Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye, 2014! You've been wonderful!

I've never been one to wax poetic about the year gone by, but seeing other bloggers posting their 'best of 2014' has gotten me to reminiscing.  And when I think of those special moments of this past year, it's easy to boil them down into just three categories:

 Friends (old and new) and family
The magnificent world that is our home, and the creatures that inhabit it 
Artsy experiences and adventures

So, in that order, here we go!  
Back in 2013, in celebration of our milestone birthdays, I spent an fun extended weekend with my college roommate/best friend, Nancy.  This past year, in 2014, I had the rare opportunity to spend time with my two childhood best friends - the girl with whom I share my earliest memories (Annie, in the first photo below), and the girl with whom shared the angst of high school (Ingrid, second photo).  All three of these women live at great distances from me, in Nancy in Seattle, Annie in England, and Ingrid in Tennessee, and I have seen them very, very rarely over the years.  The amazing thing with all three friendships is the ability to simply pick up where we left off, with the years and spaces between meaning nothing.  These friendships are comfortable and I treasure them all. 
 For the fun of comparison, below are pics of me with Annie first (I'm on the right, in the plaid coat), and with Ingrid next (I'm in the center, and Ingrid is second to the right), in 'vintage' photos.
But this year, there were new friends as well.  My trip to San Diego for the NAEA convention was an opportunity to meet people I previously only knew through cyberspace.  But somehow, I also feel like I've known them forever!  Below, on hat night, you will see Pinterest goddess Donna on the left, and fellow blogger Rina on the right.  (And of course it's me in the middle. Duh.)  A word about Rina - what person, in their right mind, offers someone they've never met a place to stay in their home?  Someone terrific, that's who!  Thank you Rina!  And this year, Rina and I will be sharing a room at NOLA. 
 But wait, that's not all!! I also met these art blogging superstars pictured below.  How wonderful to finally meet them for realzies!!  (But how come these women are all like a foot taller than me?  Sheesh...)  Anyhow, in the pic on the leftbelow, that's me and Artful Artsy Amy (I would call her Amazing Amy, but if you've read or seen Gone Girl you know that's probably not a moniker she particularly wants.)  And on the right, it's me with Deepspace Sparkle superstar Patty, who gave me the original motivation and inspiration to start this little blog.  Thank you, Patty! 
 And in the photo below, I'm in the company of two more celebrities!!!!  In the middle, of course, is the fabulous Cassie Stephens dressed as a Campbell soup can, and on the right, its none other than School Arts editor Nancy Walkup!  How lucky am I? 
I met many others in San Diego, too many to name here - so if I've left you out this time, I apologize.  I value every single friendship. 
  And along with friends, there's also (how can I forget?) family.  After arriving in San Diego for the NAEA convention, I had a wacky opportunity to meet up with my son and his girlfriend who were on the road vacationing.  That's us in the pic above.  He lives 4 hours away from me, in Boston, but I traveled across the country and got to spend time with him!  Crazy, huh?
 Above, my crazy family on Thanksgiving, and below, me and my son with our silly sand sculpture on the beach in Maine.  Which brings me to category 2 of this blog post, my year with the natural world.  I am always totally refreshed after some time at the ocean. 
 But without a doubt, this year, the most memorable 'natural world' events for me had to do with wildlife.  When I spotted this guy below, while kayaking early in the summer, I was SO excited.  So glad I always have my camera in the kayak!
And a bit later in the summer, I got to see him again!
 And then, of course, there was the Butterfly Conservatory last March, at the Museum of Natural History in NYC.  The butterflies evidently loved my hair, because they rode around on me while I was there!  What a fun experience!
 But wildlife sightings can also be heart-wrenching, as in the case of this magnificent loon, with fishing line caught in his neck and mouth.  I spotted and kayaked with him several times over the space of a few days, and never saw him again, though others on the lake thought maybe they had.  Loon rehab experts came to the lake twice in hopes of capturing him, but they were unable to locate him.  I remain hopeful that somehow he was able to survive successfully.
 And I also got to see great blue herons on several occasions!  One even scared me half to death by flying right over me in my kayak!
How lucky am I to live in a part of the world that has not only such beautiful wildlife, but also such a magnificent change of seasons?  It makes me truly appreciate the majesty of our planet. 
It's been an artsy year for me, too.  I'm an avid amateur nature photographer, which you know if you read this blog regularly.  But I've done other artsy things this year.  I've gotten to teach workshops at a regional conference in August, and at my state conference in November.  Its such a great experience, and I'm looking forward to teaching a workshop at the national convention for the first time ever this spring!  
 And I've gotten to work with my small but goofy after-school classes with my business DragonWing Arts.  
 Late last winter, I also got to work with a sweet bunch of kids at the Temple Religious School, creating this mural in their hallway (this is also where I teach my DragonWing Arts classes).  For those of you who don't know, the word 'shalom' means hello, goodbye, and also (most importantly) peace.  The top pic shows the word shalom written in Hebrew.
 And I got a little artistic dying my hair this spectacular shade of blue. I was very disappointed that it lasted about a week. 
 And I had some creative fun making this tunic.  The quotes on it are cut from T-shirts, ironed on with WunderUnder, and then sewed.  You may have seen me wearing it in San Diego, or at my state conference in Albany.  It's really comfy, but it is hard to find appropriate occasions to wear it.
Another artsy highlight of my year was my travel experience with Crizmac for the 'Folk Art Extravaganza' in Santa Fe.  I've wanted to do this for years and was not disappointed.  If any of you are looking for an exciting artsy travel experience, where you will also earn professional development credit, I strongly recommend looking into the Crizmac 'Journeys of Art and Soul'.  They have a couple of really awesome trips scheduled.  I wish I could go on them all! 
 The Folk Art Market was simply crazy, busy, crowded, and fabulous.  I would love to return.
 And my fellow tour group participants were fabulous.  
What could be better than a bunch of enthusiastic art educators ?
 As part of the professional development there, under the tutelage of tour leaders Nancy Walkup and Stevie Mack, I made this hand-stitched quilt square.
 This year, I've also taken some classes just 1/2 hour from home at the uniquely wonderful Adirondack Folk School.  
There, I've learned to make hollow form jewelry with precious metal clay,
  I've made a purse out of a gourd,
 And woven a rug from socks. 
 On my own, I've made jewelry from Scrabble tiles, participated in Cassie's crazy ideas such as Artsy Book Club and the apron sew-along, and worked on various other personal artsy endeavors. 
 I'm not sure all of what 2015 has in store.  I know there will be a visit to NYC and the Matisse cutouts at MoMA, and my first ever trip to New Orleans for the NAEA convention.  There will be nature, and family, and friends, and art, and certainly, there will still be this little old blog, started way back in May of 2010.  It has had more than a million views in these almost-five years, and I am very thankful that you, my readers, keep coming back!
Have a Happy New Year everyone! 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Pinterest Syndrome - or - Why my Nails are Black

Oh Pinterest, how you deceive me!  On Pinterest, I have a board titled 'I want to do this'.  And another that I have named 'I could  make this'.  And on my Beads and Fun Jewelry board, along with jewelry that I think is really cool, there are tutorials for some bead/jewelry projects I would like to try or have already tried.  Like this one, here, for example, pictured below.  The image from my pin is on the left, and my homemade version is on the right. 
I made the necklace on a warm summer day.  I couldn't locate any of those rectangular clasp thingies which were pretty essential for properly assembling the ends, so my strings got tangled and kinked time after time, and I lost count, and my beads fell off the string, and I got bit multiple times by those nasty little red spider critters, and many many (too many) hours later I ended up with it still not done.  It took me several more hours (no exaggeration here) and several failed attempts to come up with a solution to keep the ends lined up in order. What I invented looks more like the binding of a spiral notebook than a proper end cap to the bead strands, and if you look closely, all the little knots and glue attaching the strings are really kind of ugly.  So I never wear it, and I can't sell it. 
 Maybe you've also attempted some Pinterest project that wasn't, um, quite as easy as it looked?  Or maybe it was a project you instead found on Facebook, like making pendants by marbling nail polish on glass stone gems?  (I learned about this on the Facebook Art Teacher page.  Here's a link to the video that was posted.)  I tried it out a couple of days ago, which is why I have now painted my nails like this:
You see, by the time I was done, my nails were badly stained with multiple colors of nail polish, even after I had scrubbed and cleaned them multiple times with nail polish remover and Lava soap.  The only solution left was to paint them black.

The plus side is, of course, the ring I'm wearing, which I just made from one of the marbled glass stones.  It's also pictured at the top of the post.  Here are the other marbled glass stones that I made.
I expect to make them into more rings, or maybe some pendants, or buttons, magnets, or even perhaps some bracelets. 

In the defense of the project, I actually am quite smitten with how they look, and now that I know what to expect I think I will be trying it again, but I'll be better prepared.  I'll be wearing disposable glove, and will have my kitchen completely covered with drop cloths!  I made 25 of them, and finally got the hang of it only after I had completed the first dozen and made the mess.  Picture this: you are holding a glass stone in a pair of pliers. You dip it into a layer of nail polish floating in a dish of water.  As you pull it out, and attempt to wipe the excess nail polish from its edges, it suddenly springs from the pliers, wet, sticky, and colorful, and flies halfway across your kitchen, leaving a trail of nail polish drips on your counter, your floor, your clothes, and of course, your hands.

Some people on Facebook have asked me how I made them. To which I will respond thus: either check out this video link, or alternatively, go on Pinterest, and search 'nail polish marbling' and you'll find everything from flowerpots, to Easter eggs, to fingernails done using the same method I used.  And mugs, pictured below.  Really, seriously, mugs?!  If I made a big mess marbling tiny glass globules, imagine how much mess I could  make attempting to marble an entire mug!!!  Ummm yeah.....I'm definitely not the right person to offer a tutorial for something I clearly made a huge mess attempting to do!
DIY Nail Polish Marble Mug
 Am I the only person who consistently and repeatedly has disastrous results when attempting to do something I've found on Pinterest?  I wish I could remember them all to share.

 Have you perhaps tried to make a work of art with crayons glued on a canvas and heated with a hair dryer? (Here's a link to a photo of the 'fail'.  I admit that I have not tried this myself.) Or have you drawn on a ceramic mug with a Sharpie to bake in the oven?  Melted old CD's or vinyl records for some crafty project? (Don't you DARE melt any of my precious vinyl!!)  Mixed Elmer's glue and shaving cream to make whipped cream on an art project (it didn't work for me)?  Have you frozen water and food coloring in balloons to create colorful orbs to place  in the snow?  Dyed boring old buttons with Rit Dye?  Made wind chimes with cookie cutters?  Made a scarf with loops cut from the circumference of a T-shirt? (I did try this; they came out looking like shredded rags and went straight to the trash.  I took no pictures)  Perhaps you've attempted to create a personalized sewing mannequin with duct tape? Yes, I actually tried this one!  You can read about my misadventures building Violetta, the duct tape dummy, in this post right here
Sorry, but it is not a project I would recommend.

Here's something I want to try from one of my Pinterest boards - to make little pies made from a bottlecap, seed beads, and felt.  I suppose they could become magnets, or a necklace or pin?  Or a decoration for some unnecessary kitchen craft? What could possibly go wrong?
And then, of course, now that I'm thinking about pies... there are all those fabulous and gorgeous recipe ideas on my various recipe boards:  there are apple pies baked in an apple (how the heck do you weave those tiny strips of pie crust?),
or maybe grilled cheese sandwiches cooked in a waffle iron (my husband does NOT want me to try this one), or fried eggs cooked adorably inside of a perfect pepper slice (here's a link to a 'fail' photo) or in an avocado half.
Eggs in Bell Pepper ringsAvocado Eggs
 Or if I had a young kid at home, maybe I'd want to attempt to make hot dog/spaghetti squid, or frozen banana penguins!
Cute frozen banana and chocolate penguin snack
 Have you made any of these things?  Do they ever look anything like the pictures?  I have my doubts...  Could I ever make a beverage that came out looking like this Italian cream soda or the s'mores martini??
Homemade Italian Cream Sodas: Butter with a Side of Bread
I mean, seriously folks.  I'm drooling at how gorgeously delicious they look, but if I tried this, I'd have foaming puddles all over the kitchen counter, which I would be trying to siphon up with a straw. And then I'd be too drunk to care how they look...

FYI, I did an Internet image search for 'Pinterest fails', and found an endless supply.  Follow this link to see them.  They are a hoot!  There's even a hilarious picture of the crayon/hairdryer project, which I am unable to post here.  Or perhaps you might want to go here, to a whole blog devoted to Pinterest fails!

But I can't really blame all the failures on Pinterest.  I've had flops long before Pinterest existed. There was the time that, at a conference workshop, a presenter shared a fabulous Monet lesson.  Her students had created fences or Japanese bridges out of masking tape on fingerpaint paper, then watercolored the sky and water or grass for background, and used sponges and/or Q-tips to dab vibrant tempera colors for flowers.  When dry, the tape was peeled, leaving a white fence or bridge in a garden of flowers.  Or at least that's what happened when her students did it.  Home from the conference, I introduced Monet and  dove right in with my 3rd graders, not making a sample first, and was very excited about the project.  In a subsequent art class, when the painting was complete and dry, we peeled the tape, and one after another, it tore holes in everyone's papers.  One girl sobbed hysterically, non-stop for the rest of art class, but the others were more willing to stay calm.  I grabbed scraps of construction paper and tissue paper, and we tore, cut and glued quickie flowers over all the holes.  Lesson learned.  The pictures were beautiful but I never repeated the lesson. 

Every year in the fall, for many years, I sent my 4th graders home with paper to sit outside and draw their homes.  We then used carbon paper to transfer the drawings to watercolor paper, and painted them.  It was a great project.  One year, I decided we should do them large - 18"x24".  I ran out of carbon paper for one class, and the teacher down the hall offered up a big box of ditto masters.  (For those of you too young to remember ditto, the copies are purple and wonderfully smelly.)  Anyhow, the ditto masters worked just like carbon paper for tracing their drawings.  Then, we started to paint.  As the wet brushes hit the paper, the purple ink bloomed, and everyone's houses, turned purple, along with the grass, the sky, the sidewalk, and basically anything in the artwork.  And as a bonus, their hands also turned purple.  I'm sure this lesson would have been posted on Pinterest, with a beautiful picture, and no mention of the hazards of the lesson variation. 
Anyhow, that's enough for tonight!  I will leave you, above and below, with images from my  'Pinterest fails nail polish marbling' search.  I guess I should be thankful I didn't try marbling my own fingers and toes!!
And here's one final 'nailed it' image that I found and just had to share with you. I think perhaps I'll skip attempting this one!