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House Cleaning

What brought me here today:

The fact that it’s already November is kind of freaking me out a little bit. A little bit. Not a lot. But still, it’s already November! How is it already November?! Having Halloween on the last day of the month of October makes the beginning of November seem like a total surprise somehow. The weather over the last week is seeming much more like late autumn too. There are more leaves on the ground than before too.

A part of me is still in Finland. At least where the month of November is concerned. The only month I destested in Finland was Marraskuu (November). It’s cold, wet, and dark. This month is not great for anyone who suffers from seasonal depression. The weather here is nowhere near what my mind and body are bracing themselves for here in Delaware. It was actually quite sunny this afternoon. I decided to start November off with a day full of some much needed work and organization. To start the month off on the best footing possible.

Cleaning and organizing:

We didn’t purchase a whole lot of furniture when we moved here. Only the essentials were purchased at Ikea. You can read more about that here. We were fortunate to have a few pieces of furniture gifted to us by the previous tennant. If you’ve purchased furniture from Ikea, then you know it all comes in flat pack boxes. Even with only the essentials furniture items we purchased, we had a lot of cardboard boxes left.

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that corrugated cardboard is one of my favourite recycled materials to use in creating my larger, paper mache artwork. The bedroom of our apartment is so large that I just left the boxes in one corner. I intended to cut, organize and store all this cardboard at a later date. Really, when the weather wasn’t so horribly hot.

Today was the day for organizing all of this cardboard. As well as all the other recycled items that I’ve been gathering over the past month or so. I started after lunch. It took me about four hours to get all the corrugated cardboard cut and stowed in a neat and tidy manner. All of the carton board had to be broken down as well. Bubble wrap, tissue paper, and other packing materials were also kept. Then organized and stowed properly. You can see some of the organized cardboard here.

Other bits of organizing:

I also went through most of what I call my “crap bags”. These are just little collections of interesting bits and bobs of plastic and metal. All of the clear, rigid, plastic packaging I had was cut down into easiery to handle pieces, and stored. So that I can actually find them and use them. To someday be made into wings or windows or whatever.  I now have one nicely sized “crap box”. There’s still some work I need to do with it though. Just some sorting, so I know what I have on hand to use when making art.

Halloween items removed:

I will be removing the Halloween and Day of the Dead inspired pieces from my online shop this week. The last day that you will be able to order any of these pieces will be 7 November 2021. These items will not be returning to the shop at any point in the furture. The items to be removed are: the Day of the Dead customisable skull pins, Lenore, Minerva, Xochitl, Novalee, Lucia, Miranda, Saffron, Russell, Ginger, and Nutmeg.

These Halloween and Day of the Dead inspired dolls and pins were a lot of fun for me to create. I’m so happy that so many other of my October doll and pin creations have found such lovely homes all over the world! Thanks to everyone who has purchased any of my creations!

New table:

Really? A new table is this important that it gets it’s own section within a larger blog post? Well, if your me it does. I bought a black, folding card table. It’s light weight that I can carry and set it up by myself. The legs and the center fold nicely and have a good locking mechanism too. I used this table today while I was sorting and cutting the small mountain of corrugated cardboard in my bedroom.

Holiday in-person sales:

One of the reasons that I needed the new table is that I’ll be participating in four holiday pop-up sales! I’m excited and nervous about these sales too. I’ve not sold my artwork in person for over seven years. The pandemic has changed around how artists and artisans sell their work at in-person venues like these pop-up sales. Masks are required. And there’ll be a lot less “smushing-up” of potential customers as they look at the artwork for sale.

This month I will be working on getting ready for these pop-up sales. I’ve been planning the items I would like to create especially for the pop-ups. Some of the larger cardboard sheets will be made into displays. The construction of these displays shouldn’t be too difficult. I’ve made displays like this before. They’re lightweight, portable, and can easily be recyced.

The first of the pop-up sales will be happening on Saturday, November 27 from 1 tp 4 pm at Books and Bagels here in Wilmington. There will be three additional holiday pop-up sales after that: December 4, 11 and 18 from 1 to 4 pm. If you’re in the area and would like to meet me and see my work in person, please stop in!

So, now what?

I think that just about does it for my current house-cleaning needs. I’ll be posting pictures of the progression of the new items for the pop-up sales on my Instagram and Twitter accounts. There is so much work that I need to get done before the first of these pop-up sales. So. Much. Work. I guess I better get to it then!

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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Personal Artistic Efficacy: Part 2

What brought me here today:

This is the part two of my personal artistic efficacy post. If you haven’t read part one, you can find it here. The original post just became too long to be read in blog post form. I’m not a spring chicken age-wise. The amount of accumilated artistic knowlege and experience that directly relates to my personal artistic efficacy is much more voluminus than I thought.

Edit: This post got longer and longer and longer as I edited it. This kind of seems like it goes against the whole editing process. I could have cut this post in two again. But having a part three to this subject just seem a little too much

Book binding:

I began to learn about book binding while still in art school. One of my instructors created a course in book binding. It was a awesome course too. We used this book. I loved getting to design and then physically create books. In this course, my education in graphic design, printmaking, and illustration all began coming together. A friend of mind at Herron took the course and wrote his own book about book binding!

I spent a large chunk of time creating handmade books. The coptic stitch quickly became my favourite way to create journals and sketchbooks. In my middle 20’s I was selling the books I created. I never made much money at it though. There were workshops that I taught at a small art paper store. And I did help the owner to create some packaging for some of her products. But the relationship soured and I stopped teaching for her.

What serves me now:

I still make my own sketch and notebooks. They’re incredibly simple saddle stitched little books. But they serve my purposes. There are times in which I do get a little more creative with my sketch and notebooks, but not often. The books I make for myself are much more utilitarian than my previous creations.

I do think that the time that I spent working with a needle and linen thread has served me well. Creating folios and precisely placing the holes, along with careful stitching, taught me a lot of patience. I had to be in the right fame of mind to put a book together. Rushing could result in split papers and warped book covers.

Jewelry:

I have only ever taken one jewelry making course. It was a silver clay workshop many years ago. I had a fabulous teacher who was certified in the teaching of the techniques of silver clay jewelry making. The course was so good that I bought my own tools to create more silver clay pieces. Some of the tools and materials were a little pricey, but worth it. I even managed to work with a small hand held torch without burning my house down!

The vast majority of my jewelry making knowledge comes from watching online tutorials and reading books. There was a lot of trial and error involved in my accumulation of knowledge regarding jewelry making. I also had an excellent friend who is way more talented and knowledgable about jewelry making that helped me when I had questions. The efficacy I have isn’t anywhere near what a professional has in this art form.

What serves me now:

One thing jewelry making taught me to pay close attention to the details. I had made up my mind to learn how to create a beaded chain. The kind with loops and wraps. Here’s a good tutorial for it. To create decent chain required a lot of practice. Even with the tutorials, I had to come up with my own way of working so that the beaded chain looked the way I wanted it to.

The other thing jewelry making gave me was the tools. I use my jewelry tools on a daily basis as a doll maker. My needle nose pliers come in all kinds of handly when I need to bend wire parts for the insides of dolls. Or for pulling a needle through a thick part of material. I also use my jewelry making tools while constructing my larger, paper mache dolls. Knowing how to use these tools has been a life-saver for me many times while creating artwork.

Ceramics:

Like book binding, I do have some professional instruction in this art medium. I didn’t take any ceramics while at Herron. The first ceramics course I took was when I was getting my art education degree at the University of New Mexico in the early 2000’s. I enjoyed the course and began connecting with that part of myself that enjoyed making little dolls and animals again.

During the last year of the program I was required to complete a year of student teaching. One semester was high school, and another in elementary school. A classmate and I were assigned to the same elementary school. We had agreed to help each other with firing the kiln. I didn’t feel like I was knowledgable enough to do it on my own. My short stature made it almost impossible for me to prep and load the kiln myself as well.

On the day that I needed to prep and load the kiln, my classmate bailed on me. She said she was busy. I attempted to get the kiln turned on and loaded myself. Long story somewhat shorter, one tearful call to my professor accompanied by one flash-burned right hand and arm later, I managed to get everything done. After this incident, I was terrified of kilns.

Baby-steps:

While still teaching art in the elementary school, I was fortunate to be assigned to a school that had a licensed therapist who was also a special eduction teacher. He had asked me if I could fire some of the work his students had created in class. I told him about my fear of the kiln. He came up with a series of exercises that would help me through my fears. It took an entire semester, but I did it!

I cannot adequately convey to you how scared I was of kilns at this point in my life. The teacher who helped me said he could see me start to shake when talking about using a kiln! Being able to use a kiln was such an important part of my job as an elementary art teacher. I had to try and get past my fear.

The next year, I took a ceramics workshop with a retired art teacher. He taught me even more about how to work with clay and kilns safely. This means, safe for the students and safe for me! During this ceramics course, I actually participated in a raku firing. The instructor made sure I was comfortable and felt in control during the entire firing.

What serves me now:

Up until my trauma with the kiln burning me badly, I had never had a powerfully scary experience creating art. Making art was a space in which I felt completely safe. Getting burned so badly made me suddenly unsure and unsafe. The teacher who helped me work past my fears, and the teacher of the ceramics work shop helped me to work through my fears. Then I had no problems working with ceramics and kilns.

My own fears highlighted for me how some students might feel in my art classroom. I could better recognise when as student was in a place of fear, and help them to work through it as well. The fact that my fear was specifically related to a kiln, helped me to see that a student may be fine with drawing, but painting may scare them.

Polymer clay:

I had been messing around with polymer clay since Sculpey became widely available in the early 80’s. Before Sculpey arrived, I would make and use salt dough to create little pieces of work. As a miniature hobbyist, I delighted in how easy it was to create realistic foods for my doll houses with it. The early form of Sculpey only came in white. This meant that all the finished pieces required painting. I didn’t mind. It was nice to be able to create tiny objects for my doll houses.

When I was much older, I did a great deal of experimentation with other polymer clays. Mostly Fimo. It was a little harder to work with. The clay took a while to warm up. But the colours were fantastic! Everything that I know about working with polymer clay I learned from a series of books whose titles completely escape my mind right now. But again, I am self taught.

I did make a lot of polymer beads that I used in my jewelry making. Several techniques that I learned from the aforementioned books created some amazing beads. While living in FInland, I didn’t do any work with polymer clays. Polymer clays should always be baked in an oven that is dedicated to non-food use. And I wasn’t comfortable with the off-gassing that would occur within our apartment oven.

Time to burn the house down:

While I was at UNM, I took a puppets and masks course. One of our assignments was to create a puppet show. I wrote a small skit, and then created four rod puppets. The heads and hands of the puppets were sculpted using Sculpey. I created all of the parts. Then turned on the oven to bake them. I remember sitting down on the sofa to watch something on TV. And then woke-up to my upstairs neighbour banging on my front door.

The entire apartment was filled with smoke. Black smoke was accumulating at the ceiling, and pouring out of my cracked kitchen window. My polymer clay was on fire in the oven. My upstairs neighbour saved my life. Once he was satisfied I was okay, he helped me open the windows and set up some fans to pull the smoke and smell out of my tiny apartment.

The happy ending to this was that I actually used the burned puppet parts. There was a lot of sanding and a tonne of paint needed though. After this scary experience, I never have put polymner clay in a regular oven. I bough a toaster oven. New Mexico is a warm, dry place. I used the toaster oven to bake my polymer clay in a well ventilated classroom or outside on the patio at home.

What serves me now:

Not falling asleep while baking polymer clay is one of the biggest lessons. Sometimes, even the simplest steps can go horribly sideways. In addition to using a dedicated toaster oven for all subsequent ploymer clay projects, a timer was also implemented as well.

I do love the colour and detail that polymer clays can offer. But I’m also aware that they are plastic. Plastic use is something that I’m trying to reduce within my art practice. In Finland, I began experimenting with creating my own paper clay. It was much more economical. I could use recycled paper and just a few items from the store to create the clay. The end product is biodegradable as well. Win-win.

The paper clay that I can make, or purchase also works much better in conjunction with paper mache. It’s light weight and sands well. I usually add several coats of my own homemade gesso to the surface before paining. And sand after the last coats are applied. That way I can get a more cohesive surface layer to the entire piece.

Crochet:

I started learning to crochet in my middle 30’s. There had been several previous attempts to learn how to either knit or crochet. They ended in a lot of knots and extremely sore hands and wrists. When I had to have some major surgery that would leave me in bed for an extended period of time, I decided to give crochet a try again.

There was a fantastic store called Village Wools in Albuqueruque, New Mexico where I bought yarn for doll hair. I picked up some beginner booklets, some yarn and a few hooks. The first thing I tried to crochet was a square. I made a triangle because I forgot to add the extra stitches when I turned the piece. Eventually, I figured it all out.

I didn’t really crochet in earnest until moving to Finland. It’s a very knitting and crochet friendly culture! So many people knit and/or crochet too. I learned how to create more intricate squares and then join them all together to make large afghans. Among the few things I brough back with me from Finland, includes several warm, crocheted hats and scarves.

Sewing:

I come from a family of women who sew. Most of my clothing as an infant, toddler and small child was handmade. All of my clothes were tailored to fit my body as a kid. Going to the ‘yardgood store’ was something I enjoyed a great deal when I was little. It always seemed to be quiet and weirdly good-smelling, or so I thought. The pattern books were so much fun to look through too!

There was no sewing machine that I could use in the house I grew up in. Which was probably a good idea. I would have probably broken it if given the chance. So I didn’t take a sewing course until I was in the six or seventh grade. And I hated every single second of it. Every. Single. Second.

An ill fit:

There was some kind of animal shaped pillow that all the students were supposed to make. My mother bought a pattern for a skirt and made sure the teacher taught me how to make a skirt instead. I hated how it singled me out from the other students. It made me feel like a freak. The fabric was nice, but the skirt I made just…was not good. This experience coloured my view of sewing machines for the decade or so.

Detente was achieved in my late 20’s with the gift of a Kenmore sewing machine from my parents. That machine was a tank! It wasn’t fancy, but it got the job done. The Kenmore machine was used when creating some of the larger, fabric and felt dolls I made prior to 2014. When we moved to Finland, I gifted the Kenmore machine to a friends daughters. I hoped that this solid, easy-to-use machine would help them learn to sew.

Embroidery work:

I create a metric tonne of embroidery work on a weekly basis, but I have never taken a single class, workshop, or online tutorial to learn how to do it. There was a book that I picked out of a public library discard box, published in the 60’s that I read. It had a lot of history of Nordic needlework traditions in it. Alone with some good pictures of what the stictches looked like.

I’ve only actually done needlework in front of a person once in my life. She was a skilled needle worker too. Her advice to me was to make sure that the back of my embroidery projects were as neat and tidy as the front.

Patterns a no-go in sewing and embroidery:

I concider myself to be an idiot in several distinct ways. One of the ways I’m an idiot regards my complete and utter inability to follow a pattern that was created by someone other than myself. I can sit down and create a set of patterns for a complete outfit for a large doll. While at the same time, I cannot understand a pre-made pattern for doll clothing that I might purchase.

The same goes for embroidery work. My sister is very good at creating counted cross stitch pieces. I gave it a try once and did not last more than a few minutes before I was completely disinterested with the whole concept. The pictures that I could create with the technique did not appeal to me in the slightest. Creating my own pictures. That appealed to me.

How has this served me?

Not being able to use pre-made patterns means that I can create my own unique artwork. I’m not using someone elses creative output as a starting point for my own creative expression. If I want to make a green doll with three heads, four arms and tremendously long legs. I can do that. There’s not fiddling around trying to retro-fit an existing pattern with my own ideas.

Creating my own patterns leaves me beholden to no one but myself. If a pattern works, that’s great. Sometimes a pattern doesn’t work. But that’s okay too, because I learned something while I was making the mistake. There have been some patterns by talented creators that I’ve been able to follow. What I’ve noticed about these patterns is that they all use the same materials and techniques that I use. So I suppose these patterns put me at ease from the start.

What does all of this mean?

Efficacy is built over time, practice and accumulated knowledge. Sometimes the knowledge comes from direct instruction. Other times, it’s self-guided. I’m naturally an intrinsically motivated person. Especially when the subject matter is of interest to me. If there’s a technique or material that I want to know more about, I have no problem seeking out information or people who can assist my learning.

I don’t easily give up on learning a technique either. More often than not, once I’ve learned a technique, pysanky for example, I move on to a new technique that I want to learn. Each subsequent technique adds to my overall artistic efficacy. This adds to my skill sets as an art teacher. Having working knowledge of a wide variety of tools, materials, and techniques gives me greater freedom to create my own artwork as well.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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Bland Blog

What brought me here today:

This past week has not exactly been a terrifically exciting week. I’ve spent time working on my artwork. Making plans for upcoming pieces and projects. At times, having to ‘sit tight’ while waiting for other things to happen. Which is incredibly annoying. Planning can only take me so far creatively speaking. Then I want to actually work on the project!

I’ve had to make due with creating smaller pieces of work to take my mind off all the waiting. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The pieces that I’ve been working on have been a lot of fun to create. And they have generated some income for me as well.

New in shop:

I’ve finished two new witch dolls, Minerva and Marlene. I’ve added them to my online shop. They’re pretty cute little witches, even though I say it myself. For some reason, I decided to make twins. I don’t do that very often either. Minerva has a dress made of a lovely shade of aubergine. While Marlena’s dress is purple. Each doll is wearing an indigo coloured witch hat and boots.

I’m having a lot of fun creating these little witches. One of my first Halloween costumes was a witch. I wore a store-bought mask that had a green face, and black hair highlighted with purple and orange. I had a little black skirt and loose fitting top with black fringe on it. A pointy, black hat. And I carried the small broom from our families fireplace set.

I have another Halloween-themed idea that I’m incredibly eager to start working on. By the end of the day, I should have it started and will post pictures of the progress on my Instagram.

Art materials:

I’ve begun picking through the recyclables that we regularly have for specific materials that I want to use in my artwork. This can only mean one thing; I’m edging closer to creating some larger, paper mâché pieces. And yes, that is exactly what this means. I’m glad that my husband is an understanding soul regarding my magpie-like behaviours. He’s now keeping items back that he knows I will want.

Two of the recyclables that I’m not used to saving for art materials are plastic beverage bottles and aluminum cans. We saved them and returned them for  deposit at the grocery store in Finland. They ranged between 10¢ and 30¢ depending on the bottle or can. In Delaware, there’s no plastic bottle or can return. So I’m free to use as many as I would like. I suppose the same could have been said about the plastic bottles and cans in Finland, but I really wanted the deposit back!

More stuff; more problems:

I’m now trying to figure out how I want to store these new recycled art materials. My small studio room is directly off of the bedroom. It was originally used as a walk-in closet. We have consciously purchased as little furniture as possible, so the only thing in our bedroom is our bed. It’s a large bedroom too. I’ve stored my corrugated cardboard there simply because there’s not enough room in my studio room. I’d like to create a storage solution for all my recycled art supplies that doesn’t look and act like a crap-slide!

I’m not a fan of over-the-top bedrooms. I don’ think of my bedroom as a spa or a retreat. It’s a room that I spend 99% of my time in with my eyes closed. A comfortable bed. A warm comforter and clean sheets are all I need in a bedroom. The only things we want to add are two lamps, so it’s easier to read in bed.

So, now what?

As always for me, back to creating artwork. Remember that idea that I’ve been wanting to work on? Yeah. That one. I’m going to start that one. I’m also going to continue my research for a paint purchase. Dick Blick is where I think I may be placing an order for paint.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday!

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There’s a Distance Between*

What brought me here today:

I remember having a small, internal melt-down the first time I shopped for art tools, materials and supplies in Finland. There didn’t seem to be any store that had anything like what I was used to in the US. And when I did find tools, materials, and supplies, more of the time, they were priced too high. I couldn’t afford them.

Returning to the US has also proven to be more challenging. Especially when attempting to locate and procure the materials and supplies that I grew dependent on while living in Finland. It is easier to find ready-to-use art materials and supplies in the US. But not everything I want or need requires a ready-made art-related item. Recycled and upcycled items have become a mainstay of my art practice.

Finding recycled items so far:

During my years of teaching elementary school art, I learned a great deal about repurposing all kinds of items into art materials for my students. While living in Finland, I applied this knowledge. I looked at what kinds of materials I could find easily and then let the materials guide me in shaping the artwork I created. Cardboard, carton board, and newspaper were three items I had in abundance. More cardboards could be found at local grocery stores at no cost. Newspapers were delivered to my mailbox.

At present, I’m swimming in corrugated carboard. Even though we didn’t purchase a lot of furniture, I have a great deal of recyclable cardboard. We’re trying to eat less processed foods, so accumulating carton board may take a bit more time for me. Newspapers are something that I simply have not seen since we moved. Hopefully I can locate some soon. It’s an important material for me. Paper mache will not work without it.

Second Hand:

The second hand shops in Finland were incredibly cool. They always had a little area that would have all the yarns, fabrics, buttons, all kinds of sewing notions, etc. in it. Lots of the items that the second hand shops had were vintage too. I found some of the coolest threads, buttons, fabrics, and sewing books in these shops. Jewelry, beads, and storage were also things I could easily find second hand.The best parts of purchasing second hand arts and crafts materials were the uniqueness of the items and the low price points.

I also purchased clothing that I would pick apart and use the fabrics to use in the creation of my artwork. Sometimes, the cloth was used to create clothing for a doll. More recently, I’ve begun using the fabrics to cover the outsides of some of my larger, paper mache pieces.

Just a click away!

I didn’t do a great deal of ordering tools, supplies or materials online while living in Finland. Although I did order from Buddly Crafts and Wool Warehouse in the UK prior to the Brexit becoming finalized. I preferred to spend my small art budget in the local shops, including the second hand shops, around the city I lived in. Even when I knew that I was paying a bit more for a specific item, like embroidery flosses and pearl cottons.

I’m getting ready to place an order for felt with two different companies in the next week. Some of the felts that I’m ordering are ones that I used regularly prior to leaving the US. Today, I received an order of new thread. The order was placed only two days ago. An additional order is coming tomorrow evening. It feels so odd to me to just be pointing and clicking and then POOF! The materials are on my doorstep.

Sensory overload:

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to a US chain arts and crafts store. I was completely overwhelmed by the huge selection of art materials and supplies they had for sale. A few purchases were made. Some Aleene’s Tacky Glue, pom-poms, and a dozen and a half or so skeins of embroidery floss. The embroidery floss was .62 cents each. I almost burst into tears on the spot. Embroidery floss was so much more expensive in Finland. (2.60 Euros each)

Looking at materials and supplies online also gives me a sensory overload. There are just so many different things that can be purchased so, so, so easily online. I get so overwhelmed with the seemingly limitless choices that are on offer. There have been lists created of supplies and materials that I would like to purchase, but haven’t as of yet. Part of me doesn’t know what I’m waiting for either.

That certain something:

I need to purchase felt. There’s no part of me that feels bad about placing an order for a material that I have used in the past, and am using in the present, to create my artwork. After all, I make a lot of dolls! Being able to purchase embroidery floss at such an incredibly low price is something that I plan on taking advantage of a lot in the future too.

That all being said, there are still some things, or should I say, some ways of procuring materials and supplies that I miss a great deal. I have yet to find a second hand shop locally that can compare to Ekocenter or Fida. The stores are either not easy to get to by foot or bus, or are open for two hours on a random day of the week. In addition to being difficult to get to by foot or bus. I miss Eri-Keeper glue desperately, and am trying to figure out how to get my hands on some here in the US.

The sense of being overwhelmed by the choices of art materials and supplies that I can easily order online, as well as fairly easily after a bus ride, makes me feel incredibly uneasy. I liked knowing that when I purchased items from a local shop in Finland, the money stayed in my community. There was a feeling of creative satisfaction I gained from buying second hand items, supplies, and materials and creating my artwork with them.

So, now what?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve only been here for a short time. There have to be interesting shops and businesses that I just haven’t discovered yet. I also need to remember that there is still a pandemic going on, so ordering materials and supplies online can be seen as beneficial to reducing the spread of the Delta Variant (as well as any other variants that may exist). My husband and I are fully vaccinated, but are being careful.

ANYWAY. I’ve missed being able to create artwork for the time we were moving. Part of me still feels a little ‘out of phase’ with my own mind. Creating new artwork will help me to anchor myself better in the here and the now of living in Delaware.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Tuesday!

*The Devo song, Out of Sync from 1982’s Oh No! It’s Devo has been running through my head a lot lately. Unlike the lyrics, I have accepted that I feel out of sync. Time and some mental and emotional work are what will get me back into sync. The first step for me was acknowledging to myself that I still wish I was living in Finland. And the place that I find myself in physically is not exactly where I wish I was.

 

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Thoughts and Objects

What brought me here today:

My husband and I are getting closer to the big move. I must admit, I’m finding it harder and harder to not create artwork for the majority of each day. Making art is part of every day. I wake up. Eat breakfast. Sit down at my work table and start working. Most of what I’ve been accomplishing is a lot of list making. This isn’t a bad thing. I just need to actually start doing the things on the lists!

My time has been occupied with two things: sorting my art supplies and creating the layouts for my next day journal. It’s a lot of putting items, thoughts, plans and lists into the correct places.

New day journal(s):

I have come to depend on my day journal to keep me on track over the past almost two years. As an elementary at teacher, I kept a lesson planner, daily class notes and a daily journal. All three of these helped to keep me focused as I planned my professional life as an art teacher and as an artist.

A few weeks ago, my husband pointed out that our local Flying Tiger had some larger bullet journals. They were closer in size to my current day journal (17.5 x 25 cm). I liked the larger size and bought it. I think it was around 4-5€ ($4.88-$6.10). My current journal will be done at the end of August. My plan was to prepare the large bullet journal from September to December 2021.

It took me almost an entire day to add the layout to the new bullet journal. My husband came over at one point to see what I was working on and seemed surprised by all the work I was doing. He confessed to being a little less picky about the layouts in his own bullet journals. It must be the graphic designer in me. I can’t leave the pages un-designed.

This seems excessively anal-retentive:

It actually took me almost two complete days to finish getting the new day journal ready. Everything on each page is colour coded. Two separate stencils were used to highlight the headers for each section on each individual page. The dates and days of the week were all written in by hand.  Pages were added at the front and end of each month for projects that I want to work on. Each month has a tab. They’re secured with glue and clear packing tape.

Yes. This seems excessively anal-retentive for something as utilitarian as a daily work journal. Except, it’s really not. This day journal is going to be with me every day. I want it to be something that I will want to use. Finishing the layouts on all the pages will make it an attractive tool to use. The finished, designed layouts and personalization will make it more likely that I will want to use my day journal every day.

Like what kinds of bad things? Well, not keeping track of my marketing. Losing track of long-term project. Not being able to find passwords or contact information. There’s also not knowing what I’m creating, or keeping track of how long it takes to create. I also wouldn’t be able to keep track of what I’m posting online either. Keeping a record my artwork sales and shipping wouldn’t be done either. My day journal is the instruction manual for my small business.

Dividing up art supplies:

Giving away art supplies is proving easier than figuring out exactly which art supplies I need to take with me. There are art supplies that I brought with me from the US that I didn’t use much. And while creating artwork in Finland, I’ve become dependent upon some supplies that I know will be difficult to obtain after the move. I’ll figure out how to do without some supplies. And find replacements for others.

My sorting method is extremely simple. I’m sorting the tools, supplies and materials that I’m not taking with me into two categories: donating to an arts organization and bags of different items for specific people. I also have my carefully curated bags of recyclable materials. Those are already sorted and will just be placed into the appropriate recycling bins.

Strange bits and bobs:

I do have some materials that resist being donated or given away. My rather large button collection is one example. It goes without saying that the vintage and antique buttons will come with me. But some of the buttons are weird ones that I’ve been collecting, with the intent of doing something specific with them. Donating them to an arts organization will probably be the final decision.

Object ownership:

When my husband and I moved to Finland, we downsized dramatically. We had been reducing the number of items that we’d been obtaining prior to moving. At first, it felt strange to not own so much ‘stuff’. I’m an artist and having a lot of stuff seems to be part of the job description.

What I learned after moving here is that I don’t necessarily need as many things to make art. It  became more important to have the right materials and a quality of tools that would allow me to create the artwork I wanted to. Everything else that I have can be re-homed, recycled and donated to the right arts organizations.

So what now?

I go back to sorting for one! My husband saw that Flying Tiger had a few of the larger bullet journals that I liked and bought me another one. This means I have another day journal to prep for 2022!

 

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Tuesday!

 

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Workspace Cleaning

With the arrival of spring in Finland, comes the ever-increasing amount of daylight every day. From the end of November through to the end of February, the amount of sunlight we get isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. Consequently, accumulated dust isn’t necessarily visible, or perhaps better said, not bothersome, during the long, dark days of winter. The arrival of spring changes all of that. Now we I can see the dust-bunnies the size of some of the hares out in the fields!

Winter creative nesting:

I spent a lot of last autumn and winter creating artwork that would be in a public exhibition space. Once the artwork was taken down, most of it returned to our small apartment. Everything felt a bit more crowded after this. The creative mess accumulated during the creation of the artwork was now living side by side with the finished artwork.

My creating continued, even though my work space was becoming increasingly difficult to work in. At one point, I honestly felt like I was just tossing recyclables onto an ever-growing pile that had taken over a corner of my workspace. There was no way that this could go on much longer.

Small creative workspace:

It’s been mentioned here quite a few times, that the space in which I’m creating my artwork is not big. It’s more of less one third of our living room. My husband works in the kitchen, with his own desk and shelves. As a writer, he doesn’t require the amount of space for tools, materials and supplies that I do.

I try very hard to keep all of my creative workspace as neat and orderly as possible. My husband’s a very understanding man though. He knows that my work requires more space. When the majority of those materials are recyclables, storage can become a bit midden-like.

Cardboard and carton board:

I use a lot of recycled materials that I’ve scavenged from communal recycling bins, or our own recycling. Knowing that a certain percentage of my artwork was once something that was tossed out as trash or recycling is something that I absolutely love. Not only does it help cut the cost of materials for me, it also lends meaning to my work, by way of metaphor.

These materials take up a lot of space and can quickly get out of hand if you’re not keeping on top of them. The vast majority of the recycled materials that I had to clean up was my cardboard and carton board. Most of what I had on hand consisted of  cardboards in the form of small, oddly shaped pieces of that were not usable for my larger work.

The better part of a day was taken sorting through the mountain of cardboard and carton board that I had on hand. An entire large, Ikea bag was needed for the cardboard and carton board scraps that went into the recycling bins.

Plastics:

Our apartment complex now has plastics recycling. I felt a little better the fact that plastics that I had been keeping for my artwork could be recycled if I decided that I didn’t want or need them. Over the past year, I have been pointedly trying to not purchase items with too much plastic packaging, while at the same time trying to use more recyclable plastics in my artwork.

Some plastics have gone into recycling during the cleaning and organizing. While others have gone into an “I’m not sure” bag. This bag will need to be gone through once more, so that I can make final decisions about specific pieces of plastic.

There’s a large part of me that is still very much an art teacher. I was always on the look-out for plastic tubs with lids that I could put art supplies in, or mix paints in. For me as an art teacher, those are gold! That being said, I will still go through the “I’m not sure” bag and recycle what I cannot immediately use.

Sewing materials:

My sewing materials, especially my threads had gotten scarily out of control over the past few months. I went through everything. All of my threads were consolidated. Making sure that I had them all stored in the same place. Getting rid of useless scraps that I would never be able to use. Happily discovering another spool of white thread too!

A lot of my sewing materials, notions, buttons, etc., have now been organized neatly and stored in those lovely (and free!) clear, plastic, bulk candy tubs from the grocery store. Each of the plastic tubs in see through, and labeled on the side and the top. This is so that I’m able to quickly identify by sight what’s in each individual storage tub.

Lots of odds and ends:

In addition to all the cardboards and sewing materials, I needed to sort through all of my odd bits of materials too. Some of my materials, like wooden components, were stored in three different places on my desk and in un-labeled boxes. Yuck! I now have a single box for my wooden components. My glitter, wiggly eyes and sequins are all in a separate box. Pom-pom makers are in a box next to my small store-bought acrylic and wool pom-poms.

Each of the labeled boxes is within a step or two of my desk, and is clearly labeled. My sewing storage is on one shelf. I put my painting supplies on another. All of my glues now in two places (down from four!). Big bottles in a tray I can pull off the shelf, and my tiny bottles of Loc Tite type glues, glue sticks and rarely used glue gun are in a drawer at my desk.

Lost and found:

During my cleaning, I found dolls that I had completed, but for some reason hadn’t put in my shop. Quite a few of them need only a few small things completed to be finished too. I think that the reason that I (more or less) forgot about these dolls is because I was trying out some new clothing patterns on them. Most of the time, these sorts of dolls are not usually offered for sale. These dolls don’t have any glaring flaws, so I can see them going into the shop.

More things to make into art:

There were other items that I discovered during my cleaning that I’d like to find a way to use or finish-up. Sometimes I make multiple components, like buttons, beads or drawer pulls, out of air dry clay or paper mâché. I do this just in case something breaks or warps weirdly to the point that I cannot use it. When this doesn’t occur, I’m left with little extra bits from finished pieces.

I found some air dry doll blanks that I experimented with, but for some reason, never finished. There’s also a spare set of doll arms and legs that look a lot like the dolls Turk Tank, Piiing Tree, and Purple Fork. I’m looking forward to what I can do with these, and all the other small pieces and components that I found.

So, what now?

Well, back to work for me. Now that I have enough space to work in, and the ability to find everything that I need to work, I can’t wait!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

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The Art of Failure

No one enjoys failure. Frankly, it sucks. A lot. It’s something that everyone avoids as much as humanly possible.Living a life free of failure isn’t at all possible. As much as failure sucks, it can be an extremely good teacher. Even if the lessons are hard to completely understand.

One of the many things that I like about being an artist is that it’s taught me to be okay with failure. I have no problem failing at getting an idea to work. Sometimes, the failure is an incomplete understanding of how the materials will work, or work together. This kind of failure is small. It takes place on my desk. Where no one is watching. So no one ever has to know. My failures can remain just between me and the failure.

Social media:

I create a lot of artwork. My husband describes me as ‘prolific’ when it comes to creating my artwork. During the past three years, social media has become in increasingly important part of the overall creating and marketing of my artwork. I post every day on social media sites like Instagram. And a little less often on sites like Imgur. I have come to rely on social media to advertise when I have new items in my shop, new blog posts to read, as well as when I have a sale.

My main Instagram page is dedicated to showing my art creating processes. Even though I show a great deal of my creative process, I never show everything. These photos are curated to a certain extent. Thought given to exactly which photos I think will show my artwork or artistic process in the best possible light before posting.

I have several different series of pieces going right now. A series of brooches that have tiny dolls in them. Another small series of four 12 cm dolls that will be displayed in small niche-like frames. And a series I’ve simply been calling ‘the bottle dolls’, which are larger, and more complicated paper mâché dolls, with lots of moving parts. Of the three series, I’ve been seeing the brooches as a creative failure.

What initially went wrong:

It’s not that one big element during the creation of the brooches went wrong. Rather, it was a series of smaller failures that, as they began to accumulate, began making me interpret them as a failure. Each of the failures required me to create a solution that would either fix or hid the failure.

Right out of the gate, the first failure was a design flaw. Originally, I wanted to have the lids of the brooches swivel on a wooden peg to open and close. Laminated carton board was what I planned on using for the swiveling lid. The carton board was too thin, even when laminated to five layers thick. It just tore apart when I attempted to put a hole in it for the wooden peg. The key problem was that even when laminated, the carton board wasn’t strong enough at .5 mm width.

I changed the design of the lids to a lid with a lip that would be more secure. It’s second nature to me to leave about .2 mm between moving elements of my paper mâché artwork. So this is what I did for the new lid design for the brooch. But, I had absolutely no intentions of using paper mâché on surfaces of the brooches. I was only going to use gesso. The finished lids were too big. They wouldn’t stay on the brooch base.

Fixing the problems:

Okay. I needed to fix the lids so that they would stay on the brooch. Initially, I didn’t think this was a big problem. My first solution was to simply attach a thin (.2 mm) strip of felt to the inside of the lid. With this added, the lid should have stayed on the brooch.

Well, that didn’t happen. The lids just kept falling off. With no lid, the teeny- tiny dolls inside the brooch just fell out. This problem was insanely frustrating to me. I set aside the brooches for more than a week to think about possible solutions. There was only one option; I had to remove the felt that I had glued inside the lid.

I used new X-acto blades, a pair of tweezers to remove the felt and glue from the inside of the brooch lids. Doing this created another problem. There were bits of felt that I couldn’t get off of the painted surface of the lid, no matter how much I scraped and tweezed. Sanding would have been an option, had the plastic window not already been attached to the inside of the lid.

Quickly multiplying problems:

At this point, the insides of the lids looked like absolute garbage. I was seriously ready to make a tiny bonfire out of the lot of them. Part of me thinks it was sheer stubbornness that kept me from doing exactly that. If I were to give up at this point, I wouldn’t have learned anything from the mistakes. And there was the time and materials wasted. That all just chaps my butt something fierce.

My next solution was to glue in thin strips of paper, where the thin strips of felt had been. The paper and glue would add a little thickness and hopefully the lids would stay on. Nope. Didn’t work. The lids still fell off. And the glued in paper looked so absolutely disgustingly horrible that I thought I might actually cry.

I had mixed a lot of the paint colours for the brooches in air-tight containers. I decided to use the paint to hide the lumpy, horrible looking paper inside the brooch lids. After three coats of paint, they started looking better. I think that each lid needed between four and six coats of paint before I was pleased with the look.

Tiny windows:

Originally, the plastic window of the brooch was designed to be sandwiched between layers of carton board. I put this aside with the swivel lid design. Instead, I had cut the plastic sheeting to size and simply popped it into the underside of the brooch. Part of me thought that perhaps it could be free-floating inside the lid. But I soon saw that I needed to permanently attach them with glue.

I chose Gorilla glue to attach the windows into place. It was so, so, so the wrong choice! As the glue dried, it formed tiny, frothy, orange-tinted bubbles that I could see! It looked disgusting! While using the paint to try and hide how horrible the glue and paint looked, I accidentally smudged some of the paint over the plastic. The horrible glue mess was covered up! It looked pretty okay. So I painted over the plastic to hide the ugly glue on all of the brooch lids.

Problems with plastic:

Again, I feel as though I was going from one problem to another with these brooches. When I cut the plastic for the brooch lids, I made sure that each piece of plastic fit snuggly inside the lid. Once each lid had a piece of plastic, the Gorilla glue was added and the plastic popped-into the lid. It should have been easy.

What I didn’t realize until the Gorilla glue was already set, was that in about four of the brooch lids, the plastic didn’t lay completely flat up against the lid opening. This meant that the lid would sit crooked on the top of the brooch. So now, I had crooked plastic, weird, frothy, orange-tinted glue visible, and the lids would still not stay on the brooches.

What the in the cinnamon-toast-hell do I do now?!

Honestly, I just was so mad at myself. I made so many extremely stupid mistakes with these brooches. There were parts that looked great. The dolls were super-cute. I liked how the inside linings in felt looked. Decorative elements on the surfaces of the brooches I drew in coloured pencil looked exactly how I wanted them to look.

Those stinkin’ brooch lids though! They looked so amateurish to me. Somehow, they didn’t feel up to the caliber of my previous artwork. But as much as the brooch lids were frustrating the hell out of me, I just kept working on them. There had to be a solution to the problems that I had created myself.

The first stage is acceptance:

I accepted that there was no way to completely solve all of the problems that I saw in the artwork. There are flaws in all of my artwork that only I see. I had to allow myself to finish the ten teeny-tiny doll brooches and then to move on. Otherwise, I was going to trap myself in a negative feedback loop.

Yeah, the lids do not look like I planned them to look. On the positive side of things, the part that I feel doesn’t look great is on the inside of the closed brooch. And after all of the problem solving I went through, all the lids stay on the brooches now. That was the biggest problem I was solving for after all.

Lessons learned:

As I said at the very beginning of this blog post, failure sucks. No one likes failing. Especially when it’s in front of a lot of people. Perhaps on social media? It’s embarrassing. These mistakes made me feel like I knew absolutely nothing about how to create artwork. But, perhaps that’s a good thing. We all need a little dose of humble pie now and again.

Each of the problems, failures, etc., that were made during the creation of the teeny-tiny doll brooches taught me something about my materials and techniques. And also a lot about the questions I need to ask myself while still in the early design phases of any new kind of construction technique.

I also had to try and cut myself some slack regarding some of the specific problems like the plastic.  I haven’t been using plastic for very long in my artwork. There is still more to learn regarding its’ use. In retrospect, I should have used at least one layer of newsprint and glue on the surfaces of the brooch and lid as well. This would have made sanding a must, giving me a smoother surface to work on. Giving myself some slack sounds easy, but it’s harder than it sounds. I’ll get there, eventually.

Shop worthy?

I’m a working artist. My artwork needs to be sold so that I can pay my bills. The time, energy and materials that went into creating the teeny-tiny doll brooches would be wasted (in a monetary sense) if they were not to be put into my shop. Knowing that there was one element (the underside of the lid) that still makes me roll my eyes while sighing heavily meant that I had to come up with a middle-of-the-road solution.

My solution is to reduce the price. You can see each of the brooches in my shop here. They are each one-of-a-kind, tiny pieces of completely imperfect, handmade artwork, based on specific objects, people, history and culture that goes into all of the artwork I create.

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

 

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Material Challenges

Long time readers of my blog know that in addition to being an artist, I’m also an art teacher. As an art teacher with a finite budget, I almost never turned down anything that I thought could be used in my classroom. Either as a tool or a material. It could become quite challenging to store them. Most being of irregular shapes, sizes and amounts. And even more confusing, of unknown usability.

There is a large swath of my inner-being that, through nature and nurture, collects all manner of supplies and materials that some people might think of as needing to go into the recycling or trash bin. Keeping it even remotely organized is difficult most of the time. Extremely challenging at other times.

So, how do I try to keep it all in some semblance or order?

What do I use?

In reality, just about everything I come across in any given day is something I could use to make art. There are some items that I’m always on the look-out for. Fibers and fabrics, newsprint, product packaging, plastics, corrugated cardboard, carton board, wrapping, containers from food and other purchased items (for storage and for usage in art making) plastic bottles and liquid containers.

Really, anything that I would have included in my “crap bags” I had as an art teacher. I kept glue stick and marker caps, because it was useful to have an extra one on hand in case one was lost or misplaced during an art lesson. Sometimes, the contents of a crap bag were just interesting bits and bobs. Paper scraps, wire, beads, caps from different art supplies (paint, glue, etc.) Again, it was always handy to have them around.

Then what?

These crap bags were just extra-large resealable, clear plastic bags. Every time I came across something interesting, or a stray cap from a glue stick or pen, it went right into the bag. When they were filled. I sealed them and put them into a larger cardboard box. Most of the time, I would go through the bags myself. Sorting the contents into categories. Then re-bagging them and placing them in the correct art supply category.

I had art lessons in which many of these found crap-bag objects would be used. Most of them were collage and sculptural lessons. As a working artist now, I employ this same technique for choosing, sorting, storing and using of the objects I collect. Instead of going into cardboard boxes, the sorted, clear, plastic bags go into a large reusable grocery bags.

How about larger things?

To keep my corrugated cardboard and carton board stored in a fairly organized manner, I also use large reusable grocery bags. Using these bags keeps me from having stacks of cardboards sliding all over the place. And it keeps me from collecting too much cardboard.

In fact, I really need to go through both of my bags of cardboard soon. They’re both a bit clutter with scraps I cannot use. And which take-up too much valuable storage space. The storage space of which I speak is directly underneath and to the back of my desk area. Right next to my feet.

Other larger objects that I’ve decided to keep and use in the creation of my art are stowed and stashed where-ever I have space left. To be honest, most of my personal closet space in the bedroom is devoted to materials and finished artwork storage.

Deck chairs on the Titanic:

Never do I feel as though I’ve gotten myself as organized as I would like to be regarding my materials and supplies. The problem being that I am always getting in and out of the supplies while at the same time working on a piece of artwork. Some tools, supplies or materials have to be out an on my desk to use. This all results in a lot of clutter.

Presently, I’m working on finishing up the gesso on several small pieces, and adding the base paint coats to several others. Because of this, my desk area is a total mess. When I’m painting or working with anything wet, I do not do any sewing. Because I don’t want to ruin a cloth project.

This is all part of creating artwork in a very confined amount of space. In the home studio I had prior to moving to Finland, I had multiple work areas set up. Paints or clay could be left out in one work area, while I sewed or embroidered in another. Someday I would like to have something similar to that again. But for now, I work with what I have and am thankful for it!

So…now what?

The methods I use to store tools, materials and supplies for my art-making isn’t perfect. It’s just the way that I do things. Hopefully there is something here or there that I talked about that you can use for yourself. Or perhaps something that I mentioned that gave you your own good idea!

I had hoped to have done some spring cleaning and organizing by the time of this blog post. But I didn’t quite get there. The Midden has begun to grow more around my desk and work area again. To the point where it’s beginning to bug me. Which means that it must be really bugging the crud out of my husband!

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Tuesday.

 

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Important Parts

There are a myriad of components, mental and physical, that I enjoy during the creation of my artwork. The interesting part is that not all of these parts are enjoyable. But that’s life, isn’t it? To me, what’s the most important is that I learn something valuable during the creating my art. The physical artwork may be sold. But the experience is mine.

No one likes to make mistakes. They are time and materials wasted. As an artist that posts a lot of art-in-process pictures on my Instagram account, showing a failure is embarrassing. It’s humanizing, but still embarrassing.

(To see pictures of my work in progress, you can check out my Instagram account here.)

Brooches:

If you’re a reader of my blogs, you know that there is a certain amount of creating that I do mentally. The ideas go back and forth between paper and my brain until I sit down and begin creating. A great deal of the materials I use are ones that I’m very familiar with. So it’s not difficult for me to mentally turn the piece around in my head; creating it virtually.

My problems with the design were three fold. First being that I didn’t take into account how small I was working. Methods of laminating carton board with glue work well when creating larger work. Lids for the brooches were 5.5 to 6 cm long with a frame of between .4 to .6 mm. The laminated carton board was so difficult to cut cleanly with an X-Acto knife. And it wouldn’t stand up to sanding either. It just smushed-up and fell apart.

Second, the super-simple peg hinge was just not robust enough to handle having the lid slid back and forth repeatedly. This movement also highlighted the fragility of the laminated carton board. Two of the lids simply tore at the hole made for the peg hinge. And there was no way to mend them satisfactorily.

The third and last design problem was that I hadn’t taken into account what the finished pieces were intended to be. Brooches are meant to be worn. And they will get a certain amount of jostling around when worn. My original lid design was not secure enough to prevent the tiny doll inside from potentially falling out and being lost.

Fixing the brooches:

For a while I toyed around with ways in which I could repair the flimsy lids and peg hinges. All of them would result in creating more work to cover for the mistakes I made. To make matters worse, these cover-ups were just not any good. From a design and engineering perspective.

I had some book board left-over from a class I took last autumn. It’s .2 mm thick and stands-up to sanding. Cutting the board was a bit of a challenge. So many curves! I made sure to take my time, as well as several breaks when I found myself getting frustrated. I added a lip around the outside edges of the lids as well. So in the finished product, the lids will stay put. No little lost dolls will occur!

Large rectangular boxes:

Yes. I made a mistake with these four pieces as well. While the mistake won’t require a tremendous amount of additional work. Part of me is just angry that I made such a stupid mistake. Especially since it was one of the very first of the lessons I learned working with cardboard and carton board!

I use carton board as a veneer over the corrugated cardboard in my work. The reason being is that when corrugated cardboard gets wet, it begins to break down. It gets ripply, and stays that way even after drying. My theory is that the gesso I make kind of freezes the rippling into place when drying. Seeing the rippling surface is distracting.

Adding the carton board veneer just keeps the underlying corrugated cardboard from getting too wet. And it preserves a (relatively) flat surface to paint and draw on. My plan for these four boxes is to line them with felt. Veneering them seemed a waste of time and materials. Long story longer, I should have veneered them.

Why? Because in addition to being ripply, they took twice as long to dry than if I had veneered them. Each of the boxes has around eight layers of newsprint and glue on top of the cardboard. The glue saturated the un-veneered corrugated cardboard and took twice as long to dry completely. Around 48 hours.

Fixing the boxes:

Well, there’s nothing much to fix at this point. I still intend to cover the insides with felt. There will still be a plastic window over each of the fronts of the boxes. I have several different designs I want to try for the boxes. These boxes are meant to protect and display the doll. But I would like to make the doll removable as well.

My bigger problem with these pieces is what to call these specific types of boxes. The design of the box is influenced by action figures (dolls) that can be purchased at stores. The hang tab isn’t meant to be used as a hanger. A separate hanger will be added to the back of the finished piece.

Are they shadow boxes? Box frames? Just frames? Display frames? Packaging? It really bugs me that I can’t settle on a name. They are an integral part of the finished piece. Not simply a frame to display it on a wall. Even though that is one of the things it can do. Weird.

New gesso recipe:

I’m also trying out a new gesso ingredient. Chalk. To be specific, ground-up sticks of chalk I purchased at the store. The reason I’m experimenting with chalk is because I’ve been having problems with the plaster forming nodules within the liquid gesso. I tried sieving it. I also tried squeezing it through cheese cloth. Both had limited success.

The nodules that the plaster formed made sanding miserable at times. I couldn’t quite get rid of all them either. Meaning that I had to figure out how to either make it part of the surface texture, or minimize it through the painting and surface decoration.

I’m still trying to get the chalk ground the way that I want it to be. A mortar and pestle has been cobbled together, utilizing a thick, clear glass container and an empty bottle. The coarsely crushed chalk is added to the glass container and ground finer with the bottle. Any small nodules of chalk that do make it through the process can be easily crushed with my finger while wet. Or sanded off when dry, leaving little evidence of their existence on the surface of the art.

Now what?

Well, I’m at that monotonous stage of adding layer after layer of gesso on each piece. It’s not a whole lot of fun. Usually, it takes about ten minutes before I find a working groove, and can just pick-up, paint, put-down and repeat over and over again. The lessons I learned with regard to the brooches will be very helpful to me in the future. Especially considering that I’m having a lot of fun creating the teensie-tiny, itty-bitty dolls. And see more of them in my immediate creative future.

(I kid you not. I just got an insanely cute idea for these teensie dolls. Damn. How did I NOT see that idea before!)

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you again next Friday.

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A Place for Everything

There are several times during any given day in which I find myself muttering, “Now where did I put that…

It’s been said that artists and creative types of people require a certain amount of mess, clutter and decrepitude in their environment to adequately be able to make their art. I don’t know that I totally agree or disagree with that statement. What I know for sure is that I have A LOT of tools, materials and supplies to keep organized. And relatively easy to locate.

My training:

When I was working as an elementary art teacher with a pretty large staff of visual art teachers, mine was one of the names given to new teachers who wanted to learn how to better organize the tools, materials and supplies that they had in their inventories. Organization of a visual art classroom can seem a bit overwhelming. Creating a system for organizing everything just made the job a little easier.

Part of my organizational methodologies regarding tools, materials and supplies had to do with categories and frequency of use within the art classroom. Another part was containers and labeling. It’s a simple and flexible way or getting as little or as much organization to suit your own personal needs.

As a working artist, I rely on the aforementioned methods to keep my personal studio space as organized as possible. These methods feel more important for me at present, because my “studio” is actually just a portion of my living room. Less space requires a few tweaks to my methods. But they still work.

Categories:

My artwork is comprised of several different mediums, with accompanying tools. Storage and organization is required for painting, sewing, paper mâché, wood carving, drawing, jewelry, collage and embroidery just to name a few! There are some categories that have overlap with others as well.

When new materials and supplies are used. And the amount of the supply small. I usually store it with an overlapping category. An example: wire. Until recently, the wire that I was using was simply stored with my jewelry supplies. More wire has been acquired, and now wire has its’ own storage container.

To create your own categories, just stop and take a look at what you have. Break them down into specific categories. This can be done easily during a cleaning of your work area or studio space. You may discover that you have a lot more of some materials and supplies than you thought you did!

Frequency of use:

The more I use a tool, supply or material, the closer it is to my immediate work area. There are eleven containers on my desktop holding pens, markers, pencils, scissors, knives, measuring tools, etc. But the two to my right, containing specific pens (ballpoint and permanent) and a craft knife, small ruler, bodkin (x2), needle nose pliers, a bone folder, a doll needle and a plastic spatula type tool are the ones that I use dozens and dozens of times a day. The other nine  are a little further away.

My paints are stored off my desk. All of my newspaper (for paper mâché) are in a small cubby of a bookcase, as are my buttons, part of my beads, intaglio supplies and empty water containers. Each of these tools or supplies is used at a specific time. Meaning that I need to have something that I need to use them on to need them on my desk. My eleven containers of drawing materials and tools are better kept on my desk than on a bookcase further from my work area.

The right side of my desk is ‘temporary housing’ for some supplies. Right now, I need to have some larger bottles of white glue and paint on my desk while creating some new work. When I finish with them, they go right back to their storage places.

Labeling:

Paint is a large category that requires subcategories. I have acrylic, watercolor (pan and liquid), tempera paints that I use. Each of them is stored slightly differently. Acrylics in cardboard pallets (trays) that can be easily stacked in a storage shelf by my desk. The watercolor and tempera paints are housed in little cases. The liquid watercolor tubes are in an old cookie tin. Each are labeled with what they contain. All are kept in close proximity to one another.

I have an extraordinarily large collection of buttons. They are each stored in second hand metal tins. The buttons themselves are sorted into subcategories of color, material and vintage. Each tin is labeled with what they contain, not just on the top, but on the side so I can easily see them.

The types of labels needed need not be complicated or expensive either. Use whatever small piece of paper I have at hand, including sticky notes. What remains the same is that I use a black permanent marker to write with and I tape the label to the container.

Containers:

With the exception of a few containers, the vast majority that I have are either second hand or recycled. For smaller bits and bobs, like all those buttons I mentioned, second hand metal tins are used. I also have quite a few second hand cookie tins as well. They’re rigid and stack nicely.

I like using clear containers to store my supplies and materials. When I was teaching art, I used the largest clear plastic tubs with lids for most of the supplies for my classroom, as well as my personal studio. One look and you know what’s inside! My work space is much smaller than my previous studio. So large plastic bins just are not practical.

However, I do have dozens of clear plastic bins with lids holding a lot of my art supplies and materials. How did I get them? Easy! Bin candy is very popular here in Finland. The candy is shipped to the stores in clear plastic cube-like, lidded boxes. These boxes are left by the stocking people at the fronts of the store. They’re free for the taking. At most, they require a washing in the sink with some dish soap. The labels are just ignored, or covered with paper and the contents written on with a black permanent marker.

Conclusions:

I’m not perfect. In fact, as I type this blog post, the area around and under my desk has become what my husband calls a “crap slide”. This occurs when my recycled art materials (mostly cardboards and plastics) over-flow their containers (flat bottomed recycled grocery bags) onto the surrounding floor. And yes, I really need to do a major cleaning of my desk and workspace. As well as my supplies and materials. Sorting needs to be done with regard to my supplies and materials. A lot of sorting. So. Much. Sorting.

Guess what I’m doing later this week?!

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Tuesday!