Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pacific Crossing

Just got a Facebook post from a nephew that merits a share. He and his wife Lily and 2 other women just made first landfall on a Pacific Ocean crossing in an older 30 foot fiberglass sailboat. The boat, a cape dory style boat is named Portal. After 24 days at sea they are in the Northern Marquesas, a blip of an island on the map in the Pacific.

Lydia, Lily, Charlie and Barbara
The crew

The Passenger

Their daring adventure is detailed on Lily's blog linked below.

As an introduction to Charlie and Lily, I have included this blog post from my archive about their 3-day, hippie extravaganza wedding.


Maybe I was that daring once upon a time, but the thought of such a small boat on such a big ocean is a frightening concept now. I knew they were going, but I am glad they have made something like the half way mark on that big slice of ocean.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Blue Bird of Happiness

A tutorial of sorts, this post shows the making of 15 charms for a swap with the theme Spring. Sixteen were made, just in case something went horribly wrong at some point in production.

After deciding to make  charms featuring  birds and their houses, the next decision was whether to form the charms from Paperclay or Apoxie clay. Paperclay is significantly lighter, but I worried about durability. Banging around on a bracelet or necklace with other charms demands a certain level of toughness. These charms are relatively small so the weight of Apoxie clay is minimized.

I was first introduced to the product  Apoxie clay by Elizabeth McGrath and it is generally part of the supply list in any Micheal deMeng class. Apoxie Clay is a permanent, self-hardening synthetic clay that combines the features of sculpting clay and two part epoxies. A link to the manufacturer is included below.

In the first step hooks were shaped to be ready for insertion into clay once shapes were constructed. The part that would be inserted into the clay was hammered flat to make it thinner and easier to insert,

After making a small cardboard template of the birdhouse in order to keep the size uniform, I mixed two golf ball sized lumps of part A and Part B Apoxie clay. After a thorough mixing and kneading, the clay was rolled flat with a rolling pin that is only used for craft applications. The clay was cut cookie style with a knife.

The clay from around the edges was collected and divided into 16 small balls that were hand shaped into vaguely bird-like forms. Birds were attached to the houses. Hooks were inserted. Charms were hung to dry and harden.

Next comes paint, another decision. The variously shaped birds are sorted. Shapes are very different with some birds shaped like wrens, some like robins and others like gulls. Painting them according to body style seems like the route to go until the time line comes into consideration, a deadline looms.

Bluebirds, they will all become bluebirds!They will be bluebirds of happiness even if some look more blue ducks of happiness.

Paint goes on in layers.

Shiny black nail polish is used to create the round, shiny little bird eyes.

Some of the details are put on with a brush, others with Sharpie pen.

Lastly, two coats of varnish should enhance the charm durability. If the clock had not been madly ticking toward deadline there may have been a third coat. I dipped and hung the charms to dry. A shiny varnish was selected to mimic glass or porcelain which is a kinesthetic or sensory match to the weight of the charm.

Charms were packaged up pretty, with a vintage postcard and some ribbon.

Of course you could create charms of any shape or theme using Apoxie clay. It is available in many sized containers and has a shelf life of about 3 years. There will be more items made in this material shortly as my 3 pounds is slouching toward the end of shelf life.


Sunday, May 12, 2013


Perhaps I am in my cardboard phase. The last two swaps I did with the yahoo journaling group- Creative Art Journaling were made from cardboard.

This group is small, with 19 members currently and was founded at the beginning this year. There are different prompts each month. In April the challenge was entitled  * Surprise Party *  and we were to choose your own theme.

I choose to play with the concept of moving parts, hence the label  kinetic.
On the upper right, a matchbox is set into a cut made into the layers of cardboard and a bead was wired in place to serve as a drawer pull. The box opens and closes. A small plastic dog is the  *surprise* found when you open the drawer. This photo shows the open position.

Three small balls roll back and forth in the lower slot. Balls are lightweight, made with Paperclay so they do not wear out their cardboard run. One is blue and the other two are white.The window is made from a sheet of mica.

The word  kinetic  is set on a slant to be more dynamic than would the word in the more normal horizontal position. My admiration for the artist Joseph Cornell and his influence on my constructions are evident in this piece.

It was a fun piece to but complex piece to make. I hope Danita in Campbell River, B.C. Canada likes her page. She was my swap partner for April.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Flaming Parrots - A Type of Tulip

Parrot tulips are flamboyant with a capital letter F. They are large and have petals that can be curly, twisted or fringed. Vibrantly colored, many varieties have two or more colors. My favorite variety, the Flaming Parrot is bright yellow with red flames and a bit of green veining.

Procrastinator that I am, my go to mail order sources often have already sold their stock of bulbs by the time I am ready to order. Not last fall,  I ordered and planted those tulip bulbs in a timely fashion and now reap the reward.

Parrot tulips are mid- to late season bloomers. They were developed from mutations within the Triumph class, hence the large flower size and strong stems. The parrots mix nicely with the pansies we can plant in the fall here in the south.

Despite the warnings to plant them in a protected spot, the parrots have actually fared rather well, standing up to the multiple rains we have had in this unusually wet spring.

And the season is progressing, a tree peony is in bloom and the iris will be in their glory very soon. Take a walk and see what is blooming in your neighborhood.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Illustrating a Bob Marley Quote

These ATCs were mailed out to Raleigh, North Carolina today.

Are you asking what an ATC is? Here is the explanation.

They are miniature  works of art about the same size as a baseball card. Originating in Switzerland, the ATC movement was a spin-off from the mail art scene. Produced in a variety of media, the cards are traded or exchanged.

The small group orchestrating this swap picks a monthly theme. April's theme was rain. I browsed through my rainy day photographs and paired them with a Bob Marley quote - 

The top two photographs are from New York City this past March, the one below is from San Miguel de Allende in February 2012.

While the quote is generally attributed to Bob Marley, research indicates the words may originate in a Turkish poem entitled I Am Afraid by Qyzzirah Syeikh Ariffin.

As often is the case, once you start looking at the background story, it gets more complicated.
Ah well.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Charmsters - Re-Purposed Charm Swap

 If you are a long time reader of this blog, you know that I often find treats in my mailbox. This post serves as eye candy for people interested in handmade charms.


I belong to a Yahoo group called Charmsters. It was created by Laurel Stevens in 2007. We are a group of a little over 100 people that make and swap charms through the mail. Jean Brederode and Erin Keck became our group moderators in 2011 .

Participants sign up for specific swaps that interest them. This Re-Purposed swap was hosted by Nancy Clark.  Something on these charms had to be recycled, up-cycled, or re-purposed. Once we mailed her our submissions, she sorted the charms and shipped them to participants.

Here is a pictorial record of the contents of that swap.

Our hostess Nancy Clark made this charm using smashed metal buttons. She has an etsy store -

Using some form of resin, long time charmster, Zhulia Abrok fashioned this postage stamp charm.

Laura Oneil re-purposed discarded gift cards. She packaged them with laser cut stationary and paper towel that achieved green color soaking up left over dye from Easter egg coloring.

 I have dismantled my share of vegetable steamers and often purchase them when I see them at garage sales, but have never cut up the individual leaves like Glenda Griffith did. She even used her husbands grinding wheel to round the corners.

Another long time member of the group, Lori Guerin used an old sewing machine bobbin to create this charm.

Minette Miller combined a small ornate key and some floral bead components to fashion this charm.

Marjorie Grace-Sayers combined gears and a brad to produce this steam punk inspired charm.

Erin Keck added an amusement park token to her steam punk mix.

Eunice Oakley decorated and beaded an industrial washer to create her charm.

Bella Richey gathered together an assortment of beads to assemble this charm.

Lots of tiny little goodies came along with the Barbie shoe charm that was marked renew your sole/soul.

Katie Margolis glammed up this chess piece with a wee bit of paint and some beads.

Susan Zacher got her game on and combined a translucent red poker chip and a Lotto game piece.

Denise Hase put together 3 beads and a washer for this charm.

Pen barrels painted silver and end caps make for a cute little bird house charm designed by the imaginative Jo Morrison.

The only charm missing from this line up is my own. The plan is to feature that in a future blog post. Hope looking at these creative interpretations makes you look twice before tossing that odd object. It might just be perfect for another use.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Most Imaginative Macaron Flavors in New York City

It was a rainy Tuesday in March when I discovered Macaron Parlour on St Marks in the East Village. While this discovery did not cause the clouds to part instantly and the sun to burst forth, it sure did brighten my day. 

First there is the charming and helpful owner, Simon Tung working the front counter. He encouraged my photo taking and explained the many flavors.If you want to see an example of the multiplicity of varieties click on the link below.


Selections vary with new and sometimes experimental kinds finding their way into the bakery lineup.

Selecting which macarons to purchase is a sweet agony to endure. Giggity did make the cut. It has ingredients that make it resemble the most upscale Snickers bar on planet earth.

The Elvis was left for another tasting as bananas are not my favorite flavor.

Candied bacon with a maple cream cheese filling, odd and trendy as the combination sounds, gets my vote as a solidly delicious choice.

As someone that has sampled some of the best macarons in France and tried them wherever I find them here in the states, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Macaron Parlour should you find yourself on the lower east side of New York City. Your mouth will thank you.