Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Soldered Treasure Box Pendant

Maybe it's a leftover from childhood and the anticipation of tearing open a boxed present, but I love boxes. So when casting around for ideas for a new soldered jewelry class, my mind immediately turned to a treasure box. What better way to showcase a small treasure or two than to wear it around your neck...or hang it on display. I used one of my Wade tea china poodle figurines and built this box around it. On the bottom, there is a glass pebble with the image of a small dog and the words loyal and faithful. Where each side meets is a length of small Swarovski crystals in a brass chain soldered to the glass. On top, a piece of Vintage brass filagree. In the chain is a soldered charm and two crystals. This would be a hard project if you've never soldered before, but I use a few tricks to make it work. I'll be teaching this class on April 23, 2011 at Collage.

The bracelet below is the class sample for the Jewelry Basics class I am teaching at Collage on April 9, 2011. During class I will show how to make your won clasps from wire, how to drill holes in rocks and shells (1 and 7), how to make charms from mica and transparencies (2), How to hang a vertical bead (3), how to etch a copper charm (4), how to use a jeweler's saw and rivets (5), and how to use wire wrapping to hang an object as a charm (6). I'll also demo several other jewelry techinques such as antiquing, filing , finishing metal, and more. Go to the Collage website for class details and how to sign up!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Waxy Birds and a Wonderful Waxy Class

I've been playing with wax again...and again, I'm working to see how far I can take wax on a 3-D surface. And, of course, the subject is birds. Waxy birds. I built a frame of wire and filled it with newspaper. Wrapped that with art quality masking tape and then applied three layers of old fashioned paper mache to complete the base. This crow wand was created with a beak I carved from a 1/4" dowel and wired to the frame before I applied the paper mache. I also wired the bird to the driftwood wand before any paper was applied. I let him dry thoroughly and painted him black, thinking I would use clear beeswax and collage to finish him, but I didn't like the results. So I applied a little bit of pastel, string circles torn from handmade paper and foil, as well as some colored wax to finish him. The wires that hold the tail feathers are part of the original wire frame. A little yarn, a bit of free form crochet and bells and he is ready to grace my garden!!

This sweet chick was created the same way except I wired in feet and a beak and attached cardboard wings before I covered him with paper mache. He was painted yellow and waxed and then round pieces of prin were collaged with wax and outlined with charcoal. Red pastell was rubbed over the print and the simple word "beautiful" collaged on his chest so he had something to crow about!

And finally my bluebird of happiness meant to hang from a string from above. He, too, is constructed in the same manner as the other two birds. However, I used copper wire instead of steel and made sure he was thoroughly covered with wax to make him weatherproof as he will hang in my garden as a scarecrow this year.
Last weekend I taught a great group of women the basics of encaustics at Collage in Portland. We had a lot of fun playing with various surface techniques over collage. I'll leave you with a sampling of their work. They all did a great job!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Photography Galore in Battle Ground, WA

I have three photographs in this upcoming, all photography show. Reception is on Monday, April 4 from 6 to 9 PM with live music, the works of 30 plus photographers and featuring a special showing of Battle Ground High School student photography. Starting Grounds Church, Cafe and Gallery, 203 S. Parkway Ave., Battle Ground, WA. See you there!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Winter Writings: Final

Today, this long journey through winter is over. A season that I have often both dreaded and loved has passed again and I am filled with anticipation for the coming year. Although the year began officially on January 1st, for me it begins with the advent of Spring. Today I put the darkness and sorrow behind me and begin a new journey in life. I'm not sure where this year will take me, but I have made my first step forward down this new road and am eager to explore new landscapes, filled with adventures and possibilities.

Thanks to all of you who followed my writings from solstice to equinox, through the cold and muted colors of the season, the cozy warmth of home and the stark beauty of winter landscapes. I have enjoyed your company on my journey. Thank you for your kind comments and words of support. Your companionship was appreciated more than you know.

I will continue to write from the heart, as well as post my art and hope you will continue to visit with me along the way. I'll keep a cup of hot tea and the fire ready for you. Namaste.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Winter Writings: Day 89

I know there are many folks who don't have much use for a Canada goose, other than to put one on the table for a feast, but for years I have loved this bird. The harbinger of fall and spring, the haunting sounds of the flock on the move in their ever-changing "V" formations can still send shivers through me...even though, chances are, one of them left a gift on my freshly washed windshield.

Watching a flock hunt and peck for food in a field of ground fog and brown stubble never fails to tempt me to stop and take a few photos or do a quick sketch. And I make sure I visit the wildlife refuge when the babies are due to hatch and watch mom and dad parade them through the watery reeds.

But I love them best when I see them like this...the female hovering over her eggs...the male hovering nearby protecting the nest and his mate...both miserable in the cold rain and but not flinching from their duties...both inseparable until death. It is inspiring that a bird can do what many humans cannot. Remain commited for life. We could learn from them I think.

Winter Writings: Day 88

Right now, after weeks of seemingly non-stop rain, I dream of sun. Of heat radiating through my old bones and soaking through my skin. Languid heat wrapped around my body like a well-worn blanket that envelops me in a sound sleep I don't want to wake from. Golden light reflecting off the last of the raindrops hanging from spring buds, making you reach for sunglasses and sunscreen and dream of dancing along the forest trails in celebration of spring.

And right there with dreams of sun, are longings for the wild lands and waterfalls of the local trails that are still covered in mud and snow. Of water flowing freely from the glaciers above and finding its way through secret paths down the mountain, to the mighty river and on to join the roaring waves of the Pacific. Of volcanoes and valleys and warm beach sand between my toes. Oh the places I'd explore and the photographs I would take if only I could have a little sun.

Each day the birds in my backyard grow more joyous in their song. I can only hope they are singing the sun home to me to free me from this winter prison.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Winter Writings: Day 87

So many times on the road of life, I ignored side streets and winding paths, feeling sure that I must stay focused on the main street in order to reach my goals and become "successful". How many opportunities did I pass up in fear that I would fail? And when I did (and that seems to be a given for human beings), how much time I've wasted beating myself up for failings beyond my much so that I almost began to believe my life was over? And how many of my decisions were based, not on what was in my heart, but what I had been told was the path to success by others intent on having their own needs met?

And yet, down those side streets and hidden paths lie possiblitites...alternate lives....that are every bit as fulfilling, if not more so. They don't come with peer approval. My mother won't phone me and tell me how thrilled she is I took that route. I won't see my life unfold in a TV sitcom. But I can be happy and fulfilled without achieving the American dream of wealth and status. I can be happy in my skin even if I don't look like a super-model, drive a BMW and have a locking office door with a title on the name placard.

I have friends that have turned away from the expectations of others to lead authentic lives. Who travel the globe on a shoestring budget. Who make art, and only art, for a living. Who have started new careers when they should be looking at retirement. Who return to school and join students half their age, just for the exhileration of learning something new. Who thrive in the exploration of nature. They don't have big houses, new cars, fancy toys....but they do have lives. And they are without exception, happy.

Einstein said that to try the same thing over and over again and expect different results was insanity. Would this squirrel be devouring a gourmet meal of birdseed if he had thought to himself, I won't fit on this feeder? I'm not saying the American Dream is a bad thing, but I see so many people beel inadequate because they were unable to find their piece of that dream...and feel so much anger for those that did. Anger that consumes their lives to a point they fail to thrive.

So goodbye to the main street of life. I'm making a turn onto a new street. I don't know where it will lead, but if it only leads me to see life a little differently, to feel less need to compete, to be more forgiving and forthgiving, to learn to live with less and experience more, I will have found a better path in life. I'm off to explore new lands.

Winter Writings: Day 86

Small yellow suns dot the grass
Dandelion wine, you say
But I see thousands of white downy parachutes
Blowing in the wind
Eager to seed another star.
No weeds, these...
Just small worlds yet to be.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Winter Writings: Day 85

The daffodils gather at my fence
their sunny bonnets nod and smile as
they share the gossip of the day.
Meanwhile, the cherry tree dons
her fairy tale gown and,
with sparrows attending,
she moves to hug the sky hello.
Last night's rain left scattered diamonds
on each new blade of grass
and everywhere lingers
the perfume of spring,
that gently fills the air and
smooths away grey winter's tired wrinkles.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Winter Writings: Day 84

The air is alive in anticipation
as armies of dark clouds
thrust out their armored chests
in argument, while spring and winter clash,
both seeking to stay in season.
Loud cannon rocks the skies
while raindrops dance in
jagged strings of disco lights.
The battle rages fiercely as windows
shake in terror and all living things
take shelter and await the outcome.
But the impatient wind sweeps
them all aside to let the sun peek through
the retreating ranks of soldiers.
Small flowers open their eyes
to greet the sunbeams
falling through a rainbow flag of truce.
Spring is here at last.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Winter Writings: Day 83

I guess we never grow too old to try to parent our children, even though they grow too old to have much patience with our attempts to do so. Today, was a perfect example of why this practice should be stopped. My son announced a desire to have a duvet cover for his bed that was not pink. A reasonable request. But not knowing what would make a room I decorated in frilly pink look less....well, girly... I asked him to come with me to check on "what would IKEA do" to solve this decorating dilemma.

When we arrived in the parking lot, rather than spend time looking for a spot close to the building entrance, I lectured him about my parking methodology, i.e. to park as far away as possible so that I burn more calories getting places. Knowing I sounded like an overbearing parent, I still took it upon myself to extol the virtues of walking more and driving less, since I am rather proud of my latest in a long line of attempts to live healthily. And he patiently listened, resigned to the idea that I am still trying to tell him how to live his life at almost age 26. I also took a few potshots at the local weatherman who said it would rain all day when we were enjoying a fairly dry day thus far. After all, how many people have a job where they can be wrong most of the time and still be employed?

We walked across the parking lot and into IKEA, where we had lunch, found a duvet cover that suited him (black and charcoal - no prints) and checked out....and promptly walked out the door into the rainstorm from hell. Winds gusting about 40 miles an hour, rain coming down sideways and small pieces of hail with razor sharp edges. You could not see five feet in front of your face. And where is my car? On the opposite side of the parking lot. I'll give him credit. He did offer to go get the car like the gentlemen I taught him to be. But I knew I had earned this. I handed him the bag and made a run for it.

Twenty feet into the run, I wasn't just wet. I was like a load of wash that hadn't gone through the spin cycle yet. I felt like I was standing in a cold shower and being pummeled with small razor blades. My socks squished. My lips turned blue. I shivered uncontrollably. I am desperately clutching my purse trying to keep my iPhone dry when every fiber on my body was soaking wet. I ran the Boston marathon in that short distance to my car. And when I finally get in, I realized that I am wearing jeans, which means I will probably leach blue dye onto my light grey car seats. I've lived here 10 years now. You would think I would remember that spring storms are a bit unpredictable.

I drive up to the store exit to pick up my son and, to his credit, he neither laughed nor said a word about my earlier lecture, although I think I detected a surpressed laugh over my bedraggled appearance. But I think I will lecture a little bit less in the future to avoid being caught at less than my best. Obviously, when regarding the weather, I am no subject matter expert at all. Although, I do believe I burned a few calories...

Winter Writings: Day 82

I once climbed a tall mountain and stopped to take in the amazing view from the top. Of an earth built through the hardships of time and the mechanics of plate tectonics. Like a set of building blocks, it has been formed and reformed again, caught up in a battle we can neither control or predict. We place our puny landmarks upon it and call the earth our own, only to be reminded of the unrestrained power of nature. I sensed the journey taken through fire and ice to form the weathered rock I held in my hand and acknowledged that we have all faced adversity to share this moment in time. Even now, the feel of the rough granite on my fingertips reminds me that all things are possible, though in our darkest moments, we struggle to believe those possibilities.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan in this dark hour. In the midst of this great tragedy, may comfort be found in the coming together of mankind from around the planet to join hands and lift the Japanese from the rubble, comfort them in their losses and help them rebuild again. In this moment, borders will cease to exist and we will come together, in peace, as one people.

Winter Writings: Day 81

Grumpy grey clouds angrily wipe away the sun
only to have a stray sunbeam, or two, peek out
from areas already thought to be subdued...
and while the clouds occasionally weep
in frustration of their work undone,
even then the sunbeams turn the tears
into the smile of a distant rainbow
and the treasure of spring hidden
just beyond the next bend.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Great Stitched Postcard Swap received

Look what arrived in my mail today!! My Great Stitched Postcard swap from fabric artist Anne Butera! It's stunning with embroidery, quilting, applique, calligraphy and stamping. And a packet of sunflower seeds and a small metal stencil so I can create a garden of my own! Thanks so much, Anne! You can read more about Anne and see her art at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Winter Writings: Day 80

The plum tree woke up today and dressed itself in delicate pink pearls. Three robins, not willing to be out done, stuck out their persimmon chests and danced among the branches. Chickadees flitted nervously, trying on blossom costumes to wear to the Solstice celebration. The drab brown sparrows ignored them all, industrious in their attention to the feeders, knowing well that color can be a fleeting event in spring and will not feed your belly.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Winter Writings: Day 79

I know there are those who have no pets, but life is infinitely enriched by my animals, both inside and outside my home. My heart is lifted on the wings of the small birds scrambling for a perch on my backyard feeders and their joyous song mixed with the pastels of a dawning sky bring beauty to my soul that will sustain me through the day. My cats curl in and around me, tickling my skin with soft fur while their deep purr lets me know all is well with the world (okay, it also tells me the food dish is full, as well...). And there are no words for the hole the death of my dear Alex brought to my heart last fall and I still find myself looking for his big brown eyes and wagging stub of a tail that let me know that no matter what, I would always be loved and accepted by at least one being in this world.

I remember a friend once telling me that she came home from work after a hard day feeling tired and discouraged. As she came through the door, her dog jumped for joy at her return and begged for her love and attention, grateful for even a small tidbit of affection. Her husband, on the other hand, never moved from his spot in front of the television and greeted her with a noncommittal grunt. She said she knew at that moment, she would get a divorce, keep the dog and live happily ever after and she did. When I knew her years later, her dog still went insane with happy, sloppy love and kisses each time she returned home. Such is the love from a "dumb" animal.

I have a friend that fosters dogs for the local humane society. She has had a parade of dogs so mistreated by humans, that they shiver and shake when approached and bear lifelong scars of abuse. Her latest dog was caged at a puppy mill for 8 years. He didn't even come with a name. He sleeps in a small space he found behind a bag of potting soil in her garage and lives in abject fear of humans. I have no doubt that with her patient love of animals, he will leave her care a different animal, and despite the terrible treatment at the hands of another human, will find a family that he will greet with great fanfare and attention and adoration as they come home to him each day. Few humans can match that. I could not live without it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

WInter Writings: Day 78

It's raining again today
Nature's cleaning crew hard at work
scrubbing away the last of the drab brown winter
and allowing a few spring sunbeams
to warm our old bones.
The cat and I fight over who will get
the best seat in the house
from which to watch the birds
busy gathering their nests
while shy daffodils peek out
on an almost spring day.


Winter Writings: Day 77

Ah, Daffodils!
How kind of you to wake from your long winter rest and wave your bonnets to the rhythm of the warm west wind, filling our hearts with the heat of your sunny last, Spring!!!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Great Stitched Postcard

I signed up to be a part of the Great Stitched Postcard exchange. Organized by Beth Nicholls in England of, with a theme of "love", I dutifully stitched one side, but switched to collage for the other. I'll be sending it off tomorrow and I can't wait to see what I will receive back in the mail. Felt good to spend the day making art. I hope to be doing a lot more of it in the future!

Winter Writings: Day 76

Dark eyes, still as a moonless night,
peek from beneath a dark curl
of bleached brown bush
awaiting the green paintbrush of spring.
an orange feathered sun explodes
into flight and lands with purpose
in the still frosted grass
a fat earthworm who,
tired of winter darkness,
came out to enjoy the rare sunbeam
and in doing so,
cast an unfortunate shadow
for the robin to enjoy as breakfast.

Winter Writings: Day 75

Old Wisdom - pen and ink
Three dark crows,
hunched and huddled in frigid cold,
embers flare briefly in clenched hands
reflecting a fire in dark, tired eyes.
One by one, they toss their butts
and head back inside the bar
where they will preen the snow from their feathers
and share the fabled tales of their youth
where the good guys always win their girl
and live happily ever after.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Winter Writings: Day 74

Flutter happy wings of orange and black
with no apparent purpose
than to delicately sip nectar
from blossom cups and exchange
the latest gossip with bumblebees and snails.
One would never guess that
you are bound by gravity as
we are and only dream of
being free to soar endlessly
towards blue heaven.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Winter Writings: Day 73

Storm's brewing...
Starlings whirl in complicated chaos
as grey clouds congregate,
a pile of dirty laundry
tossed in a corner of the sky.
"Rain's coming" the old man says,
as he hunches deep within the folds
of a tattered, well-worn sweater.
He tends his garden with
gnarled fingers twined around
the weathered handle of an old spade.
Gently building temples of soil
around delicate seedlings, just hatched...
preparing them to receive ablution.
Already they dance to an ancient wind song,
small shoots bowed to unseen gods of nature
praying for the sun.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Winter Writings: Day 72

Lazy waters carry secrets
giggled between cannonballs and backstrokes
one foot still in childhood and stepping forward
into growing mysteries.
This moment will never come again.
The river flows on, cradling memories
lived at the water's edge,
under the dappled shade of trees
and the blue sky sun that fills my heart
with unbearable longing.
I close my eyes and smile
as the water swirl between my toes
and tells me the stories of summer's past
on the way to the great blue sea.

WInter Writings: Day 71

Blackbirds huddle on telephone lines
in groups of morse code
telegraphing the approaching storm.
The trees sway wildly in the rising wind,
naked without a cloak of leaves,
and shivering in the cold.
A solitary hawk hunches glumly
looking nevermore on a dead tree snag,
his afternoon meal long gone,
snug in their burrows out of the snow.
In the darkening sky,
snowflakes begin to sing, no two alike
yet all the same as they are birthed
from the dark, pregnant clouds
and fall from the sky.
Soon, the ground will snuggle
under a blanket of fine spun cotton
embroidered with the small footprints
of hungry mice.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Winter Writings: Day 70

On this last day of February, bleak, gray clouds tumble and turn in the wind like tattered rags, scrubbing the color from the sky. All living things huddle in whatever shelter they can find, to escape the constant drill of rain. I hurry to the car, dodging the sting of a hundred icy needles sown by the wind against my skin dreaming of hot tea and a warm fire. I watch the river boil with white capped crones screaming words of encouragement to the storm and dream of turquiose sky, white beaches and hot summer sun. Where is my spring?

But even as I dream of warmth and comfort, the rain becomes snow, and the land which looked so desperate for spring just a moment before, becomes a jeweled wonderland...a Christmas card scene of wish you were here. Even in the gloom, the snow sparkles with the light of thousand diamonds and perches precariously on every tree limb. I step cautiously from the car to take a few photos of pristine white and suspend my longing for spring begrudgingly for the stunning beauty of fresh snow. I carefully look both ways to be sure I am alone and suspend adulthood in exchange for a few stolen moments dancing in the snow and catching flakes on my tongue for a taste of magic.

But the growing darkness soon hurries me homeward to find my own warm nest to shelter in. After all, this is no day to wander the woods while winter makes a last desperate stand against the advancing promise of spring.