warm sunny morning.

Hula Hoops were another divine invention. I was such a skinny kid with no hips but I could work that thing down to my knees and right back up under my arms. We had plastic ones but Uncle Dee had metal hoops, so on Sunday visits I'd ask a grownup to take them down off the nail on the side of the covered porch so I could play with them, 2 at a time. (Maybe I wouldn't be so chunky today if I still owned a hula hoop!)

Another favorite then and now is blowing bubbles. I've got a huge bottle of it right now under the sink in my studio, with a long double-ended wand. I hated the sticky fingers but loved to blow bubbles. Or better yet, to dip the wand in the bottle and then pull it through the air to create a string of bubbles. These days I use it to make bubble paper, adding ink to the water, but maybe it's time to take it out on the deck and see what the puppies think of chasing bubbles.

Those little girls next door have a swing set in the backyard, though it's nothing like the metal one I grew up with, yet a swing's a swing, right? I used to take my son to the park and while he'd play on the monkey bars, I'd play on the swings. Simple pleasures for simple minds.

Tomorrow I'm determined to hit the road at oh-dark-thirty for my trek to the new IKEA store in Charlotte. That's my idea of fun these days. It's calling my name so loudly as to be a distraction. But Sunday may find me blowing bubbles or swinging with a Sugar Daddy in my hand and a smile on my face.
Here's hoping you find joy in the simple things. Drive to the park and look for a sliding board or a swing set. Ignore the stares of the kids. Show them how it's done. On your next drive, venture outside the city limits and stop at an old country store. I bet you can find BB Bats if you look really hard. And I'm thinking WalMart will have a little fishbowl and some goldfish. What do you think?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Here's hoping you have something special planned for your weekend. Need a few last minute ideas for sharing the love? Buy a bag of candy and a few boxes of matches. Save the matches in a ziploc bag for that camper in your life, and wrap the boxes to hold the tiny candies.
Go through your scraps of pretty papers in reds & pinks, get out the scissors and clip some hearts while you're watching TV or sipping your coffee. If there's a candle lover on your list, make a pretty little ring to surround a new white candle. Use thread, string, or even wire, adding a few pearl or seed beads between the hearts. Don't have those within reach? Get some of those tiny little straight pins to push into the wax.

I loved this idea as soon as I found it on Martha's website. Tear off a long piece of wax paper and fold it in half. Use a handheld pencil sharpener to shave some crayons in shades of pink, blush, rose & red. Sandwich the shavings inside the folded wax paper, sandwich the wax paper inside sheets of newsprint or brown kraft paper, and iron to melt the shavings. Then it's just a matter of cutting out the shapes, stringing them, and hanging them in front of a window so the light can shine through you very own sun catchers. How divine is that?

If you're planning a trip out today for candy, why not pick up some little paper bags in red & white. Add doilies or hearts cut from pretty scraps of paper, before tying on tags & ribbons. Fill them with store bought candies or bake some cupcakes to tuck inside.

If you're looking for a really quick & easy gift, buy some Hershey candy bars and wrap them with pretty papers. Add embellishments, ribbons, paper hearts, paper flowers or buttons for that perfect finishing touch.

If you're like me and you love to collect bottles, this one is perfect only if you're willing to give away part of your collection. Make sure the bottles are clean before filling them with tiny candies. Tie on your tags, add labels if you choose, and share the love.

We're headed to my mother's tonight for one of her fabulous dinners, and then we'll play dominoes til we can't stay awake another minute. Tomorrow we're off to the big accessory sale at Bullock's in Rocky Mount. (This is where we found our green Chinese chest, one of our many elephant tables, our monkeys that stand guard in the foyer, and far more eclectic pieces of furniture that I'd be embarassed to mention.) Next we'll visit my mother-in-law in Williamston since she's now been moved into the main building at the assisted living facility and she's scheduled for surgery on Wednesday. And then it's back to Mom's to collect the puppies in the afternoon before heading back home for dinner and a movie.
My schedule is as full as my heart. Wishing you love and joy in whatever form that may take for you. May there be paper hearts in your future...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Still Smiling

Now if that photo doesn't just put the icing on my fabulous day, I don't know what would. Have still my heart...that is one mighty nice lookin' guy. It's telling my age to say that he reminds me of my son who's also blonde and gorgeous, but still, he's not hard on my old eyes.

Speaking of which, I failed to post that just as promised, I'm pretty much accustomed to my new vision. Driving down the road exactly one week after surgery, headed back over to Duke for my check up, I suddenly realized I could read the street names and speed limit signs, even the realtor signs in various yards along the way. Now how incredible is that? If I spend too much time working up close (like those long hours leading make & takes at CHA) I stand up to walk and realize I can't really focus on things at a distance. But given enough time, everything rights itself and I'm tickled pink.

Yesterday I found out how many classes I'm teaching at Stampaway, was booked to teach a few more at Stampfest in Orlando for June, got my display trees via UPS (I have extras!), and had a lovely dinner at Outback. Today the weather is back in the mid to upper 70's for the third day in a row, I had pigs in a blanket for lunch, a Rice Krispie Treat for dessert (don't tell my doctor!!), and polished it off with a Mountain Dew. On top of that I got a box of goodies from Inspired Paper Crafts (look for a blog post about that tomorrow) and my order of new, fabulous stencils (again, lots of extras). Later this afternoon my new daughter-in-law is cutting my hair and I've fixed them a batch of Chex party mix to deliver, along with a sack full of brand new rubber stamps and some ink pads for her little girls. Oh, and I even enjoyed sitting in traffic today because it gave me a chance to toss my koosh ball around. (Yes, I'm still playing with that in my car.)

I'm still reading lots of books. While on vacation I read another one by Lee Smith called "Black Mountain Breakdown". And now I'm 2/3 of the way through "The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam" by Chris Ewan. Our Sunday paper weeks ago noted his newest book (The Good Thief's Guide to Paris) saying it was worth reading, so I raced to the library and added it to my wish list. Found out he had this one and requested it as well. Naturally it became available first, which is fine with me because I'm just tickled pink with it. The book is written by a character who's an author who also happens to be a burglar. Suits my sense of humor just fine, thank you very much. Not that I plan to break into any safes with electronic key pads, but he did share a tip I would've been too blonde to figure out for myself. He dusted the key pad to reveal the 4 keys that were used repeatedly. Then it was just a matter of trying different combinations using those 4 digits to get the right one. Too clever for me.

It's looking like rain outside which reminds me I want to paint myself a pretty umbrella. Doesn't that sound like a fabulous class?

So keep smiling...I will be.

Calling NC Home

Most of you know I was born and raised right here in NC. I grew up in the Five Points area of Raleigh, now known as "inside the beltline", prime real estate. I've lived all around Raleigh since becoming an adult. Loved Garner and called it home for many years. Still own a home there. Then I met the love of my life and moved to Cary for 3 years before finding our dream home 4 miles away in Apex. Seriously, we loaded that moving van and traveled exactly 4 miles away, but crossing that line made all the difference in the world.

NC is a fabulous place to live and just today I read in the paper that we have 21 new people moving to our state every hour. Think about that! That's 504 people in a 24 hour day, 3528 in a week, over 15,000 a month, and I've gotta tell you, it made my mouth fall open. No worry. I filled it quickly with my peanut butter crackers and a bit of coffee, but doesn't that sound like a lot of people to you?

It's not unusual to find ourselves in the top 10 list of places to live in the US, and no doubt that's why we have so many newcomers. I say come on down! We've had to add a new stoplight in Apex because of all the traffic. (For those of you far, far away, think Mayberry and Andy Griffith.) We have a beautiful state with beaches on the East Coast and mountains on the West. And in between it's heaven.

Now I tell you this because I saw something so funny this morning that it made me laugh out loud. I'm driving down the road and see a man walking this HUGE dog. Think big & tall like a Great Dane, but furry and bulky like a Husky. So I don't know the biggie, I just want you to picture this really big dog and a very short leash. And coming up behind them is a power walker. Normal guy doing his morning routine I'm sure. But he was pumping his arms and taking these really long strides. And the dog keeps stopping, turning to see who's coming up behind him.

So as I'm driving on past I couldn't help watching in my rearview mirror til they were out of sight. The dog walker had no choice but to stop because he couldn't budge that big dog. And the power walker kept on coming, but you know he had to be thinking "what's that big dog gonna do when I catch up with him & try to pass?".

This is my life. This is the sort of thing that makes me smile. Come on and visit us here in friendly North Carolina. Expect to see a little of everything and enjoy it all. I'll be looking for you. And whether you're a power walker or a dog walker, wave back when you see me waving at you. And smile.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Inspiration from 7 Gypsies

Eye candy was overly abundant at the 7 Gypsies booth, just as it is at every show. They'll gladly sell you the blank journals along with papers, pockets, tags, and now even double-sided ephemera. Add to those their gaffer tape, bands, clips, and their new paper bags and I'm telling you, there's nothing you can't do in the creation of a book.
I love building a book, adding papers and clip art, chipboard letters and stickers, tabs & pockets. It's what I truly love. And flipping the pages of their display albums left me smiling at the possibilities.

For some reason I'm into the look of plain brown paper this year, so their paper bags were a nice new element. But it also gave me a whole new appreciation for all my old books and ledgers. And best of all I found new books while in Culver City, prior to the taping of the Bonnie Hunt show, in Greek and Russian. Too fabulous to think that every book in the store was just $1. I could've stayed all day. And the only thing that kept me from buying them all was the thought of my luggage staying under 50 lb each. :(

I love their gated journals best of all. The very first journal class I ever taught at Stampaway was using one of them and it's still much loved and admired in the studio. Mine featured lots of rubber stamping; something I didn't see in any of the journals in the 7 Gypsies booth. Perhaps I should send them one so we stampers aren't totally forgotten at the shows.

So whether you like to buy blank books and alter them, collage over old day planners to create new ones, or build your own journals using the binder of your choosing, I highly recommend you go forth and decorate one. Think small and pull one together as a Valentine's gift for someone dear. You can even make a paper bag book, folding and stapling the bags, adding a cover made from a big grocery bag or a manila folder. Come on...just do it!!

Friday, February 6, 2009

More about CHA

Are you familiar with the Claudine Hellmuth line of products now offered by Ranger? Her sticky back canvas is just the coolest stuff, especially if you're painting it with her line of acrylic paints. Paint it, bend it, draw on it, doodle away, then cut out some shapes, peel off the backing and stick it on your projects. The above photo was a sample displayed in Ranger's booth at the show.
The heart above is constructed with painted strips of the same sticky back canvas for a quilted look. Don't you just love that?
Ranger always has great art displayed in the booth to inspire your creativity. Play with some paint and grungeboard, ink and stamps, canvas and memory glass...there's so much to do.

Tim's demo each day was a whirl of activity. Just look at those hands! I brought home a few samples he made for me. Can't wait for show & tell at stamp club next week! And stay tuned for more postings showcasing some of my very own art work soon.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Something New for the Studio

Don't you love finding something new that truly fills a need? At CHA I found an exhibitor with these lovely displays in the shape of trees, available in assorted finishes, and their display said it all. They were decorated for anniversaries, weddings, baby showers, and simply as fabulous scrapbooking off the page.Immediately I could see all my little handmade works of art dangling from the scrollwork, along with ATC's, bangles & beads. Ooh, and at holiday time it could hold ornaments beautifully in the foyer or even in the newly remodeled master bath. But mostly I wanted them for the studio to showcase my artwork.

Their displays showcased birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, showers, and so much more. And for a store owner (Christine, I'm thinking of you) they'd be great to display all the tiny charms and ephemera available in the store while your inventory could still be found in the hardware bins, but now stored out of sight. Or sit one of the counter displaying artwork for upcoming classes, demos and make & takes.
I can't wait for my order to arrive so look for one next time you visit.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Home Sweet Home

The Ranger booth at CHA always has a Designer Challenge. This year it was houses and I'm attaching photos of a few of them.
It's amazing to me how they can be so unique, yet showcase Ranger's line of products so very well.
It makes me think I should be hosting a challenge like this on my blog, but on a much smaller scale of course.And not limited to a particular line of products either.
Everyone at the show talked about the lower number of exhibitors and the smaller crowd, but it wasn't obvious to me. Whether I was sitting in the DIY Bangles booth leading make & takes, or walking (running) the show floor, there was always a crowd.
I'm thinking that's a good thing. I know several of the stores where I teach weren't sending anyone to the show, so I worked extra hard to cover it all, and still didn't accomplish that. Just this morning I realized I never found the Maya Road booth. How is that possible?I did see lots of fabulous new stuff, and as much as I enjoyed the show, and my two week vacation, it's good to be home again.
When I think that last Friday morning it was well on the way to a day in the 80's as we ate our breakfast out on the hotel patio, it was quite a surprise to arrive home close to midnight and find it hovering around 36 degrees!!!!! What a shock. Still, my pillow top king-sized bed, my feather pillows, and my down comforter were most welcoming when I finally climbed into bed. You know, there truly is no place like home.