Tag Archives: mamablog

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.

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?

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!

Tutorial: Offset Printing With A Gelatin Plate

Offset Printing Using a Gelatin Plate at amyhoodarts.com

I’ve been head down into printmaking lately, even more than usual, as I researched and prepared Art Together Issue Three: Printmaking. At the beginning of this issue, I define the categories of printmaking, and every category includes at least one version that is possible to do at home, without a printing press…except for intaglio printing. In this type of printmaking, grooves are carved into a plate, which is usually metal, through any number of methods. The plate is inked and then wiped clean, so the ink only remains in the grooves. Paper is dampened, placed on the plate, and the whole shebang is run through a printing press, so that the heavy pressure pushes the paper into the grooves, resulting in the print. It’s just not possible to create enough pressure to do that without a press.

However, the process I describe here, which I read about in Making Monotypes Using a Gelatin Plate, by Nancy Marculewicz (sadly, out of print), mimics the effect of intaglio, taking advantage of the give that a gelatin plate provides–the surface is soft enough to be imprinted. I didn’t include this method in the zine; it’s a little more complex than the free-form experimentation with the gelatin plate that works so well with children and beginners (and truthfully, never gets old), and it uses a Very Sharp Tool. But I do want to share it for those of you who fall in love with gelatin plate printmaking and want to take it further.

Materials: Thin Plexiglas sheet (I found mine in the art store with the drafting/engineering type supplies); scribe or something similarly sharp; block-printing ink and palette of some sort; brayer; baren; gelatin plate (instructions for making one can be found in Art Together Issue Three)

Process: First, you need a line drawing that you want to work with and that fits the size of your gelatin plate. I did this twice. The first drawing is at the top of this post; the tutorial was made using the second drawing. When you have a drawing you’re happy with, tape it to your surface and then tape your thin Plexiglas sheet on top. You want to try to minimize slippage.

ready to trace

Now you’re going to use your scribe to scratch into the surface along the lines. You’re aiming to throw up a burr on each side of your scratch, so it holds the ink.

Inscribing into the plastic plate.

Apologies for the glare…overhead lighting in the studio.

You can lift up the plastic to check your progress. This isn’t easy work; you don’t want to scratch right through the plastic, but you do want the grooves deep enough to hold the ink. (You may find, after going through the entire process and taking a print, that you want to deepen your grooves and try again.)

When the etching is complete, ink up your plastic plate using block-printing ink and a brayer (again, if you’re unsure how to do this, you can check out Issue Three). I tried colored ink but found black worked best; however, experiment! Another type of ink, or acrylic paint, may yield completely different results.

inked plate

Make sure you cover the grooved area, but you don’t need to ink up the entire plate. That’s because in the next step, you’re going to wipe away the excess ink. I used an old dish towel for this, one of the really thin ones. Any lint-free cloth will work. I’m thinking old cloth diapers might be perfect.

excess ink wiped

Work quickly, because ink dries fast. See how it’s been caught in the grooves? The next step is to place your etched, inked plate face down onto your gelatin plate and press, to transfer the ink to the gelatin.

impression on gelatin plate

So cool, right? Now lay your paper over your gelatin plate and take a print. Normally with a gelatin plate you don’t need a baren, but for this process, you really kind of do.

finished print 1

It’s really an organic-looking result. Pressing hard enough on the plastic plate to transfer the ink causes some bubbles, which may show up on the finished print. Make sure to take ghost prints, too. (Ghost prints are second prints taken without re-inking the plate.)

Knowing that inked gelatin plates also pick up texture from textured surfaces, such as bubble wrap, that are pressed against them, I wondered if I could use the plastic plate in that way. So I inked up the gelatin plate instead, then pressed the non-inked plastic plate face down onto it. Then I took a print from the gelatin plate. This is the result.

finished print 2

You can really see the bubbles in this version. You can also see that the plastic plate was slightly smaller than the gelatin, because a firm line was created where the edge of the plate plastic into the gelatin. I prefer this version. It’s interesting.

As I said, this is a bit more labor intensive and controlled than the usual methods of using the gelatin plate, which are very loose and “let’s see what happens.” Yet because it uses gelatin, it’s still very organic looking and impossible to completely control. It’s also a way to integrate original drawings into gelatin plate prints.

If you try this method (or have tried it) and have any tips to share, I’d love to hear them. And if you’ve never tried printmaking before, it’s so much fun…and I have an entire issue of Art Together to help you get started.

The Story Behind the Tattoo

tattoo

For a long while I said I’d get a third tattoo once I was done with the pregnancy-and-breastfeeding part of my life. (My first two are both small, one on my ankle and one on my hip.) But I wasn’t quite sure what, and I put it off long enough that I thought it would be a good way to mark my fortieth birthday, which was almost six months ago. Leading up to my birthday, I began pinning some ideas, beginning with trees (I have a Thing for Trees). Then I thought about wings, because running has become so important to me again, emotionally even more than physically. Then I looked at hummingbirds, because the few times I’ve seen a hummingbird in person, it felt like a blessing and a visitation.

Then, while in Montana, working with the horses, I noticed a pair of swallows flying around the barn. Once home again, I looked up if swallow tattoos have specific meaning and the first thing I discovered is that sailors would get tattoos of swallows to represent nautical miles traveled, so swallows are a symbol of journeys. That resonated. Ultimately, I decided upon a swallow tattoo on the inside of my left leg, right above the ankle. Wings near the ankle tie into running (think of Hermes’s winged sandals). The swallow is a permanent reminder of the strength I felt that day working with the horses, because sometimes, I forget. And yes, this is a journey.

Our local tattoo place works with you to come up with a sketch, so this was done by the tattoo artist. I wanted line work rather than color. I wanted it facing up. I wanted a reminder: I am strong, and I have traveled far.

Making + Listening::6/2014

Dawn is getting ready to drive cross-continent, but I thought I’d share what we’ve been making this week in the usual Thursday format. The biggest thing getting Made right now is Issue Three of Art Together, which is scheduled to be available on Monday. Here’s the cover:

Spring 2014 Cover

My daughter graciously allowed me to use one of her prints as the cover photo. She flipped through all 34 pages that I’d printed out to proofread, telling me about the photos on every page. Because of course she recognizes them all! She seemed absolutely delighted by that, too.

I am making a list of what I’d like to get to once this issue is out in the world. (I give myself a little break before thinking about the next one.) I owe my middle child a pair of jammie pants (pieces cut, but need to be sewn). I want to sew myself a bag with a yard of Japanese cotton I picked up during a sale. I have some art ideas floating in my head, and I want to do a self-led month of writing prompts using Natalie Goldberg’s book on memoir writing, Old Friend From Far Away. So, you know, just a few things…

Our local library invited kids to submit artwork to be displayed during the month of March, and my kids said they’d like to participate. I can’t even tell you how much Art we’ve made over the past month…art for the zine, art for the column, art just because that’s what we do. Yet two out of three kids would like to make something completely new to drop off on Friday. Of course. My daughter decided upon collage.

G collaging

There, she’s going through the expanding file folder of paper organized (more or less) by color. She is usually a Girl with a Plan, and I just make sure she has the materials she needs.

As for listening, it seems I’ve mostly been listening to whining, bickering, and bad attitude. I’m not sure there’s anyone in this household who isn’t at least in a funk, if not outright cranky. I blame February. My, how it’s dragged on. Truth be told, I don’t expect March to be much better, at least not for a while. We are tired of snow. It’s ugly, the way it’s piled up on the side of the road, covered with sand, dingy, disgusting, depressing. We’re tired of cold, of the need for hats and mittens and snow boots, the time-sucking process of simply getting on enough clothes to get out the door, the way waiting for the school bus with my oldest in the morning is often a feat of endurance. There are no signs of spring here except for the lengthening days–which I do appreciate. But. We’re ready for more.

Speaking of which, don’t forget there are two more days to save 25% with the THINKSPRING code in the shop. And here’s to (almost) March.