Category Archives: community

Postcards!

Two nights ago I sorted out all the kid postcards I’ve received. Here’s a badly lit photo of my living room floor (the cat, of course, had to plop himself in the middle of the action).

sorting postcards at amyhoodarts.com

A total of 98 postcards were made by 21 children from Connecticut, Missouri, Rhode Island, Indiana, Washington state, Virginia, California, and New York. They used collage, markers, stickers, watercolors, stamps, pastels, acrylics, and more. They were creative, they wrote notes to the recipients, they made me smile over and over. Eight adults also made postcards, which I loved to see.

postcards by kids at amyhoodarts.com

Some of the postcards made by children for the summer mail art swap.

The first batch is getting mailed today. I’m sending them out in groups, in hopes of drawing out the fun of getting mail on the other end. Much better to get your postcards spread out a little instead of all on one day, yes? I didn’t place a limit on how many postcards any one person could send in, but if a child made roughly 6 or more, he or she will most likely get more than one from the same person in return. (It’s math, folks. Had to be done.) But hopefully nobody minds, as all the postcards are fun and fabulous.

postcards by kids at amyhoodarts.com

More fabulous postcards.

Big thanks to all the families who made postcards and bundled them up with stamps and labels and got them in the mail to me, trusting a perfect stranger to sort these works of art and send them on their way. Does it sound too sappy to say that every envelope I received added happiness to my day?

Summer Mail Art Swap For Kids (And Their Adults!)

Summer Mail Art Swap at amyhoodarts.comMy kids and I thought it would be a lot of fun to host a handmade postcard swap for kids and families. They’ve seen me participate in some and get some really neat artwork back in the mail, and they’d like to do it, too. So we’d like to invite you to join in the Summer Mail Art Swap For Kids (And Their Adults).

The details are simple. Make some handmade postcards. I’ll post ideas, links, and tutorials over the next several weeks. Mail me your postcards (details below) by July 31, and we’ll sort them and send them out to someone else. Look for your one-of-a-kind artwork to arrive in the mail in August.

Why are we having them all mailed to us first? To avoid disappointment, mainly. It’s bad enough participating in a swap and getting nothing in return as an adult; it’s really, really disappointing for kids. I’m borrowing heavily from fabulous interviewee Karen’s instructions for her swaps (with her permission), with one added step. I don’t want my physical house address up on my blog in this post, so if you plan to participate, email me at amyhood at amyhoodarts dot com with the subject line “Summer postcard swap” and I’ll send you another copy of the details below, along with my mailing address.

I’m not posting a theme for this—go ahead and make any sort of postcard you want. Keep in mind it won’t be mailed to its final recipient in an envelope, though, because it’s a postcard (postcard dimensions are included in the details below). You could….paint, draw, collage, write a poem or a story or a cartoon, use a photograph, stitch, anything at all that you can think of, as long as it can be mailed. Like I said, we’ll share ideas here, too. And THIS IS OPEN TO ADULTS TOO. Because we make art together, you see, and the kids don’t get to have all the fun. Wouldn’t it be great to sit down for a family postcard-making session? However, I do want kids to get kid postcards, and adults to get adult postcards, so check the details on how to mark them.

Questions? Let me know. And share this post! This is open to anyone who wants to participate—you don’t need to have purchased a zine or be a regular reader. The more the merrier. Let’s have a summer of postcard creation and sharing!

The detailed directions:

Each person who makes and sends a postcard will get one back, addressed to him or her individually. Submit as many postcards as you want per person, all in the same envelope to me (you will get back the same number you send). Make sure you insert waxed paper or parchment in between the cards so they don’t get stuck together in the envelope, though.

Write “Summer Postcard Swap” on the back of your card, and please add an A if the card is by an adult and a C if it’s by a child.

It’s a good idea to write your return address on the back of the postcard (in case of postal delivery problems). You may also want to include an (adult’s) email address or website so the recipient can thank you. If your family is sending multiple postcards, you may receive postcards from various families. You might make some new friends!

A note for your partner is a nice touch. But remember I need half the postcard for the address. I use washi tape to divide my postcard backs, but drawing a line works too. Anything to help remind yourself to leave that right half blank.

Write what you want on the left side. Leave the right side open.

Include a mailing label with your name and address for each card you create. I’ll attach them to the cards I mail back to you. Return address labels work for this too. Please include the proper postage for each postcard you send (see below for postal guidelines).

International swappers are welcome–the postage cost is $1.15 per card and you can send that to me via Paypal (amyhood at amyhoodarts dot com).

DO NOT attach the stamps to your postcards, because I might be sending it to someone overseas! Just slip them into the envelope.

Postage and Card Size

You are welcome to make any size postcard you want, but please pay attention to the following postal guidelines:

In order to use the postcard rate ($.34) your card cannot be bigger than 4.25 x 6 inches, and it must be thin and flexible.  A 4×6 card that is thick, lumpy, or doesn’t bend needs more postage.

If your card is a rectangle bigger than a postcard, but still flat and flexible, a regular “forever” ($.49 ) stamp is what you need.

To keep things simple, stick to a basic rectangle so you can use one of those two stamp options.

You can find all the postal specifications (and a handy postage calculator) here: http://postcalc.usps.gov/

Again, questions? Email me at amyhood at amyhoodarts.com.

Meet Karen

Karen Isaacson, interviewed in Art Together Issue Four

Karen Isaacson, interviewed in Art Together Issue Four

Karen describes herself as a “paint flinger, salamander catcher, and all-around goofball,” and I can attest that she is as fun and interesting and quirky in person as she seems on her blog, I Am Rushmore. Karen began art-making well into her grown-up years, and she approaches it with the sense of exploration, curiosity, and enthusiasm for the process (versus a focus solely on product) that I hope to nurture in others through Art Together. So I was happy she agreed to be interviewed for Issue Four, which focuses on mixed media–something Karen does so well.

As an early childhood educator, I preached the benefits of process-oriented art with young children. The toddlers I worked with never cared about what they were making, they simply delighted in the act of creating. I sat on the floor and played along with them, and it was the favorite part of my day. Perhaps I’m just a slow learner, but it never occurred to me that this same spirit of open-ended, joyful exploration could be applied to adult art experiences.

The rest of Karen’s interview can be found in the latest issue, along with lots of other inspiration and ideas. Along with her personal blog, Karen also maintains the website Mail Me Some Art, facilitating a mind-bloggling number of themed mail art swaps. She has several open swaps right now, including tape postcards, favorite city postcards, and handmade envelopes. She scans and posts all the artwork she receives (2500 pieces last year!) before sending them on their way through the postal system, so the site provides a constant stream of gorgeous art inspiration.

I hope to continue including interviews in future issues of Art Together, because I think it’s so encouraging to get to know people who are pursuing their artistic passions right now. There are so many ways to do that! I’m not sure that reminder can come often enough.

Making + Listening

Now that Issue Two is out in the world, I really want to get my hands into some off-computer creating. Of course lots of art-making goes on while creating the magazine, but the last push is very much on the computer, and the very last bit is sorting out the tech-stuff, which is getting easier but still gives me a bit of a headache. So it was a treat to put together this card to send to a pen-pal.

notecard at amyhoodarts.com

That’s a hand-carved stamp printed on Kraft card stock, colored in with a colored pencil, surrounded by a glued-on watercolor/salt effect border. Yay! Making things with my hands is so…necessary.

I also started a pair of socks for my eldest, having finished his mittens. (He has gloves, too, but at 12 he still appreciates and wants hand-knit mittens from his mama. Love.)

beginning of a sock at amyhoodarts.com

He isn’t typically a bright-color kid (his mittens are black), but he only wears handknit socks to bed, so I’m guessing that explains this rather bright yarn. We were more concerned if it felt okay. It would be nice to have these finished in time for Christmas, but knitting socks for him no longer means quickly whipping up some kid-sized socks; it’s just the same as knitting a pair for me. His new snow boots, in fact, fit me. (!!) However, he’s a good-natured kid and will happily accept partly finished socks and a promise, if it comes to that.

As for the listening part, I’ve been listening to my youngest nonstop. We’ve also been listening to Christmas music, but when I need a break–and sometimes I do–I turn it to the 80s station to pep myself up a bit. And I’ve been overdosing on Of Monsters and Men and loving it.

How about you? What are you making and listening to? I’m linking up with Dawn again here.

Ready to Mail: Nature Exchange

We were pretty excited to sign up for the Mudpuddles to Meteors Nature Exchange. All three kids wanted to participate, so getting everything wrapped and ready to go had to wait until my schooled boy was home to join in. It’s all ready to get into the mail today, the deadline day.

When we signed up, I figured it would be fun to share part of our world. We really love where we live. (Ahem: I could do without winter and snow, but what can you do?) But of course, this project involved much more than just sharing. We spread out all the possibilities for packaging and agreed on at least twelve items to send. Then we needed to write up tags (writing!), which also involved precise identification so we could include the Latin names. We generally know what we’re looking at, but we wanted to be sure we got it right for our Alaskan recipients.

identifying our finds at amyhoodarts.com

I gathered our relevant field guides, in this case Peterson Field Guides: Atlantic Seashore, Peterson First Guides: Shells, and Save the Bay’s Uncommon Guide to Common Life of Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Coastal Waters, and we set off identifying. We counted the teeth on the crab shell. We compared the descriptions of blue mussels and ridged mussels, bay scallops and sea scallops. We copied down correct spellings. We wrapped them carefully and taped on the tags:

boxed up nature exchange at amyhoodarts.com

Very few of our items were small enough to fit into an egg carton, as suggested, so we used a larger box, and later I cushioned everything with newspaper as well. It will soon be off to the post office, and we’ll wait for our package and a chance to learn about the local nature of someplace far away.

What a great idea by Dawn and Annie of Mudpuddles to Meteors–thanks so much for hosting!

A Bit of Embroidery

A while ago I experimented with transparent wash-away stabilizer for embroidering on darker fabrics. These are the two designs, both inspired by Haeckel, that I embroidered on denim that I salvaged from a pair of my husband’s ripped-up jeans.

Haeckel on denim 1 at amyhoodarts.com

Haeckel on denim 2 at amyhoodarts.com

Once I decided that worked out okay, it meant I could embroider on the fantastic dark brown Japanese cotton I’ve had in my stash. I love this fabric.

salsify-inspired embroidery at amyhoodarts.com

This design is inspired by a plant I saw and photographed in Montana. It’s new to me, and Twitter helped me identify it as most likely Western Salsify. It’s gone to seed here, like a dandelion does.

western salsify at amyhoodarts.com

It was all over the place when I was hiking, and I was just entranced by the delicacy of it. I thought it would be interesting to post the photo as well as the finished embroidery–you can see how I simplified, choosing to try to get the feel of it rather than get bogged down in trying to capture every detail. I also used slightly different colors.

I can get lost in detail sometimes, and I need to remind myself that what I’m trying to do, with stamps and embroidery, is distill what I like into a workable design, not try to reproduce something exactly. And that, too, is where the fun comes in–a finished design can go in so many directions depending on what decisions are made. I could come up with something completely different, still based on this flower photograph. It makes it all so much more fun.

I’m linking up with Dawn this week for make + listen, even though I only made the flower-inspired embroidery this week. As for listening, I keep landing on Indigenous while in the car. Good stuff. How about you? Do you have any new music suggestions? I’d love to hear them.

Snapshots

gold

October has been a beauty, with mild days for most of the month and gorgeous colors. When I saw these leaves one morning this past week while waiting for the bus with my oldest, I was immediately reminded of Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Unfortunately, just a few days later, we were waiting in weather more like this:

frost

Also pretty in its own way, but much colder. I’ve been feeling the effects of the decreasing amount of daylight, I think, because most evenings find me dozing on the couch. Frustrating, because evenings are my work and blogging time, and I feel behind in just about all of my projects at the moment. Hence this catch-up post of snapshots of our days.

running shoes

My sanctuary + my lifeline.

On Mondays Amanda posts writing prompts on the Kindred site, and on Thursday, she shared my photo and words in response to the idea of “sanctuary.” I am terrible at sitting meditation, but I’ve found that running helps bring me out of my mind and into my body in a way that is sanctuary indeed. Another thing that has helped me this past year is the writing of Pema Chodron. I’m currently slowly reading Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion. I read one or two teachings at a time, every now and then, and let the words sit.

at the beach

On one of the last milder days last week, we headed to the beach to collect items for Mudpuddles to Meteors‘ nature exchange. We just heard our match partners live in Alaska. Fun!

making cheese

Checking the temperature of milk that will become ricotta cheese.

My 9yo wanted to know how cheese was made, so we looked it up at the library and he placed a book of recipes on hold. This past week, he made ricotta cheese–twice, actually, because the first time (using the book’s recipe) didn’t yield much cheese. Perfect! More opportunity for learning, as he Googled recipes to see how they were different from the one in the book. We used his ricotta cheese in baked pasta, but he wasn’t impressed with it. (I was! I thought it was yummy.) He would like to make Monterrey Jack next–”an orderly cheese,” in his words. I think the gloppiness of ricotta displeased him. I’m not sure he’s seen it in its natural state before; he’s always just eaten things made with it. However, he also said, “I love math–when it’s used for cheese-making!” This is self-directed learning, folks, and it’s a wonderful thing.

goat note

We are a little later with wrapping up her goat project than I’d hoped, but G’s enthusiasm for printing goat cards waned a bit, and then I waned a bit, but we’re back on track now. We changed in all her coins for dollars, and we’re heading to the bank on Monday to deposit it all so I can write a check. I interviewed her and typed up a letter to Heifer International explaining her project, and she is including this note–on one of her note cards, of course. I can barely stand it. Biased mama, yes, but I think she’s pretty amazing and awfully sweet. I am also extremely thankful for the family and friends, both near and far, who supported her project and helped her raise $120. She never thought it wasn’t possible, and so many of you helped make sure she was right.

I’m hoping to get my evening energy back so I can get back to making progress with Issue Two of Art Together, and a tutorial I’ve agreed to create, and more embroidery, and that sweater I’m knitting… I’ve no time for hibernation! I hope you’re enjoying nature’s “hardest hue to hold” before we slip thoroughly into the starker colors of winter.

Make + Listen: Watercolor Painting

I’m joining up with Dawn one day late for her weekly Make and Listen Along posts, but I can be excused for tardiness because we’re on Day 7 of a 9-day business trip over here! Yesterday (Day 6), we set up for a watercolor painting session.

painting session at amyhoodarts.com

Tuesday morning, the playground at the park was littered with gorgeous, vibrantly colored maple leaves, and we took some home. My 4yo and I went downstairs to try and capture the colors with paint. By the time I snapped the photo above, she had moved on to painting a still life, a collection of objects she gathered from upstairs. You can see she’s working on the rainbow.

When we sat down with our leaves, paper, and pencils to make a sketch before painting, she had the idea to trace the leave’s outline. I thought that was an excellent idea, and I did the same, loosely, and then added in some more detail freehand. We were mostly concentrating, after all, on trying to capture the colors. Here is her finished leaf, with a mix of reds and orange.

4yo's fall leaf watercolor painting

And here is mine. This was built up with many layers of paint, as we’re learning to do in the watercolor class I’ve been taking on Saturday afternoons.

autumn maple leaf, watercolor painting

While we painted, I simply had Pandora playing through the nifty wireless speaker I received for Mother’s Day this year. I’ve been playing it in the morning, too, because I find having some music on helps keep me moving forward with all the morning tasks when there’s not another adult here to interact with. This morning the first song it played for me was Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World.” This song was on a mix CD my husband gave me for my first Mother’s Day, when I was pregnant with our first child but not quite pregnant enough to announce it yet, and the song can still tear me up.

I love the Louie Armstrong version of “What a Wonderful World” as well, and used to sing it to my first baby as a lullaby, all those many nights when we paced the dark living room because he had colic. Now that baby is almost twelve years old, old enough to help his mama get out for a run when his dad’s away on another business trip (something for which I’m extremely grateful). Twelve years in an eyeblink, I tell you.

An Early Autumn Nature Walk

Last week my 9yo, 4yo, and I went to Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge–a favorite spot of ours, and close to home–for an early Autumn nature walk. Our visit is highlighted today at Mud Puddles to Meteors as part of their Hitting the Trail series. It was fun for me to walk around with camera in hand, looking for things to share with the wider world. We really love where we live and it’s always a treat to talk about a favorite local spot. Go check out the post, and stay a bit to explore everything else this new nature site has to offer! You can also find all the photos in my Trustom Pond Flickr set.

Making + Listening

I’m joining up with Dawn again this week with perhaps my most unusual making + listening post yet…

Saturday afternoon I had the first of five watercolor classes at a local art association. The class is very, er, loose, in that the instructor seems most comfortable just sort of imparting information as it comes to her. So we were given a demonstration and then more or less set loose on a still life. There are some things I like about this painting, and lots I don’t like. That yellow pear, for instance, went all, well, pear-shaped on me. But maybe it really was that odd shape. I don’t know.

Also, turns out I should have gotten different, better paper, but the materials list wasn’t terribly specific about that. And my tape was the wrong color (yes, there’s a right color–I have it now). I just mention this because signing up for an art class can be really intimidating to some folks! This, I know. And I remember how overwhelming it was the first time I walked into an art supply store with a materials list in hand. But see–even people who have taken art classes before need specifics! Don’t feel intimidated. If you do end up with the wrong stuff, one, it’s not the end of the world, and two, (cough) instructors should be really specific on their materials list if they expect something in particular. Also, ask questions. Whatever you do, if you want to take the class, don’t let a lack of confidence stop you. Sign up for it anyway!

While we were painting, music was playing. This is pretty much the norm in most art studio classes…but there was no discussion about it; the instructor chose the music. The first disc was a live Frank Sinatra performance. Meh, he’s okay. Not my favorite. But one of the songs was a bit jaw-dropping. I had to Google to find out exactly what it was. Turns out it’s “Soliloquy,” and you can hear it here or just go read the lyrics here. I was pretty much “ohmygosh” through the entire song. And then when the Sinatra album was over she put on some 70s easy-listening stuff that was so bad I don’t even remember the one song I recognized at the time–I’ve blocked it out. It’s not exactly the type of music I typically create to! I’m curious to see if that’ll be the playlist every Saturday or if eventually we’ll hit on something I can stand listening to…

How about you? Any interesting or unexpected making/listening going on lately?!