Sewn Embroidered Wrist Cuff

I have several sewn and embroidered wrist cuffs that I made a few years ago.

sewn embroidered wrist cuffs at amyhoodarts.com

They’re a fun alternative to bracelets and fairly quick to make, which is why it’s hard to explain why it’s been so long since I made one. So I finally sewed up another one this past weekend.

"this day" wrist cuff at amyhoodarts.com

My favorite part of these is how they are little canvases, ready to be embellished any way I want. For this one, I embroidered text–“this day.” This is a sort of mindfulness mantra for me. When I was feeling the worst of PTSD I was simultaneously spun around by fears from the past and anxiety for the future. I tried to learn to focus on the day I was in. Now I often check in with myself: Was this day a good one? Did I laugh? Did I spend time with people I love? Did I create something?

It goes deeper than that, though, in a way I’m not sure I can explain. Part of what I’ve had to work on learning is identifying where my feelings and reactions are coming from. Am I feeling fear or anxiety from a situation going on right now? Or is something in the present reminding me of something from the past, bringing up feelings and reactions that aren’t actually related to the present situation? This is hard. I need to remind myself to bring myself back to this day.

Add to this the fact that I am very grateful for this day, all of them strung together the way they are to make my life. I’ve been consciously practicing gratitude since I was in college twenty years ago; when things felt dark, I made a habit of writing down three things every day that make me happy. This practice of noting really does help. So this bracelet has layers of meaning–a reminder of gratitude and mindfulness, to come back to the present, to be aware of this day I’m in. Not in the past, not worrying over what may happen in the future, just here right now, in this day.

modeled wrist cuff at amyhoodarts.com

Do you have a short phrase that brings you back to center or is meaningful to you in some way?

Sketchbook Satchel

A couple of months ago, I bought a yard of Japanese cotton on sale and decided it would become a bag for me. And finally, it has–one that could hold anything, but right now, I’m considering it a bag for my sketchbook, pens/pencils, and paints.

sketchbook satchel at amyhoodarts.com

I didn’t use a pattern for this, just my knowledge of how bags go together and an idea of the size and pockets that I wanted. I knew I wanted a drawing pad up to 9×12″ to fit into it, I wanted a pocket on the outside for pencils, etc, I wanted it lined, and I wanted the strap to be long enough to go across my body.

sketchbook satchel at amyhoodarts.com

The strap is actually a little longer than I need, so I knotted it. I decided to err on the side of too long, which is easier to adjust than too short.

sketchbook satchel at amyhoodarts.com

Yes that stray blue thread on the left annoys me. It was just a hitchhiker but I didn’t notice it before snapping the photo!

For the lining, I used a discarded button-down shirt of my husband’s. (Both the lining and the Japanese cotton were a bit wiggly to work with.) It’s been hanging in my closet waiting for repurposing for quite a while now, and it immediately came to mind as a good pairing for this cotton’s pattern.

I cut the lining pieces from the back of the shirt, but I carefully removed the pocket from the front of it and sewed it onto one of my lining pieces.

sketchbook satchel at amyhoodarts.com

It’s just the place to slip my cell phone.

I love this bag and I love that I made this bag. It’s a bit of a rush to have an idea in my head and use my sewing machine to turn it into reality. Pieces of flat fabric and a zipper, turned into a bag I can fill with art-making supplies, sling across my chest, and be on my way. Exactly what I wanted, because I designed it. So happy-making.

Halted

My sketchbook school assignment was to document my days. I didn't get far.

My sketchbook school assignment was to document my days. I didn’t get far.

While my husband was in Singapore we got something like five inches of rain in less than 24 hours. I worked to drain the pond in the driveway and keep the water away from the basement. When the French drains were overwhelmed, I set up a siphon with the garden hose to drain the water away from the foundation in that spot under the stairs where it collects. (I feel there should be some sort of merit badge for that.) We had some seepage but nothing more. The next day at school, my 12yo dropped a table on his foot. X-rays at urgent care showed a fracture; off to the orthopedist we all went, where my stomach turned as he pointed out the multiple fracture lines in my kid’s big toe. My husband came home for the weekend, and we were all so happy to see him, and then I came down with the flu, and then he left again, and that’s when everything really ground to a halt here.

Some trips are like that.

I’d meant to get quite a bit done while he was gone this past week. Sewing in the evenings, working on my Sketchbook Skool assignments and blogging about them, working on the next issue of Art Together. I am behind on everything. My world compressed to the couch, with brief forays off of it for the basic minimum, mainly, making sure my kids were fed. Here is what I know: I am glad my kids are older. It makes things much easier. They are all self-sufficient enough to get by when dad is traveling and mom has the flu. The first night, they got their own dinner–bagels mostly, I think, with the oldest making food for the youngest–while I napped on the couch. The next morning, the oldest got his younger sister breakfast before catching the bus. I did manage to slither off the couch and wait for the bus with him, sitting on a chair with a view out the garage door. (I like to see him get on the bus every morning.) The younger two played together with LEGO. The boys took turns reading bedtime stories to their sister. Gradually the bits of wakefulness between naps increased. We got through.

My house is a bit of a wreck (although dishes and laundry were dealt with). My to-do list, well, I can’t look directly at it. It’s more of a side-eye thing. I get winded walking up and down stairs; I’m not quite ready to tackle a to-do list full on. I might need a nap just to recover from writing this blog post. It’s always a bit of a miracle, though, emerging from that stripped-down survivalist mode, blinking into the light of day, newly grateful for lungs and energy and self-sufficient kids.

Collage Book

I think I’ve finally broken through my difficulty with “art journaling.”

cover of collage book at amyhoodarts.com

Cover of a book-in-progress.

Part of my problem was trying to work in store-bought journals. So many pages! So. Many. Blank. Pages. I had two small pieces of really thick watercolor paper, so I sliced them both in half length-ways, painted them, folded them, and stitched them together. Now I have a 16-page book. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but I knew I wanted to start with collages. So I did.

The pictures I chose began to turn into prompts for writing. I’ve been trying to work with memoir-specific writing prompts this month (from both Old Friend From Far Away by Natalie Goldberg and Handling the Truth by Beth Kephart). But it can often be hard for me to remember things (part of the problem I’m trying to work on with the memoir prompts). What I found when I began playing with the images I had at my disposal and just choosing what I liked is that they brought certain things to mind.

spread from collage book at amyhoodarts.com

A completed spread.

I liked the fish, so I glued the fish down. The fish made me think of Lenten Fridays during childhood, so I glued the pic of me on my First Communion day on the same page. (All the pics in this book are color photocopies of the originals.) And then I began writing. The images from a pattern envelope of course led me to write about my mother sewing me clothes.

I have some pages ready for writing and doodling…

collage book pages ready for writing at amyhoodarts.com

And lots of pages that have neither images nor words yet.

collage book blank pages at amyhoodarts.com

So this can be a project for quite a while. I…I’m really loving it.

**

Since today is the first day of one of my favorite months, National Poetry Month, I wanted to share a bit of poetry, too. (Look for that all month long.) This is an excerpt from Mary Oliver’s “Black Oaks,” found in the book Blue Iris:

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight
from one boot to another–why don’t you get going?

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.

And to tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists
of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money,
I don’t even want to come out of the rain.

G the Kid Scientist

I’ve been watching Cosmos with the kids every Tuesday because it’s on past bedtimes on Sundays and we can all watch it together after school using the “on demand” replay. They all look forward to it and it leads to some great discussion. After the first show, G, age 5, declared she wanted to be a “kid scientist.” During our next trip to the library, she picked out books on space and the human body, but really, space is winning out. She told me she wanted to do experiments, so on the next trip to the library, we took out Astronomy for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments That Really Work, by Janice VanCleave. Now I will admit I think many of the experiments are a stretch, and many aren’t even experiments in the true sense of the word, BUT G picked out a few to try and she is pleased about feeling like a kid scientist.

experimenting

Here she is seeing how water affects the weight of a rock…which is supposed to relate to the moon’s gravity versus earth’s…which is kind of a stretch. But what’s more interesting is what the kid scientist did next. She told me she had her own “experiment” to do, and she requested a piece of black paper and two balloons. I blew up the balloons and she covered one with brown marks representing craters. Then she made silver marks all over the piece of black poster board I found. Then she set it all up.

earth moon sun model

The sun is in the center, obviously. She had me walk the globe pillow (representing earth, of course) around the sun, while she walked with me, moving her moon balloon (the one with the craters–impossible to see in this action shot) around the earth.

And this is why I love tagging along behind kids following their own interests. If I’d decided it was time to do an “astronomy unit” and had her create a model of the solar system, really, I’d have no idea if she was getting it. But a child who asks for materials to complete a vision in her head that demonstrates the motion of the earth around the sun, and the moon around the earth? That kid understands what she’s doing. It’s so darn cool, every single time.

Making + Listening::8/2014

Much making going on this week, but not as much as I’d like. I am in a mood of really, really wanting to hole myself up in the studio and create, but of course, that’s not how it works. And this morning my husband left for Singapore; he’ll be back for a quick layover next weekend before leaving again for another few days. So the next couple of weeks will have little spare time, but I have a feeling I will really need to work to get in the making, because it will help.

First up, a pile of finished pockets. I began sewing these a while ago, got as far as sewing the green zippers halfway in, then one thing and another…anyway, I got them all done this past weekend.

finished zip pouches at amyhoodarts.com

None of these are in the shop yet… but I also cut a bunch more pieces this week, mainly for pencil pockets.

pile of cut fabric at amyhoodarts.com

I also watercolored a package of ATCs and stamped them all with hand-carved stamps. I’m offering a stamp-carving class locally and these are to help promote it at an event there this weekend.

stamped ATCs at amyhoodarts.com

As for the listening, I downloaded Spotify and am taking advantage of being able to listen to entire albums. The other day I listened to Toad the Wet Sprocket’s Fear, which I don’t own digitally, just on cassette. I wore that thing out. I’m not sure listening to it was actually a good idea, as it whooshed me straight back to my college dorm room, with the closet door on which I chalked the lyrics to “Walk on the Ocean.” (I just admitted that publicly!) Let’s just say you couldn’t pay me to go back to 1992.

Linking up with Dawn again this week! Do share–what are you making? Listening to anything good?

Puppets in the Style of Paul Klee

Puppets in the Style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

Materials: Sculpey or air-dry clay; paint; yarn/other scrap materials for decorations; fabric for body; glue

Not long ago, we read quite a bit about artist Paul Klee. I considered him for the featured artist for Art Together: Printmaking (I went with Hokusai), but in the meantime, we really enjoyed learning more about him. Of course, as we read about some of his techniques, my kids said, “Can we try that?” This is one of the can-we-try-that projects, completed by me and my 5yo daughter.

In Paul Klee for Children by Silke Vry, we learned that Klee created puppets for his young son, and we saw a picture of them. This set on Flickr has images of them, and there is a book about them as well. (We didn’t read that book, but the cover shot is a photo of the puppets.) The Vry book contains Klee-related activities at the back–the sort that leave the product wide open. (That is the sort I like!) It suggested using clay for the puppet heads. We have both air-dry clay and Sculpey, but the latter was much easier for 5yo hands to mold, so we used that.

Child's puppet in the style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

G’s puppet.

Mold the heads so that your finger fits inside the neck–this is how you’ll control your puppet. After molding the heads, we cooked them according to directions (I burned my puppet’s nose and chin!), then painted on their features using liquid acrylic paint. We attached yarn hair using craft glue–G wanted beads in her puppet’s hair–and then sewed their clothes. The shirt/dress is a simple template–make sure the top opening is big enough to fit over your puppet’s neck, and keep the neck hole and the bottom open. Finally, we used craft glue to attach the neck opening of the shirt/dress to the neck of the puppet.

Adult's puppet in the style of Paul Klee at amyhoodarts.com

My puppet.

The ribbons are there to cover up the join between the cloth and the head and because, as G says, “They’re so pretty.” We are rather chuffed with our puppets.

A Peek into my Sketchbook

I practice drawing in my sketchbook several times a week, although I’d like to make it more of a daily habit. (To that end, I’m signed up to take Sketchbook Skool beginning April 4, which is quickly approaching. Exciting!) Getting a glimpse into someone’s sketchbook is kind of a thrill. I borrowed Drawn In: A Peek into the Inspiring Sketchbooks of 44 Fine Artists, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, and Cartoonists from the library not too long ago and took my time with every page. People use their sketchbooks in so many ways. I still haven’t managed to keep everything in one place; I have ideas in my journaling notebook and in my project notebook as well, but I don’t seem to integrate words and images. I’d like to; it just doesn’t happen naturally.

At any rate, here are some recent pages from my sketchbook. I’ve been buying flowers at the supermarket every week, and I’m still buying them, because it’s not spring here yet. I try to draw them every week too. Here are a couple:

sketchbook lilies at amyhoodarts.com

sketchbook mum at amyhoodarts.com

I try to bring my sketchbook along when I leave the house, just in case. This one isn’t that big. While waiting for my daughter in gym class recently, I tried to do some gesture drawings.

sketchbook gesture drawings at amyhoodarts.com

This past weekend, I took two of the kids on a nature walk. The associated nature center has dioramas of different habitats. It’s so much easier to draw animals when they’re not moving!

sketchbook snowy egret at amyhoodarts.com

I’m not very good at drawing “from imagination,” for some reason. But I’d like to be better at it. I made a few sketches trying to capture some of what the worst of PTSD felt like to me.

PTSD sketch at amyhoodarts.com

sketchbook moth in jar at amyhoodarts.com

Sometimes ideas from my sketchbook evolve into more finished pieces (such as both the linocuts in this post), and I will often work out a specific design problem within its pages, too. I don’t really art journal, although I have some images that use paint.

If you have a sketchbook, how do you use it?

Making + Listening::7/2014

It feels like I haven’t accomplished much this past week or so–I came down with a head and chest cold, and I thought I was on the upswing on Saturday, then boom! Sunday I woke up with a horrible sore throat, too. So it feels like I’ve been sick for nearly two weeks now. Energy levels have been pretty low.

However, in that brief bit of fake-feeling-better, I worked on this painting.

"stronger than my rock," original painting, at amyhoodarts.com

Mmm, this composition could be stronger in places. (That tree in the lower right-hand corner, by the way, is cut from a security envelope.) Let me explain about the phrase, though. It’s an important one.

In the Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus philosophizes on the absurdity of life and whether the realization of that absurdity requires suicide. I didn’t pick up Camus from out of nowhere, mind you. I sought it out after reading Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It (including, Camus, who argued against suicide). One of her quotes from Camus particularly resonated with me, and I wanted to read the original. I didn’t manage to read the entire book, but I did read the last chapter, “The Myth of Sisyphus.” Camus presents Sisyphus as the ultimate example of life’s futility. He is condemned to repeat the same action–rolling that damn rock up that damn hill–over and over but, Camus argues, Sisyphus is stronger than his rock.

Yes. Yesyesyes. We all have a rock. I am stronger than my rock.

After that explanation, I have no good segue into the listening portion, so here goes: Griffin House and Landon Pigg. Also, Cosmos, which I’ve been watching weekly with the kids on Tuesdays, once it shows up On Demand. Somewhere I have an old, beat-up copy of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. He was one of the first science authors I read who wrote in an engaging way for “ordinary” people. (Another was Stephen Jay Gould. I wanted to be him.) It’s fantastic to watch with my kids and see their delight–and find out they already know some things I had no idea they knew! Science for the people. It makes me very happy.

Linking up with Dawn again this week, who is settling into her new home after her cross-continent drive. Go visit and say Welcome Home!

Child-Led First Hand-Sewing Project

Child-led first hand-sewing project at amyhoodarts.com

This looks like it was planned by a 5yo because it was.

One afternoon while I was working (publishing that zine from my dining room table, like you do), my daughter got out her fabric scraps box and got to work. She’s had her own pair of fabric scissors since she was two, and I’m quite comfortable by this point letting her use them without hovering over her the whole time. So she sat at coffee table nearby, and I sat at the dining room table, and we worked.

When she was finished, she showed me what she’d done. She’d cut out pieces to make a “Super G—,” complete with a drawn-on smiley face and a “G” on the felt body. She’d pinned the head, arms, and legs to the body piece. It just needed to be sewn, and I helped her a bit with that part, as this was her first time using thread. (She embroidered her initial not too long ago.)

She is so happy with this creation. And I adore it, not that it matters if I do or not. But what I adore about it is that it contains so much of her. It shares the style of her drawings and her paper collages. She sat down with fabric and scissors, cut out pieces, no-one hovering to tell her how Things Ought to Be when it comes to sewing. Of course the edges will fray. Of course all the knots are visible on the back. These refinements will come in time, if she continues to be interested in sewing. The most important thing right now, though, is her passion–that, and her utter delight in her finished work.