Monday, November 18, 2013

New Project

I'm embarking on a new project. I've done jewelry making/beading off and on since I was in middle school. Lately it seemed to lose quite a bit of its allure. Also, being a year and a half out of school, I find that I miss research projects (crazy, I know!). I decided I needed a new project, and landed on the idea of recreating historical jewelry from paintings.

It's not terribly heavy on the research, but it should be fun! I'll be going through books of paintings to find some where jewelry is in existence, and is feasible to reproduce (beading mostly, as I don't have a forge). Some of it will be as faithful a reproduction as possible (using modern materials, and no pearls, gold, or precious gems - I have a budget, thank you very much!), and some will be more modern interpretations based on colors, patterns, etc. 

I'm thoroughly looking forward to examining paintings in detail, and I hope you'll come along for the ride. Eventually some pieces will make their way to my Etsy shop, and hopefully there will be other assorted things there as well, as I finish the recovery from the past couple months (not really the best time, as the retail world heads into the holiday season, and I run out of free time, but here's hoping!)

Ginevra Bentivoglio by Ercole de' Roberti, National Gallery of Art

Madame Moitessier by Jean-August-Dominique Ingres, National Gallery of Art

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Facebook Sale

No, I'm not selling Facebook. If I owned Facebook, I certainly wouldn't be doing this sale.

I recently went to a dog show where I had a booth to sell my art for a week. While it was an amazing experience, I didn't sell as much as I'd hoped, and I unfortunately did not make back as much money as I had spent in preparation for the show. As a result, I am doing a sale on all my current art to try and raise funds and make space to make more art!

All the photos are in this Facebook album on my Facebook page. Each includes dimensions and cost - if there's something you want, you can message me through Facebook, or leave a comment on this post if you don't have a Facebook account (you can still view my page without an account).

The following are a few examples of things I have up for sale:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Keep your hand at the level of your eyes..

This summer I worked weddings at a garden, full of lovely rhododendron trees, lots of winding paths, and low hanging branches. Part of my job was to go around placing signs for every wedding blocking off parts of the garden. Some paths were wide and frequently used. Others were smaller, but still needed signs. Many of these paths were crossed by spider webs, and single strands of spider silk even just minutes after I had previously walked through there.

I often followed Madame Giry's advice.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Honey, water, and wind

Being a recent college graduate has its struggles. Not only am I still trying to figure out how to be an adult, what I want to do with my life, and how to make it all work - there's also the financial side of things.

For the most part, I'm completely happy living frugally. I've shopped almost exclusively at thrift stores for the past five years, and I love it. I share a tiny apartment, and try to grow some of our own food (although the key word is often 'try'). I don't need/buy a lot of 'stuff' - aside from art supplies, and that's a completely different story!

However, sometimes the financial situation gets in the way of being able to support causes that are important to me. I would like to be able to buy everything local, and preferably organic. I would like to support local artisans, buy less that is imported, use less energy, use renewable energy, and save the world while I'm at it. Big goals, I know.

The only thing is, I can't. Buying second-hand clothes is both environmentally friendly and friendly to my bank account, but local/organic food is not cheap. So I pick my battles. I visit the farmers market occasionally, and usually buy a few things. At the grocery store, I aim for produce that is in season, and try to look for things that are at least grown in the US.

I'm sure you've all heard about the issues with bees dying in massive numbers - if not, look it up. Not only are local, small beekeepers working hard to keep the bee populations alive, their honey is pure, raw, and so much better for you than the pasteurized stuff you get at the grocery store. So we recently made the decision that buying our honey locally was important, and that although there would be a cost increase, it is something that we can afford to make the switch with.

Queen Anne's Lace honey - it's really dark and delicious :)

Also, we found out that Portland General Electric, who we get our electricity from, offers a renewable energy option. If you opt in, they replace all of your electricity (normally from coal, natural gas, and some hydropower) with 50% wind, 48% low-impact hydropower (better for the fishies!), and 2% wood waste. It does cost more, but for our small apartment, it's only about $2-3 extra per month. It's still not necessarily perfect (I'd like solar panels), but it's really nice to find options for lessening my environmental impact that work with my budget, and with renting. I don't know how many other companies offer things like this, but it's worth looking into! 

What are some things that you do to save the world?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Watercolor techniques

The other day at the library I got out a few books on 'how-to-paint-with-watercolors'. Now, I've been using watercolors on and off for several years, but never taken a class, and figured I'd see if there were any techniques or ideas that I hadn't yet come across, or discovered on my own. It's always good to keep experimenting, and it's amazing the inspiration you can get from just looking at other works - you can see that one thing that completely clicks and makes it so that the idea bouncing around in your head can become a reality.

However, I was massively disappointed by these books. The good points were the bits about how to create different textures - I already knew about salt and alcohol, but crinkled papers, plastic wrap, and cheesecloth were new to me - and of course just looking at a bunch of finished pieces for general inspiration. Aside from that, the books almost universally made me angry. Perhaps it's because although I'm not an expert in watercolors, I have been doing the whole 'art' thing for a really long time - kids' art programs at the National Gallery in elementary school, painting lessons in middle school, assorted art classes in high school, and of course my college career culminating in a BFA, not to mention all the self-propelled art that happened around all of that. As such, I've accumulated a lot of different ideas about art, how to approach it, and most importantly that there is no one right way to do things

I get that most of these books are geared towards the casual watercolorist, who is possibly more interested in faithfully capturing their vacation surroundings, or producing landscapes in a particular style (which is all well and good, don't get me wrong, it's just that I'm looking for something a bit more involved). It was when I started reading sentences telling me to make sure to use bright colors, and not mix them too much or else the colors will become muddy and my painting will be dull and boring.  Well, excuse me! I happen to quite like muted colors sometimes, and they certainly don't make a painting boring.

Rant over.

I thought I'd share a few of my techniques and a little bit of my process. 

First is the 'let's throw a bunch of paint and things at the paper and see what happens'. This is where I decide on some colors/combinations, whether I want it to be light or dark, and maybe add some salt or rubbing alcohol (I still want to try cheesecloth - it looks cool). Once the initial layer (or two, if the first is uninspiring) has dried, I look at it and decide what else needs to be painted.

Usually this consists of a more meticulously painted subject - a bird, or other animal. In this one, I painted the background (with lots of salt for texture), then the blue jay, then decided that it was a little bland/disjointed/off-balance, and added the sprays of orangey-yellow that go across the upper half of the page.

This one had a more subdued background - a blend of assorted neutral colors without much contrast, and only subtle texturing. I decided it needed an equally low-key bird, and I used the same sets of colors for the songbird.

Here the decision was easy - a light blue wash loosely brushed on, with a spray of salt when the paint was still really wet. When it dried, it looked like sunlight coming through the water at the top right, with a trail of bubbles leading down to some sea creature. And I like the idea of a kraken :)

For this painting I took a different approach. I started off with the same concept of mixed washes, knowing that I wanted to leave a lighter area in the bottom third, and ever-increasingly dark colors around it. Also I played around a little with alcohol drops - you can still see one in the upper left corner. For the secondary stage of painting, I kept things looser and much more wash-y rather than opaque, creating a dark rainy city scene with people walking about in the open area. I actually am really happy with how this turned out, and enjoyed playing with colors and layering washes. I do think that the initial layer may have been a little busy, so I plan on trying this sort of thing again with a more even background.

And then there's a combination of the looser and more controlled styles - I started with an initial image, so the outlines are strong and contained, but played with salt, colors mixing, and assorted layering techniques within each stone.

These do something similar, but are even more planned-out, with initial sketches on other paper, inking in the lines with water-proof ink, and then going in with the watercolors.

And, of course, most of these paintings are currently for sale on my Etsy shop

Sunday, August 4, 2013

1820s dress UPDATE

A small update to my post about making a historically-accurate ballgown from the 1820s. You can now buy prints of the pinhole photographs that I took in Ireland as part of the project :


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Elementary school

Things I love about working at a school:

  • children are amazingly funny
  • explaining something to a 1st grader, and feeling like you're actually making a difference
  • art time - watching how salt interacts with watercolors
  • recess
  • making pizzas in class (yum!)

Things I really don't like so much about working at a school:
  • it's like being in a petri dish
  • I have to get up early in the morning
  • the germs - seriously!! Sometimes I feel like my immune system is improved by being around the kids so much, but then a horrible bug will get me, I'll have to take a day off work, and I'll spend the whole weekend hoping I'll be capable of waking up at 5.45 on Monday morning.

Mostly I love it, though :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

New painting

Here's a sneak peek of something I've been working on - I just finished the ink work, and still have to do the watercolors (when I have time!) On the left is the original sketch, and on the right is the initial lines on the final paper, with the actual line work/filling in just started.

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Here are a few out of a series of charcoal drawings I did recently. There are 13 in all, and are for sale on my Etsy shop - only $15 each!!! Which is actually quite a good deal for original pieces.

Anyway, here are a few of the images:

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Recent work

I figured I'd do a catch-up post of some projects I've been working on lately:

I've been playing around with my tablet...

And I've been doing some more needle felting....

And some new watercolor/ink drawings:

Goose Music

I started a new job yesterday - staffing wedding events at a garden. The garden includes a lake/pond, and there are lots of geese and ducks wandering around. We were cleaning up debris from a meadow area, when I heard something surprising.

It sounded like rain. That really lovely pitter-patter of raindrops gently falling on the roof, ground, and rustling through the leaves.

Now, you may not think that terribly surprising, except for the fact that it was a hot, sunny, perfectly clear day, and I was not being rained upon. So I turned around, and all I could find as a possible source was a flock/gaggle of geese*. It took me a minute to figure out, but apparently a group of 30 or so geese all eating grass at the same time sounds a lot like a light rainfall!

*Did you know that a group of geese is called a gaggle when they're on the ground, but a skein when they're flying?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Quite a while ago now, I worked to rebrand my business/Etsy shop/artwork, changed the name of my blog and my Etsy shop, got new business cards, and set up a Facebook account.

Facebook was something I had hesitated to get involved in, since I didn't have a personal account, and didn't really want another thing to deal with. BUT social media is all-important these days, especially for someone just starting up and wanting to get the word out. My blog is great and all, but in order to see every post you have to remember to look at it. Or do that whole RSS-feed thing (is that even right?) and most people don't know how or want to do that. With Facebook it's easy, because the structure of a regular audience is already there for you. Yes, people have to 'like' your page, but that's an easy, one-time thing to do that they're already used to, and isn't at all complicated. And then, you have a captive audience. As long as they spend time on their Facebook (and most people do that regularly) they will see your posts. Or at least some of them. And really, that's all it takes. (at least, ideally)

I was also afraid that I'd never have anything to post on Facebook that wasn't a copy of something from this blog. Then I figured I'd post short things on Facebook, and longer, more involved subjects here. Then I only ended up posting on Facebook, and essentially ignoring my blog.

It's easier on Facebook - easier to post a photo and add a caption. Easier to just post a photo and not feel like you're short-changing your readers/yourself  - because Facebook is all about the short burst of info. Easier to see you're actually making an impact - people comment on things, or at least like them. And barring that, you do get to see how many people saw your post. Which is something that I can see on the blog, but usually it seems to be random people finding it through weird searches - and only a couple a week. (Although it would probably help if I posted more).

But there are also people who don't have a Facebook account, and look to my blog for updates. Plus, I've found that although I'm posting more frequently, it is usually photos, new items, and not anything longer. And it's good for me to be on here writing about things that are important to me.

I think I've always been stressed about writing on this blog - every post has to be worthwhile, has to be perfect, has to be entertaining and gracefully written. But for what? For the hundreds and thousands of people who eagerly wait for my next post? That might happen eventually, but it certainly isn't now. So in the meantime I'll write for myself, and for the off-chance that someone might happen upon something I've written that helps/teaches/inspires them.

Wish me luck!!

Saturday, May 25, 2013


I really like vikings. I've always liked vikings - I remember doing a project in elementary school about viking runes, and I carved the runes into Sculpey clay. Somehow I managed to attach these 'tablets' to my poster board, and I don't think they broke until after I had done my presentation! 

Here's my rag-tag band of misfit vikings - someday I want a story about them that I can illustrate.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The importance of yarn

I read in a book* once that the very first yarn you spun was important, and that you should hold on to it - no matter how weird, bumpy, or uneven it may be. Granted, it was a fantasy novel, so the string turned out to have magical potential, but I still thought that it was a very nice sentiment.

The first yarn I ever spun was on a friend's drop spindle in Ireland. I was using white wool that I ordered online, and trying to figure out the wool, spinning of the spindle, drafting of the fibers, and what felt like a million other things at the same time (other spinners will appreciate this feeling - also somewhat similar to first learning the violin, with your hands needing to do such different things). It was a very lumpy, probably over-twisted single with an unintentional and uneven thick-and-thin texture.

Since I didn't own the spindle, I had to wind that bit of yarn off the spindle and onto an Altoids tin - the handiest thing we had at the time. It stayed wrapped there through my travels home, a year of college, and my move across the country.

* Sandry's Book, by Tamora Pierce

Several weeks ago, I came across my first yarn again, as I was sorting out and organizing all my crafting supplies. I figured it was a shame, letting it just sit around (but unable to throw it away), so I set about coming up with an idea on how to turn it into something useful so that I could keep it for sentimental reasons, but didn't have to feel bad about cluttering up the very tiny apartment.

Enter the chunky bracelet and some buttons from my stash. 

I actually really love this bracelet. Usually I hate big/wide bracelets, because they overwhelm my small hands and wrists, and are just plain uncomfortable. But this one is nice and lightweight, and since it's a knit, it stretches easily over my hand but doesn't at all feel like it's going to fall off my wrist. It's soft and fun, and a little bit bohemian. 

I'm in the middle of making several more, to sell on my Etsy shop, but I'll share the pattern/process (such as it is) here for those who would like to make their own. 


First off, I've only used singles so far, but they're all fairly chunky, which I think works best for the look. You can use any sort of yarn (handspun or not), but thicker is better. It's also a great way to use up those last bits of great yarn that didn't fit into a project, but you just can't seem to get rid of because they're just so soft/colorful/pretty/unique.

The pattern is really very simple (also not really a pattern) - Knit a rectangle appx. 2 inches wide (mine was 6 stitches), and 1/2 - 3/4 of an inch longer than the circumference of your wrist, on whichever needles are comfortable with the yarn you're using. I did mine in a stockinette stitch, but any stitch pattern you like would work. Stockinette stitch also requires blocking (because of the curl of the resulting fabric). I'm sure this isn't the 'right' way to do it, but my blocking method for these smaller pieces involves getting them wet in warm/hot water, wringing them out, and pinning them out flat on my dress form (the only stationary pinnable surface I have).

Once your rectangle is dry, take it and wrap it around your wrist to get the exact amount of overlap necessary to make the finished bracelet fit. I know that it looks like the bracelet buttons closed, but that's a lie. I sewed the two ends together (carefully so as to hide the stitches from the outside), and then played around with the placement of buttons until I liked what I saw. Sew the buttons on, and you have a new bracelet!


In other (related) news, I've been taking some spinning lessons on how to use my new spinning wheel. It's very exciting, and such a cool experience! My first wheel-spun yarn, however, is *very* different from the first yarn on a drop spindle. 

I used a bunch of odds and ends to spin two bobbins of singles out of different colors, types of wool, methods of preparing the fiber (and even some silk and linen!). This made for some odd-looking bobbins, and then even odder-looking finished yarn when I learned how to ply them together....

There's all sorts of color and texture in there, including some glitter fibers, and a few curly locks (of different colors). The thickness ranges from a heavy worsted to maybe fingering or sport weight. Most of it is 2-ply, but some I used the Navajo 3-ply method to experiment with that.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this stuff, but I'm leaning towards a simple scarf, and then deciding whether or not I'll wear it (or how frequently) depending on how it looks!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Purchases from the Rose City Yarn Crawl

This post is a little belated, seeing as how the yarn crawl was at the beginning of this month, but I thought I'd go ahead and share my finds. First off is my wonderful spinning wheel, which you can see a not-so-great photo of on my Facebook page. I was very lucky, and happened to be in the right spot at the right time, so I am now the (very) proud owner of an Ashford traditional. I've already done a  little spinning, and am in the middle of lessons to teach me how to do everything. Further posts and pictures on that subject coming soon.

I think that one of the most interesting shops on the tour was Yarnia. It's a fascinating place, and I certainly plan on going back sometime. They have pre-made yarn in all sorts of colors and fibers, on cones ready for you to mix and play with. You pick the different yarns you want, and they wind them together onto a cone for you (in the amount you want) for a unique color and/or fiber blend for your use.  Since I was trying to *not* buy stacks and stacks of supplies over the weekend, I settled for selecting a few cone ends of pre-blended yarns to try it out. 

Of course no fiber weekend would be complete without me buying some new colors of roving to play with in my needle felting. The pictures aren't great, but you can see the colors pretty well - a range of purples and a raspberry to expand my stash.

Most of the yarn stores had displays, demos, and trunk shows throughout the weekend. At one of the stores (I can't remember which one) the wonderful One of a Kind Buttons was there with her beautiful handmade ceramic buttons, pendants, and pins. They were so beautiful I had to get a small set, even though I don't have any specific plans for them yet.

In other news, spring has sprung here in the Willamette Valley! For a week or two now, many of the apple and cherry trees have been full of pink and white blossoms, and daffodils and other flowers are popping out of the woodwork. Even one of the trees out our window is starting to bud, and what a lovely sight it is. This photo was taken a few days ago, and it's even greener now.

Happy Spring!!