Category Archives: Art

Made From Scraps: Mini Accordion Books

Many years ago, as one of my Mail Art projects, I used to fold two-inch wide pieces of paper into little accordion books and decorate them with rubber stamps and pieces of paper that I cut out from incoming Mail Art and decorated envelopes. I carved a rubber stamp with a little graphic of a Mail Box and the words “Bits of Mail” to stamp on the little book covers. Before sending them out, I dated and numbered them on the back. I saved one example for my archives and made a few color copies to use later as collage inspirations. While I was getting the color copies made, it came up in conversation with the copy center worker that one of the black and white machines had red toner in it. I made a lot of copies with the red toner because I knew I’d find uses for the copies later!

One of my original mini accordion books from 1998 with some color and red ink copies I made at the time for future collage work.
One of my original mini accordion books from 1998 with some color and red ink copies I made at the time for future collage work.

Some of my old collage papers along with my Mail Archives had been in storage unseen for 20 years or more. I’ve been getting some of them out lately as I move stuff. With fresh eyes, I’m getting some new ideas and inspiration for improving old ideas. I decided to take these old copies and make new versions of the mini accordion books.

First I cut up the copies that weren’t already in strips into two inch wide pieces, the same size as the originals. Then I folded them and glued one red ink copy to one color copy back to back to make longer books.

Old copies with color ink and red ink cut into two-inch strips, folded and glued to make mini accordion books.
Old copies with color ink and red ink cut into two-inch strips, folded and glued to make mini accordion books.

I had a large paper crafting stash by 1998 already because I started making collages in 1985 in my first college design class and I’ve been collecting interesting papers for collages ever since. In the intervening years, there are a lot more paper crafting supplies available and some of them are a lot more to my taste than what was available in the late 1990s. Back in the day I would have said I was a “weird” stamper not a “cute” stamper. I also enjoy sophisticated antique imagery and have a lot of papers from two of my favorite brands, Tim Holtz and 7 Gypsies, in my stash. I decided that the Tim Holtz idea-ology Correspondence paper pad was a good fit for this project and I glued some of the postal themed textures onto a selection of the blank pages of my books. The dominant colors in this series are red white and blue which looks good with the red toner ink on some of my papers and the postal motifs fit the “Bits of Mail” theme.

Next I went through I box of paper scraps that I keep for teaching a card class that I run from time to time on how to make greeting cards from little scraps, rubber stamps and stencils. I took out a selection of papers that I thought would make good backgrounds and glued them in a random fashion to every other page, leaving some blank.

Mini accordion books ready for adding content.
Mini accordion books ready for adding content.

There is an old trick that I learned in drawing class long ago to help get unstuck if you are facing a blank piece of paper with no ideas – draw a quick frame around your drawing area before you start. This helps because it’s less daunting to start drawing on a paper that you’ve made some marks on than a blank surface. I get the same creative boost from using scrap papers for perhaps a similar reason – there is already some content there, however sparse and random, and that is often all I need to get me going in a creative direction.

The little accordion books I’ve made are pictured above ready to add content. What kind of content would that be? There are lots of things I could do with these little books. I could write, draw, stamp or paste in words and/or images to make a finished artistic statement. I could use them as a storage and display folio for tiny works of art such as postage stamps, faux postage stamps or tiny photos and images. I could send them off into the Mail Art network as an “add and pass on” project. What would you make?

tiny books made by various artistsFor additional inspiration, here are some samples of tiny books made by other people that I’ve received through the mail over the years. People of any age and ability level can make tiny books. Why not try one?

My Former ‘Zine and Mail Art Days

A black and white collage faux postage stamp sheet I made around 1997.
A black and white collage faux postage stamp sheet I made. I used to get these printed on gummed paper and send them to other mail artists. Circa 1997.

I’ve been out of the Mail Art and ‘Zine scenes for over 20 years now, and to my surprise for some reason I’m getting nostalgic about it and thinking about getting back into it a little bit. I’ve never stopped making faux postage designs, rubber stamped art and Dada-influenced collages, but I stopped networking except through my web site because I got spooked by some of the extreme networkers I was occasionally in contact with. I figured I no longer had the stomach to participate in the “underground”. I mainly was networking for art and creativity and I’m still inspired creatively by what I did back then. I was not in it for anarchy, political change or social change except for some social commentary that I occasionally included.

I think part of the reason I feel like possibly participating again is that when I got spooked, I was in the middle of a couple of Mail Art group projects that I didn’t finish and I never sent out the documentation. I’ve felt guilty about this for a long time. One was called the “Turn Off Your Television Project” and another was called the “Fish Tapestry Project”. After writing the research paper I just published yesterday, I think I might want to finish that documentation and fulfill the obligation I took on myself 20 years ago. I probably won’t be able to get in touch with all the people who participated but I can try.

The Turn Off Your Television Project on display in my 1998 art show "Areas Affected by Shapes".
The Turn Off Your Television Project on display in my 1998 art show “Areas Affected by Shapes”.
A graphic I made to promote the "Turn Off Your Television Project", circa 1998.
A graphic I made to promote the “Turn Off Your Television Project”, circa 1998.

My friend Mark Reed who co-hosted the fish tapestry project with me passed away late last October and it would be a great tribute to him if I could finish that one too someday. I have only this week been able to bring myself to look again at some of his artwork that his family gave to me. I always thought he threw away too much of his old work and I’m glad that I have some of it. I may even finish some of the stuff that is unfinished. We collaborated and shared ideas a lot back in the day. I think he would like that.

Oh how I used to love making animated gif art!
Oh how I used to love making animated gif art!

I would be pleased if someone finished my old work after I’m gone. I’d rather have that happen than it be thrown away. I always have a lot of unfinished projects that I take up and put down at various times. I’m sure I’ll be leaving some unfinished ones behind someday. Actually it’s been painful for me to look at a lot of my old work and archives for a long time because so many of the people that I lived that time of my life with are dead. Maybe now I’m finally able to start dealing with the memories. Also I felt like much of my old work was an embarrassing failure. Looking at it now, some of is indeed embarrassing but some of it is not so bad! A former abusive relationship made me feel like I should not do any art because I was no good and didn’t deserve to do it just because it was good for me and made me feel alive. There was a time when I wasn’t sure I was ever going to take it up again.

My 1997 Artist Statement

My 2000 Artists Statement

Here is a faux postage design I made as a computer graphic when I was a beginner at learning Photoshop. 1997.
Here is a faux postage design I made as a computer graphic when I was a beginner at learning Photoshop. 1997.

My Mail Art name was Carolyn Substitute, my ‘zine was called the Lime Green News, and my faux postage was produced under the name “Lime Green Post”. I decided today to do an online search and see if I could find any references to my old Mail Art activities.

If you would like to explore this world I found the following:

John Held Jr. – Collection of Mail Art Periodicals

A Little Introduction to Mail Art

Mail Art Periodicals – MoMA

Links of Mail Art / Visual Poetry

Welch. 1995. Eternal Network. A Mail Art Anthology. Part 2.pdf

Tutorial: Carving Stamps

IDAC Jas W Felter’s “The International Directory of Artistamp Creators”

The Translinguistic Collaborative Poetry of Serge Segay, Rea Nikonova, and John M. Bennett – I can’t find specifically why my search turned up this web site but I did used to correspond with a couple of the people mentioned here so maybe a deeper search would be fruitful!

ArchivesSpace at the University of Iowa – Looks like they have at least a few issues of the Lime Green News in their archives.

stardust Memories Mail-aRt-Links and projects – bless this person for putting a link to my old web site on archive.org! I haven’t seen it in so long. I redesigned it in 1999 and I don’t think I looked at the old one since then because it made me so embarrassed!

cbanle

Lime Green Evolution World of Art – 1997-1999 – My first web site, how I transitioned from analog networking to digital networking. Thinking back on it, printmaking class in 1987 led to rubber stamping, rubber stamping led to Mail Art, Mail Art led to ‘zines, ‘zines led to taking a class to get better at desktop publishing, which led to published a web site, that led to being a web designer, which led to doing marketing which led to me working on a marketing degree. No wonder I called my first web site Lime Green Evolution. And I didn’t even put in all the other tangents I followed along the way! I used to stay late a lot after my web design job ended at 5 pm to work on my personal web site and wait for the traffic to die down.

One of the things we are studying in my Mass Communications class is how people make media meaningful for themselves. Back in the ‘zine / grunge / Mail Art era we used to do a lot of collages, small press publications and mixed media projects. I’m sure there are still people out there doing these things and with technology we have a lot more options available. Most likely I’ll be exploring this in a future research project.

Edit: here is my new page on the International Union of Mail-Artists web site. I’ll be putting some old and new work there.

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann

Speaking of the Lime Green News and studying other cultures…

Collage made with paper and rubber stamps
Collage made with paper and rubber stamps

I made this collage right at the time I stopped publishing the Lime Green News in paper form. I’m pretty sure I have a draft written on some floppy disc somewhere about how I made this collage and some others using outlines of black paper that I cut out with paper edging scissors to make compositions that look like postage stamps. I was going to publish the tutorial and a copy of the background for people to make their own stamps. I made several stamp sheets using this background as I recall. Such stamps are also known in the art and stamp collecting world as “Cinderella Stamps”, “Postoids” and “Artistamps”.

I never went back to the idea with this pseudo-postal background because I assumed that with computers and desktop publishing becoming more prominent people would not be interested in making faux postage stamps the “analog” way any more. But looking at this collage now that more than 20 years have passed since I made it I actually like it a lot. After going to that Gauguin show that I wrote about in my last blog post I’m reminded of how much I loved studying other cultures and abstracting some elements from them into and combining them with Mid-Century Modern type of abstraction. A lot of the black line work was made by rubber stamps. The Egyptian hieroglyphics stamp is a commercial rubber art stamp, but I carved all the others.

The above collage rearranged and with the colors inverted to use as a Facebook header
The above collage rearranged and with the colors inverted to use as a Facebook header

For some reason if I scan a collage and invert the colors in Photoshop, the results are often better than the original. I needed a new Facebook header so I rearranged the above collage and did a quick inversion. Fun!

Here is another collage I made using the same background
Here is another collage I made using the same background

Gauguin was a zine publisher! Who knew?

Tom is in red, Mike is in Yellow.
After Gauguin we looked at some of the other galleries. Tom is in red, Mike is in Yellow.

Yesterday my husband Tom and I attended the last day of the Gauguin exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum, Paul Gauguin: The Art of Invention. Our friend Mike went with us and treated us to the tickets that he had earned from doing volunteer work.

When I first became interested in studying art, I wanted to be a painter. When I took ceramics and printmaking for the first time, I lost interest in painting and stopped reading about it as much as I used to in favor of my new passions. Over the years I also have done some pretty intense study of fiber arts, various crafts, collage, Dadaism, neo-Dadaism and Mail Art, ‘Zines, book arts, Outsider Art, Pop Art, photography, computer animation,  web design, architecture, graphic design, the decorative arts, archaeology and anything Mid-Century Modern. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism were the first kinds of painting that drew me in but over the years I came to prefer Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism as painting styles. I hadn’t done any reading on Gauguin for a long time.

If you missed the show you can listen to the audio presentation and view some of the images here:
https://www.slam.org/audio/paul-gauguin-the-art-of-invention/

Here is a transcript of the audio guide for the show:
https://www.slam.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/gauguin-audio-guide-transcript.pdf

Some of Gauguin's wood cut prints and a handmade book.
Some of Gauguin’s wood cut prints and a handmade book.

I really enjoy artists and designers who work in a variety of media, such as Alexander Calder, Henri Matisse and Frank Lloyd Wright. A lot of times I feel guilty about having so many interests and dabbling in so many different occupations and areas of study. Today’s society seems mostly to expect you to do only one thing but that is not and never will be “me”. So at this Gauguin show I was very intrigued to see some of Gauguin’s ceramics, wood carvings and woodcut prints alongside the paintings. There were ceramics and decorative objects from Gauguin’s personal collection as well as Oceanic and Peruvian art that was representative of the cultures Gauguin was influenced by. He was also at various times a sailor, a stockbroker and a writer. People like this make me not feel so weird!

ceramics in the Gauguin show
The bright green and bright red ceramics and the one that kind of looks like a gourd are from Gauguin’s collection. The other more figurative ceramics were made by him. Some of these ceramics were inspired by paintings he owned by other artists, and the green jug was in one of his paintings. It’s always interesting to see artists’ personal collections!

guaguin_masthead

As a former ‘zine publisher (Lime Green News 1991-1998), I was excited to see a woodblock print graphic in the exhibit that Gauguin carved to help him publish his own newspaper, which could be considered a type of ‘zine. I’m currently taking a Mass Communications class and in our textbook Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future by Stanley J. Baran and Dennis K. Davis, I’ve highlighted a very intriguing sentence: “Extremists were often forced to rely on older media like pamphlets, handbills and political rallies.” I don’t know if Gauguin would have been considered an “extremist” in his time but he was critical of religion and government and his lifestyle was, to put it politely, pretty “bohemian”. When I read the above sentence in my textbook I thought of the history of self publishing and the many forms it can take. Before movable type printing presses, documents were hand written or perhaps laboriously printed with hand-printing methods such as stamping and wood block printing. Later there were typewriters, carbon paper, mimeographs, copy machines, desktop computers with printers and the World Wide Web, making self-publishing easier and more accessible.

When I was ‘zine publishing, I used to make my originals on paper to be copied on a copy machine at the office supply superstore. I started out with text printed out on an inkjet printer on my 1983 Commodore 64 computer, which I used for all my word processing until 1995. I essentially made big collages for my pages, combining the printed text with a variety of graphics, collages and hand-drawings. If I wanted to add color I would sometimes carve a rubber stamp and stamp it on the finished prints. I think the largest edition I ever made of my ‘zine was 100, so stamping 100 times to add a bit of color was feasible.

I got a Windows computer in 1995 with a black and white laser printer. At that time I got Internet access for the first time and started reading on the World Wide Web. My first web site went live in 1997. Gradually I made my ‘zine using more modern desktop publishing methods and by learning software such as the Microsoft Office suite, Corel Draw and Photoshop. The last years of my ‘zine incorporated more and more “modern” techniques but were still made as big collages with some hand-embellishments before copying. In 1998 I just switched my ‘zine content over to my web site, which although a bit out of date in spots is still live (www.limegreennews.com). It needs some (ok a lot of) work because I’ve been neglecting it in favor of the blog you are reading now.

Publishing online is very satisfying, but I miss the lower-tech, handcrafted methods of self-publishing sometimes. I still like book arts in various forms. I’d like to write about or engage in some self-publishing as I work on my master’s degree if possible. It’s been on my mind ever since reading that sentence in the textbook. I got out some of my old ‘zine originals to go down memory lane and think about some possible research ideas. ‘Zine publishers do a lot of trading and I had a big collection of other people’s ‘zines plus material they sent me for consideration for publication. I donated the bulk of my collection to the Poetry and Rare Books collection at the University of New York at Buffalo some years ago but I did save a few things I especially liked. I have no idea what they kept of my collection if anything, but they did have a subscription to my ‘zine when it was in publication and I didn’t know of anyone else who might be interested! I didn’t save much of the “extremist” stuff for my own collection because it frankly scared me and was one of the reasons I dropped out of the printed ‘zine scene – it helped contribute to a major anxiety attack that I eventually received treatment for and recovered from. I don’t think I’ve ever said publicly why I dropped out of the ‘zine and Mail Art scene suddenly but that is a major part of why I did that. I do miss aspects of it though. I’m kind of hoping that working on my degree will bring opportunities to do some research on this era of communication or even get back into it in some way. I might even re-publish on this blog some things that are not too embarrassing that aren’t yet online. We’ll see!

lgn2_cover

Just for fun, since the art show I just saw included Oceanic art and some work by Gauguin that shows how he was influenced by that art , here is what the cover of Lime Green News #2 looked like. I took a postcard with rubber stamped art work that I liked from another mail artist and taped down some sketches from my then-current Oceanic art history class. I drew and stamped crudely around the sketches and the postcard to make a cover. On the left is my original, on the right is a simulation of what the cover would have looked like after copying it on a black and white machine at the office supply superstore. I don’t know if I even have a printed version of this issue in my archives, I probably just have the original. At that time, if my memory is correct, I used to print about 10-15 copies just to trade with people.

What do Ross Perot and Oceanic art have to do with each other? I had no idea then and don’t now, but one thing I have not ever grown out of is making collages out of random things. Now I call it Art Journaling and use it as one of my artistic outlets since I don’t really try to make “Fine Art” type art any more. It’s not that I don’t have plenty of ideas, I do, I just don’t see what good it would do for anybody. But I never know what older ideas I’m going to go back to!

“John/Daddy, John/Daddy, John/Daddy!”

While going through some old papers recently, I found a partial draft of an artist’s statement paper I wrote in the early 90’s when I was applying to the Bachelor of Fine Arts program at SIUE. I don’t remember what portions of this draft ended up in the finished paper – I did not find a printed copy. I’m sure I have the finished paper saved on a Commodore 64 floppy disc somewhere! In college I sometimes hand wrote drafts, but I typed up all finished papers on the old Commodore 64 we got for Christmas in 1983. (Yes I still have it and yes it still works but I’m sorry it’s not for sale! If you have working Commodore 64 joysticks or a “Give My Regards to Broadstreet” Commodore 64 game I might want to buy those though!)

I could go off on a tangent and write a little bit more about the Commodore 64 and why it’s so special to me, but I want to get back to my artist’s statement draft because Father’s Day is coming up. I wrote about my Dad’s influence on my work and I think he’d get a kick out of reading it. My Dad’s name is Don and you’ll find out who “John” is as you read. I also will enjoy remembering what my artistic passions were so long ago. I hope you will too! Contemporary additional comments of mine are italicized.

B.F.A. Paper Draft Part 1:

“While looking back on my artistic influences I can’t help but reminisce about my childhood and the factors that must have had some kind of influence on my artistic interests today. My father has had a lifelong habit of picking up every little nut, bolt or other piece of hardware lying on the ground and taking it home in the hope that it will come in handy to fix something someday. He is quite a handyman – after he fixed our old Ford Maverick with an old pencil and a piece of wire my friend exclaimed “Your Dad IS McGyver!” Whether we were on our way to church, to the store, or on vacation he would never let one of these little objects pass without picking it up. Over the years he has acquired a huge collection of such objects, many of which do eventually get used. If he knew what the objects he was picking up were, he would explain them to me but if he didn’t know he would take it anyway.

I was always encouraged by my father from a very early age to watch him work at his bench in the basement and learn the uses of all the tools myself. I remember burning my hand rather badly with a soldering iron building an electromagnet for the science fair at school while Dad left the room mistakenly thinking that I had the hang of it already (I was six years old). I haven’t touched a soldering iron since (no longer true as of the early 2000’s) but I did continue to hammer, saw, drill and glue on my own projects while my Dad repaired appliances or built furniture. He used to turn over his box of junk to me and supply me with odds and ends of wood, nails and glue plus drills and hammers to use. My favorite things to build were model ships for some reason. I have always loved water and boats and I used to create floating monstrosities studded with junk to play with in wading pool in the backyard or in the bathtub. Long nails became masts, brackets became the bridge, bits of tubing and pipe became smokestacks. When I was tired of the boats I would pull all the parts off and build a new version. The use of found objects in my art is just a continuation of one of my favorite childhood pastimes.

Another formative influence from my childhood was John Brower, the contractor who built our house and most if not all of our neighborhood. The neighborhood kids all called him “John the Builder”. He lived about four lots away from us in a very mysterious house that was surrounded by huge old trees. It was one of only two older houses in this part of the subdivision, which was still under construction when we moved in. Vacant lots flanked our house on two sides and these and the other future home sites in the neighborhood provided endless hours of fun for the kids. Huge weeds, mounds of fill dirt, wood piles, abandoned vehicles, vast puddles of mud and bits of old junk protruding out of the ground created an endless variety of play situations. (Not SAFE play situations mind you, but more FUN than I can describe!)

John the Builder was one of the most eccentric people I have ever known and as a result among us children he was beloved. He refused to paint his outbuildings, trucks, or equipment any color other than Pepto Bismol Pink, Decayed Neon Orange or Pea Green. He routinely painted new homes in putrid shades of Lavender or Lime Green with glitter mixed in! We never could figure out if he just had weird taste or was color blind. His own house was given the same treatment so we assumed that he considered it attractive.  (The house to our right when new even had, I am not kidding, glitter Lavender metal banisters!) Despite this, all the houses were quickly sold as they were built and promptly repainted by their new owners!

To us kids, John the Builder was a godlike figure. He rarely drove down the street without a crowd of children running alongside his car yelling “John! John!” We loved him because he allowed us to play on his vacant land with all it’s fascinating “forbidden” features. In return for us staying away from the current, active construction sites he would save special dirt piles for us to use. We turned one into a mountain environment for Hot Wheels, complete with tunnels and winding roads. I don’t know if I’ve worked on a more enjoyable project in my entire life! Many times we came home covered from head to toe in mud and had to be hosed off in the yard.

John the Builder also endeared us to him by occasionally letting us “work” for him by holding up surveying posts while he took measurements, or by carrying his tools. He would pay us each a quarter for such a task and at a time when that amount was a whole week’s allowance it was quite a boon to get one. The quarters he handed out were always encrusted with gunk and very old, usually from the ’40’s or ’50’s. We used to take them home and put them in vinegar to bring back the shine. We usually intended to keep the oldest ones for our “collection”, but they inevitably ended up at the Quick Shop along with all our other money in exchange for candy, paper kites, or little toy boats.

(Notes to self) Write about – Tire moving and fires, outbuilding moving, Dad being sprayed with tar, haunted “crashed” bus, Ruth back in time.”

That’s where Part 1 of my draft leaves off. Someday I might write about those tantalizing topics hinted at at the end of part one! I still know what those notes mean! Part 2 of my draft deals more specifically with art influences. I’ll share Part 2 in a future blog post.

I wrote about Dad and John together because they had quite a bit in common. Dad was maybe not as eccentric as John but they were both into collecting old stuff and creative re-use before it was a “thing”. They both taught me to appreciate the old, the grungy, the humble, the simple pleasures of life. They also showed me the fun of building things. I had a very involved Dad of my own but John was kind of an additional father of the whole neighborhood because of his kindness to the kids and his willingness to teach us things now and then when he had time. Dad and John were friends and had a good understanding of each other I thought. I associated the two together in my mind even when I was very small. One of my favorite things to do with Dad at a certain age was sit in his lap and play with his hair. They both had black hair, but John’s was receding while Dad had a full head of the same wiry, wild, thick hair I have (that we both got from Grandma Ludwig). In the 70’s Dad had a big thatch of it on his forehead that was kind of like bangs – the closest thing to bangs our type of hair could get anyway! I used to push this section back to show his forehead and say “John!” then let it down and say “Daddy!” I’d do that over and over until one of us got tired of it! (Dad I’m sure got tired of it quicker!) John’s wife Ruth was just as kind and was very motherly to my Mom as well as welcoming to the kids.

I think both Dad and John had unusually laissez-faire attitudes toward kids, even for the 1970’s. Can you imagine anyone today letting kids do what we did back then? I will admit, everything we did was not necessarily condoned, but that which was tolerated would probably be considered child neglect or abuse today! There were so many things that could have gone wrong – pits of water and mud, mounds of dirt, climbing-sized old trees, rusty nails, splintery boards – they are genuine hazards. Despite all this, I never got any injuries that Mom couldn’t fix at home with Bactine or Campho-Phenique. I’d get hosed off, maybe tweezed a bit, smeared with anti-bacterial stuff and sent back out to my activities. It was worth it – has any kid ever had more fun than I did growing up? I seriously doubt it!

Make An Adult Coloring Book From Scrap Paper and Stencils

Do you like adult coloring but don’t feel completely satisfied coloring someone else’s designs? Here is how you can use scrap papers and cardstock along with stencils to make custom homemade coloring books that reflect your own creative point of view.

adult_coloring_book

What you will need:

Pencil
Scissors
Glue stick
Paper cutter
White or off-white card stock
Hole puncher
Black ball-point pen
Black Twin Tip Sharpie Permanent Marker – Fine/Ultra Fine
Tape
Bone folder or burnishing tool
Clean scrap paper
Metal ruler
Metal binding rings
Assorted found papers that relate to coloring (pictures from magazines, old books, catalogs, etc.)
Assorted black and white images on paper (scrapbooking papers, found images)
Assorted stencils (hand-cut from your own designs, commercial crafting stencils, or a combination)

Instructions:

1. Cut out two pieces of cardstock 8 1/2 x 6 inches for covers. Select some found images that have to do with coloring and make collages on the front and back covers by gluing these images down with a glue stick. Put a clean piece of scrap paper over your collage and rub well with a bone folder or burnisher to make sure the papers are glued down flat.

2. Cut a bunch of 8 x 5 1/2 inch pieces out of white or off-white card stock or paper. I’ll walk you through using a combination of found papers and stencils to create black and white designs to color in later on these pages. It’s intimidating to have a bunch of blank pieces of paper staring you in the face, so to begin tear some papers with black and white designs or printing on them into strips using a metal ruler a guide. Glue some of these pieces on several of your blank pages in random places and directions.

3. Further build up your designs by using a variety of stencils to draw shapes randomly on your pages. Add black and white collaged images or textures to further enhance the pages.

Coloring pages are very appealing when you use different line weights to outline areas to color. I suggest you proceed by marking some areas with a heavier line first then progressively moving down in line weight as you add more detail.

A. Outline some areas from bold stencil designs using the “Fine” tip on the Sharpie marker.

B. Go back through your pages again and add more stencil designs outlined with the “Ultra Fine” tip on the Sharpie marker.

C. Go through the pages a third time and use yet more detailed stencils to draw on the pages with the black ball-point pen.

As you build your compositions, I suggest laying pairs of pages down on your work surface that will be opposite each other in your finished book. See if you get any ideas from how they look together. Here are some examples of pairs I made to complement each other.

pairing_1

pairing_2

pairing_3

4. If any of your pages are made of thin enough paper to let some of the marker lines bleed through, don’t get discouraged. Redraw the design in reverse on the other side of the paper to disguise the bleed-through and create some accidental compositions that could be very appealing and lots of fun to color.

four_finished

5. Punch a top and bottom hole in the cover pieces and each page and connect with binding rings to make into a book. In order to get the holes to line up correctly, you can trace the holes in the first page you punch onto subsequent pages, or make yourself a template out of scrap chipboard.

6. Have fun coloring your pages. I like to use a combination of colored ball point pens, gel pens, markers and colored pencils. If you experiment with a lot of different media and practice you will develop your own style of mark making. If you would like some inspiration for coloring styles and techniques, I have examples on an Art Journaling Pinterest board that should help you out. The most important things to remember while coloring are to have fun and don’t let expectations of how your work is supposed to look be a damper on your creativity and expression.

My husband Tom and I each colored a page.
My husband Tom and I each colored one of these pages.

Reverse Applique Easter Apron

finished_apron_vertical_webI’ve been wanting to try reverse applique for a long time. I also like piecing together fabric scraps to see what I can make with them. I decided that pieced fabric would be interesting to sew behind the front of an apron with a large Easter Egg shaped cutout on the front. Here is how I did it.

First I gathered together some fabric scraps. I picked out pink, blue and green pastels and decided to add some navy blue and red to the mix also. Why add those colors to the traditional Easter pastels? Right before I started sewing this apron, I stayed for the weekend at a home with a great art collection that included several prints by my all-time favorite artist, Alexander Calder. One of the things he was known for was the use of primary colors with black. Here is a composite of some selections from this collection, with a couple of other artists’ works (Joan Miró and Roy Lichtenstein) thrown in that use similar color schemes.

You never know where inspiration is going to come from!
You never know where inspiration is going to come from!
Here is some of my piecing shown from the back.
Here is some of my piecing shown from the back.
I dyed a pre-made blank canvas apron a very light citron color and I draped my piecing over it to check and see if the colors are ok together. To the front of the pieced section I sewed some translucent yellow trim and a piece of pastel rainbow rick-rack to tie the colors together.
I dyed a pre-made blank canvas apron a very light citron color with Procion dye and I draped my piecing over it to check and see if the colors are ok together. To the front of the pieced section I sewed some translucent yellow trim and a piece of pastel rainbow rick-rack to tie the colors together.
Next I ironed a stabilizer to the back of the pieced section then made a paper egg template. I cut out an egg shape with about a 3/4 inch margin all around.
Next I ironed a stabilizer to the back of the pieced section then made a paper egg template. I cut out a pieced fabric egg shape with about a 3/4 inch margin all around.
I pinned the paper egg template to the front of the apron and taped it to a window so that I could use the light to line up the fabric piece behind the apron. I sewed all around the egg with dark blue embroidery thread then cut out the egg shape from the front to exposed the pieced section.
I pinned the paper egg template to the front of the apron and taped the apron to a window so that I could use the light to line up the fabric piece behind the apron. I sewed all around the egg with dark blue embroidery thread then cut out the egg shape from the front to exposed the pieced section.

The finishing touch on the apron was to sew a row of rick-rack to the top edge of the pockets.

As you can see, I made more pieced fabric than I needed just for this apron. That’s because I have another idea for using more of it. What will it be? I have a pretty wild idea. If it turns out well you’ll see it here on this blog someday!

Remembering an Old Friend

Mark Reed at Tower Grove Park in 1996
Mark Reed at Tower Grove Park in 1996

Mark Elliott Reed, 1969-2018

Unfortunately Mark was really too young to leave this world but he was an “old friend” because I knew him for a long time. We met when we were both in college and later on we shared an employer for a few years. We had many common interests such as art, hiking, animals and nature. I’m sure I pushed him out of his comfort zone at times because of some of my ideas of what is fun. I used to joke with him that you know who to call if you want to visit scary abandoned buildings, get heat stroke or stand for hours up to your ankles in cold mud! I hope he had as much fun on our more adventurous outings as I did.

Since I learned of Mark’s passing I’ve been looking through a lot of old photos. I have many photo albums of hikes we took together but he is not in many of the pictures. Mark was kind of shy about drawing attention to himself. When I was learning photography he did pose for me on occasion because it was in his nature to be a generous person.

Mark was sometimes insecure about his creative work but I was always amazed by his talent. He could create something interesting in any form of expression that he tried. Before Mark had formal art training, he was a bit insecure about his creative output and unfortunately he destroyed some of his earlier work. I do have some of it in my personal collection so there are some early pieces still around. Even when his artwork was still a bit naive in technique he had such creativity and exuberance that I was blown away. Over the years he worked with drawing, collage, clay, computer graphics, model painting and building, poetry and novel writing. I wrote a review of his first book “The God Hunters” on this old web page here: Book Reviews. I was not only impressed with the quality of his writing but that he had the fortitude to finish a large project like a book. He was on his sixth or seventh book in the series when he passed away.

Mark had a special sense of humor that I really appreciated – surreal and a bit twisted at times. For example here are a couple of lines from one of his poems that I really like:

Flies and grubs speak directly to us…
Geriatric means “no tacos”

I don’t know what that means – but at the same time I do!

Mark’s talent, knowledge and playful sense of curiosity made him a really interesting and fun person to be around. He was also very kind and generous with his resources, including his time. Mark was often available to share fun activities with me and he was also there for me at some really bad times in my life. I read through some old messages between Mark and I to try to date some of the old photos I was looking at. I noticed that although we did a lot together at times in our lives, there were also a lot of instances when I invited him to something and he was unavailable. In the vast majority of cases, this was because he was helping someone else or giving others the gift of his companionship.

It’s understandable that a lot of people wanted Mark’s company. Mark, you left the world wanting more.

Link to my Facebook tribute photo album to Mark:
Memories of Mark Reed

Fun Venture Cafe Event

Art journal pages projected on screen as part of a slide show featuring art inspired by science.
Art journal pages projected on screen as part of a slide show featuring art inspired by science.

Last week some of my science inspired art journal pages were in a slide show as part of an event called “Science of Creativity”. I’m a believer in the fun and benefits of adult coloring and art journaling so it was very rewarding for me to show some of my samples and also participate in coloring activities on at the event. Venture Cafe activities are kind of like mini conventions and happy hours where you can attend presentations and network with people in a low-pressure situation.

Read more on the Schnarr’s Hardware blog:
Exploring Where Art and Science Meet at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Self-help techniques for depression

Last year at this time I was fighting major depression as a result of abuse. I am thankful that this year is much better for me but I know some people who are really struggling right now. I vividly remember how last year’s Holiday season made me feel worse. Winter weather and less daylight contributed to the struggle also. I had counseling and intensive outpatient therapy to help me recover. I learned some new techniques and tips to help me pull out of depression and here are some actions that I found to be the most effective for me. Please keep in mind that I’m not a professional therapist or a doctor and I needed professional help along with the following practices I could do on my own to recover. Please get professional help if you are suffering from depression. If you are afraid that you might harm yourself, please call 911 or a suicide hotline immediately. Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number – 1-800-273-8255.

Action #1
Help someone else who is suffering – No matter what your situation is, there are always going to be people who have it even worse than you. I’m not saying this to invalidate what you are feeling because you feel how you feel no matter what other people are going through. Maybe you can visit a lonely person or make a phone call, make someone a nice baked good or homemade gift, do a good deed for a neighbor or volunteer for a charity. No matter how humble you think your gifts are, someone out there can use them. I know that one of the most depressing thoughts you can have is that you don’t matter or no one would care if you are gone. It’s not true, even if other people have tried to make you think that. Doing things for people helps you prove that to yourself and the gratitude you get is very healing.

Action #2
Explore DBT skills for emotion regulation – DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Training. While in group therapy we practiced some DBT techniques which helped me out a great deal. The concepts were new to me and I wish I’d known about them earlier in life. I kept printouts about the anger and sadness emotion regulation techniques hung up in my bathroom for months so that I could perform normal life functions and do things I needed to do for recovery. I recommend you get the workbook and if you can, take classes. When I was feeling overwhelmed with emotions the techniques on the worksheets were invaluable.

This slide show provides a good overview of distress tolerance and includes some good techniques: DBT Distress Tolerance Skills

For example, I had to learn to tolerate distress because I was in a situation that I could not fix. You can’t make the trauma not have happened. There were people in group therapy with me that were rape victims, crime victims, were homeless and in other situations that could not be undone or fixed quickly. You have to learn to tolerate your situation to avoid making it worse. For example there were many times at work when I had to run to the refrigerator to put a cold drink on my head and do breathing exercises so I could do my job – that’s an example of learning to cope to avoid making things worse. It wouldn’t help my recovery to add financial and career problems to the trauma I already had. I was left with a huge therapy bill, enough to buy a good used car, and adding unpaid bills to my other problems would not make me feel better!

Intrigued? Here is some more information about DBT.
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Action #3
Attend support groups – Some people tell me that support groups are not effective for them but I find them valuable. It’s a good place to discuss painful things with people who understand some of what you’ve been through and will listen without being judgmental. Sometimes there is no one else in a person’s life to provide this. If you do have people in your life who will listen you have to be careful not to burn them out. It feels good to provide this service to other people in the group because you know how valuable it is. Also you can learn from the other members’ experiences and get good information about resources you may need.

Action #4
Use AND statements in your internal dialougue – I learned this in a support group and it’s one of the most helpful things anyone has ever told me. “I feel ______ AND I’m going to _______.” This is a good way to remind yourself that there are a lot of things you can do despite how you feel.

Examples of AND statements I’ve used to motivate myself:
“I’m angry AND I’m going to give this customer extra good service and make their day easier.”
“I’m sad AND I’m going to take a walk and enjoy nature.”
“I’m tired AND I’m going to go grocery shopping so I have nutritious food to eat.”

Action #5
G.R.A.P.E.S. – This is an acronym to help you remember to take steps each day to help recover from depression. When you are really depressed, it’s difficult to take any kind of action. I learned from experience that if I did everything on this list daily I would improve. It was hard. It took a long time. But it did work!

  • Being Gentle with yourself
  • Relaxation
  • Achievement
  • Pleasure
  • Exercise
  • Social

I made a set of felt ornaments for a friend to put little pieces of paper in as a reminder of which activities have been done that day and motivation for getting as many as possible completed each day. I suggested she start with the papers on the sun side and move them to the moon side as they are finished to get more out of the cycle of each day. I also made a set for myself. The patterns for the sun and moon came from the book “Forest Fairy Crafts”.

I made a PDF file that includes reminders that you can print out on cardstock or on clear sticker paper to incorporate them into different systems that you might use for motivation such as calendars or planners. I threw in some motivational sayings that are designed for cards the size of ATCs (artist trading cards). Some people call these “self care cards”.
Download PDF here

Action #6
Light Therapy – Other people can explain better than I can the science behind improving your mood with light. I just know that it works. I give myself exposure to a natural light lamp and try to get natural sunlight on me as much as possible. Of course that is difficult in winter when you have to cover up to be outdoors but I use the outdoor activities I enjoy and gardening to motivate me to get what sun exposure I can.

Action #7
Meditation – I never tried meditation before I was in group therapy. I was having severe sleep problems and a group meditation session got me closer than I had been to sleep in quite some time. I decided to download some apps to help me meditate on my own and I’ve enjoyed using them ever since. There are guided meditations designed especially for problems such as sleep, anxiety and depression. Meditation has been a great discovery for me!

Action #8
Collect motivational and comforting sayings – fighting depression feels like you are fighting your own brain and your own thoughts all the time. Putting an input of healthy thoughts in my brain is helpful. I put some of them in my journal where I can use them for inspiration, a journaling prompt or just a reminder to get my thoughts in a healthy direction. You might put such sayings on the wall, on a fridge, on a computer slide show, on a Pinterest board or wherever it’s convenient for you.

In a support group meeting that I go to, we read affirmations at the end. We are supposed to pick ones that resonate with us at the moment. Sometimes I or other people have to look at the list a long time before we see one that we think is the truth. I know what it’s like to read an inspirational or motivational saying or affirmation and think “yeah, right”. Give it a chance and give it time and maybe more and more of them will seem true to you.

Action #9
Try new activities with a group – Doing something fun with a group of strangers may not be a substitute for having a close friend to do activities with. However, I think it’s much more likely to lift your mood than staying home alone. You’ll also get the opportunity to make some friends. For example I do a lot of activities with groups on Meetup.com. There are groups you can join for every interest and activities for every budget.

Action #10
Journaling – there are several ways my art journal helped me fight depression.

I wrote down thoughts which helped get them out of my mind. Once expressed, it was easier to get my mind on something more pleasant.

I gained new insights through writing. Forcing myself to organize my thoughts by writing them down made me understand situations better.

I kept track of my tasks. I found it much more satisfying to do what I needed to do to get better if I made a task page or some kind of task listing for it in my journal/planner. I found it motivating to fill in or mark completed tasks as opposed to just keeping track in my head. Seeing tangible evidence of the completed tasks made me feel proud.

Do artwork that expresses your feelings. Some of my best artwork was made when I was really having a bad time. It makes me feel a little bit better to know that if I had to go through the feelings, I at least got some strong artwork out of it. Here are a couple of art journal pages that I did Christmas Day 2016. I hope I never feel again like I did that day but I did get quite a bit of satisfaction out of my artistic expression.
“Going Cheap”
“Secrets”

I made gratitude lists. It’s easy to forget about the good things we still have – referring to a list of things to be grateful for is a good reminder that life isn’t all bad. As an exercise when I felt like I “hated everyone and everything” I decided to go through two magazines and make a collage out of things I was grateful for. I realized that even if I could not enjoy them now I would again in the future.

I made a list of my progress. Seeing what I’d achieved in recovery then referring to it when I felt frustrated by my seemingly slow progress was a great motivator for me. I had been taken down so far by abuse that performing normal, everyday activities became milestones. Keeping track of them DID help me realize I was slowly getting better and gave me determination to keep working.

Action #11
Spiritual practices – In my life I’ve gone back and forth from having religious faith to having serious doubts. I’ve resolved my doubts for the most part at this stage of life but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for me to take time out for prayer and worship. However, I’ve found spiritual practices are one of many things where if you don’t “feel like” doing it, if you do it anyway the feeling will follow. In other words, let feelings follow the actions, don’t let feelings dictate your actions. Is this proof of the existence of God or just how the human brain works? Either way, if you’re open to it spiritual practices have been a source of strength and healing for me. I’ve prayed for strength in many tough situations and received it and I am very grateful.