Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Step Sixteen: What the hell??!...

Dear Fi,
I am not sure what I want to write. I wish I didn’t have to write anything he, he. The next project I engage in will definitely be without words he, he.

I thought about doing another illustration for Patti Digh today. The last one I did will be published (yahoo!) in her book this September. I received two essays to illustrate but somehow I wasn’t in the mood to start this project today, even though I already have some ideas for both illustrations.

I decided to do a journal page today because I needed some help with releasing the “stuff” and to let it come out from suppressed depths. I have been so busy lately and so stressed that I haven’t had the  time to stop and think, to stop and feel, or to move my body and take better care of it. Everything has accumulated for the last few months and it is about to explode.

I have learned a lot since the beginning of this year but I don't think I've given myself the time to absorb it, to recognize, and acknowledge it. So I feel that I am symbolically cut off and with no access to this knowledge. I thought that when I finally finish the semester I would have a chance to indulge in all the things I didn’t have time for. What I failed to notice was the fact that, because I was so late with everything, I will only have one week for my break. So, instead of indulging I just crashed.

Why? Because... Dear Fi... it turned out that I have one week to: relax, schedule about 15 appointments for myself, my mom, and children (hairdresser, dentist, optometrist, physiotherapist etc), invite about 5 children for different play-dates (to be able to do this I first need to clean my messy house - which might take me an entire week itself), prepare myself for the next class (which starts May 1st!!!), buy presents for and attend 2 birthday parties and one baby shower on the upcoming weekend, call my friends (because they probably think I’m dead), write these e-mails I promised to write when I will finally have a break, upload pictures from the last seven weeks to our 365/52 pool...


All I really want is to stay quiet. Alone. Go for a walk. Return to my yoga practice. Read a few books from my never-ending book list. Sleep. Eat healthy food. Meditate. Magically shrink to my previous size. And wake up one morning with a big bright smile, full of energy, happy to be alive - instead of waking up tired, grumpy and feeling old.

So... today my Dear Fi I thought about quitting everything. Honestly. I wanted to quit this blog and my 365/52 (for the second time ha, ha!!!). I couldn’t bring myself to do anything for this post. I just had these feelings I couldn’t even name coming out to the surface. And the only thing I could see were different shadows of blue.

Yesterday I received a complimentary magazine, so I decided to paint a blue background and choose something from that magazine and glue it to my page and see what happens. After finishing that part I stared at this page and I wasn’t sure if I should start to cry or laugh. I so hated how this page looked. It felt like I forgot what to do, how to put things together. I couldn’t stand it. So I took some paint and started to cover everything again. I stamped the word “deep” and drew the “wheel”. Then I decided to use a quote from a book I’ve been reading lately and to highlight all the words that resonated with me. To finish, I splashed gold paint over the entire collage. Even though I am not a big fan of the outcome, I could really feel how the energy changed after I finished. I felt relieved. So, nothing else matters. At the end I was actually grateful (again!!!) for the place we had created. If not for this post, I would keep this “stuff” hidden deep inside. I’m glad I didn’t give up and I’m feeling much lighter right now :)



The quote (from the beginning):
Rediscovering who we really are at our core opens the way to experiencing our most basic level of connection with others. This connectedness lies at the heart of the practice called Yoga. Living in a unitive state is not an esoteric concept, and it is not an elusive higher realm that only very clever people can aspire to. It is the opening of the heart so that we have capacity to feel tenderness, joy, and sorrow without shutting down. It is the opening of the mind to an awareness that encompasses rather than excludes. It is the startling and immediate recognition of our basic sameness. It is the practice of observing clearly, listening acutely, and skillfully responding to the moment with all the compassion we can muster. And it is a homecoming with and in the body for it is only here that we can do all these things.

Donna Farhi: Bringing Yoga to Life. The everyday Practice of Enlightened Living.

Step Sixteen: Quilling

Dearest Sylwi,

This week, I wanted to use the marbled paper I made last week to make some gift wrapping boxes and tags... and maybe some little journals. I sat down to create at least one of those things this morning, but at the last minute, I completely changed my mind! :-) I suddenly remembered a complete obsession I had last year with quilling. 

It all started when I came across this amazing artist, Yulia Brodskaya. Her work is really extraordinary. I'm always in awe of the new pieces she constantly creates. 

Completely inspired by her, last year, I began exploring techniques for quilling and came across this lovely tutorial by Reese Dixon, for ornamental gift tags. I decided to try and make one of these today with marbled paper. I thought it would work really well with the marbling. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out quite how I imagined :-) but here's what I got up to today! 

First of all, I cut 1/4 inch strips of the paper in the following lengths:

- 5 x 6 inches
- 4 x 2 inches
- 12 x 3 inches

Then I quilled them into the round, teardrop, marquis, scroll and arm piece shapes, as instructed by Reese's tutorial {see detailed directions here}.

{I didn't have a proper quilling tool, so just wrapped the card around a toothpick to make tight coils. It's probably easier with the proper tool, but I don't think these turned out too badly}.

I glued them all together...

Added the final points and a silver thread to hang it with... and it was finished!

In hindsight, I should have used paper that had the marbling effect on both sides. It was only once I was quite far into the project that I realised that though {sigh!}, so I just continued with it! :-) I'll know for next time! :-)))

Reese calls these snowflakes and covered them with glitter at Christmas time, but I think they make pretty, ornamental gift tags for any time of the year.

It's hard to believe that next week, we'll be approximately a third of the way through! I can't keep up with how fast time is going! :-)

Lots of love

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Step Fifteen: Stones...

Dear Fi,

I’m scribbling these words in my notebook at my daughter’s dance class. I have about 45 minutes of waiting, so I need to use this time to write this post otherwise I will have no chance to do this today. Just to be clear - no, I haven’t finished my paper yet. Ha, ha. I know - pathetic - but I’m not going there today. It will be done pretty soon.

In the meantime lets talk about my project ;)


I thought about painting them a long time ago. So, yesterday I went for a walk in the neighbourhood and I picked up a few. Later at night when I couldn’t write anymore, I washed them and started to paint. I didn’t think about any design. I just painted and tried to listen and see what the stones wanted me to do. Weird? Maybe... but this was the process I used. I painted almost all of them.

So today I had to finish painting the few I had left. Then I needed to paint over all of them - at least three layers of each colour, so they would be more visible. Then I took the pictures.

I don’t know about you my Dear but I think they look happy now ha, ha.

I have no idea how to put this thought together in a way that makes sense, because I’m intellectually drained. However, I will try, because it is something I was contemplating lately. I’ve painted stones before. I remember one small show I had for a group of people here in Calgary. I brought my paintings, some of them 48” x 48” big, and other artwork I was proud of only to discover that most people gathered around a small table where I had put a poster with two stones. The stones’ purpose was to keep the poster from falling off the table but they got the most attention. So, I was even more disappointed when everybody started to compliment me on the turtle stone. Not that I didn’t like it, but the other one was actually my favourite, not to mention that the turtle stone stole all the attention from the other things I brought.

Last week I talked with my lovely brother through Skype - so I could see his face when he checked our blog. It was the “Play” post he saw first and then I could see his disappointment. He said it looked like Amelie or Bruno painted this (and that was the point ha, ha!). And then he asked me if I still painted my mandalas. I told him that I cannot paint the same things I painted more then 15 years ago, that I have changed...

I would like to think that I grew and that my artwork evolved through all of these years with me. I feel like it did. I feel more free and more confident. I could never paint something “against” myself, and I still cannot. I need to believe in what I’m doing and I need to trust the process to be able to honestly express myself. I always thought that my art in some way mirrors my life. Picasso said that “painting is just another way of keeping a diary” and I think that he was totally right.

So, today my Dear Fi I look at these stones and I feel happiness. I look at these stones and I see the power of simplicity and the confidence of choice. I look at them and I smile :)



Step Fifteen: Marbled Paper

Dearest Sylwi,

Hello! How are things?! I'm quite excited this week, as (hopefully!) this week (or next) should be the end of all the chaos and more peaceful and creative times will return! :-) I know things have been extremely tough for you... for quite a long time now. It's amazing really that you've been able to squeeze your weekly steps into your schedule. Bet you're looking forward to finally finishing your school work and having some time to play! I just hope that you're well enough. I know how exhausted and ill you've been feeling. :-(

This week's step was inspired by a recent short break to Venice. Everywhere I went, there were small, stationery shops selling beautiful, marbled paper. You could buy a huge variety of products made from it; photoframes, journals, wrapping paper, boxes, pencils, all sorts of goodies! I would have stuffed my suitcase full with it, had it not all been obscenely expensive (as was everything in Venice, generally!) 

I always remember marbling paper as a little kid - something to do on a rainy afternoon. We'd use neon coloured paints and the designs we created weren't very pretty, so I hadn't given the technique much thought since! However, once I'd seen the designs in Venice, I was determined to give it another go. 

I could write a whole post on all of the methods and the paints I tried to use (everything I tried failed miserably) but I'll skip that bit and go straight to the marbling kit that I ordered from 'Make It Now' in the Uk! :-)

I'm not a huge fan of kits - usually there are a lot of things included that you never use, or never want to make. However, I'd tried everything I had at home (including shaving foam and various water and paint mixes) and was fed up with wasting time and getting disheartened with the terrible results.

I was so relieved the kit arrived in time for this week's step. I have a whole rant about how discouraged I've been getting in general with my weekly steps, but this week's was made easy by just having the right materials and a definite direction to head off in!

The kit was so easy to use. Just add 3 teaspoons of the provided thickener into a tray of water, shake the squeezy paint tubes and you're off!

The kit has everything you need. Plenty of paper to print onto and they even provide a comb to make the patterns with...

My first prints were very unattractive - I didn't know how much ink to use or how to create the patterns I wanted, but I soon got some results I liked and became a bit more adventurous. In fact, it's safe to say, I got quite carried away! :-)

I had planned to make up some boxes or some gift tag type things with the paper I created, but found that I used up all my time printing instead! 

Maybe that can be my step for next week - finding interesting uses for this marbled paper. I'm also quite intrigued to try some more advanced patterns. Especially after I found this technique on YouTube, posted by Papier-Royal. They also have this stunning website - papieR Royal - where you can see lots more of their beautiful work. Sigh!

Here are some of my prints from this week... I love bits of them, don't like other bits so much.. but as a starter, I'm happy ... plus, I had real fun doing this!

I have no idea what you're going to be able to do today as your Step Fifteen - I know you have a lot on. Maybe a painting that takes 2 minutes? ;-) Looking forward to seeing it, whatever you do! :-)

Take care of you! Speak to you later,
Lots of love, Fi

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Step Fourteen: Ten minute painting for my seventh anniversary...

Dear Fi,

I couldn’t resist using so many numbers in one title. If I had more time I would go on talking about all these books with numbers in titles: Seven Minutes To Happiness. Ten Most Important Things You Need To Know About Life. Fourteen Seconds To Prove Yourself. Blablabla. I hope these titles don’t exist and nobody will sue me, but I don’t have the time to google them right now ha, ha ;)

Anyway, this week is not only busy but it’s actually my agony. At this very moment I’m in the middle of writing the last 12 page paper (ha, ha, number again!). It is a combination of a hard work, pleasure, lack of time, stress, and exhaustion after a long semester. So, as much I want it to be the best paper ever, it just cannot happen this time. And it is unfortunate because it really matters to me, but I’m just not at my best. I just want to finish my marathon, and I have no power to think about which number I will arrive to the finish line. The only thing I’m worrying about is arriving at the finish line soon... 

So... this is why for my project I chose my ten minute painting. It actually took 20 minutes from start to finish only because I needed to bring my paints and supplies with me downstairs, and only because I needed to wait for the “gel-glue” to dry before I could paint over.

I told you once about the advice my coach gave me when I complained about a lack of time for painting. She said “paint for ten minutes, and see what happens”. So I took this advice straight to my heart and this is what I do sometimes. A quick expressive exercise. With intention of no judgment. With openness and welcome to what might happen. And with hope for some fun.  

About the seventh anniversary... It is my PRIVATE anniversary. It started on April the 12th, 2003. So it has been seven years yesterday since my immigration to Canada. It feels like my lucky number now ha, ha. It feels like finally I can say I know who I am again. Like I integrated “me before” with “me now”.

It even feels like being at home lately...



I need to run, Dear Fi, but I hope that next week we will take time to slow down a bit. And who knows maybe to celebrate all this craziness we went through lately.

Step Fourteen: Kanzashi flower folding

Hi Sylwi

How are things with you? It's all a bit rushed and crazy again this week, but at least this time, I got around to exploring something new! :-)

This week, I thought I was going to be using paper again. I wanted to try some origami flowers, but as I got going, I decided to switch to material. I have a stack of fabric scraps and was curious to see how the paper folding technique would translate to material.

Whilst researching paper flowers, I actually came across fabric flowers used for hair accessories in traditional Japanese hairstyles called 'Tsumami Kanzashi'. The name, literally translated, means 'folded fabric hair ornament'. Tiny squares of silk are folded into individual petal shapes and then, flowers can be made from sewing a string of these petals together.

I decided to give it a go and found great instructions for making the petals, here on Akura's Flickr photostream.

I used old jersey material from a T-shirt and a stretchy faux leather fabric. Both were very easy to work with and once I had folded the petals, I sewed them together to make flowers. To hide my stitches in the centre of the flowers, I messed around creating little strings of beads and also used buttons. I'd like to have spent more time choosing designs (I wasn't that happy with what I came up with here), but that will have to wait for another day!

I really wanted to create a finished product this week, after last week's disaster, but ran out of time again.  This week and last week are a write off time-wise for me, but I'm looking forward to next week when things will hopefully slow down a bit! :-)

I'm beginning to realise that coming up with an idea, exploring it and creating a finished product that I'm happy with, would take longer than a week anyway... and I'm only giving myself a day at the moment, as time is so short. It's funny, as when I began 52 Steps, I remember thinking that a week was more than enough time to explore one subject! :-)

I had an idea in my head that the flowers might be fun on a funky necklace, so just to see what it looked like, I pinned them onto a cord I made, secured with ribbon at either end. I don't like the buttons... and I'm not that keen on the flower designs I chose, but I love the cord, the little leather bow, the ribbon ties and the idea for the flowers. I'm not sure it's the sort of thing I'd wear ever (ha!) but I'd quite like to spend more time on this sort of design!

Btw, I knitted the cord using the 'Idiot Cord' technique. I used large needles and some black bungee rope from the local marine supplies shop! :-)

Got to dash, sweetpea. Sorry this is so rushed - but from the end of this week, I'm hoping to have a bit of time to myself and will be in touch properly. Hope everything's ok with you? Catch up soon.

Lots of love

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Step Thirteen: Play!

Dear Fi,

I am not sure why “stuff” happens the way it happens in my life right now. I feel drained of all of my life’s juices. I dream about freedom from almost everything. Things didn’t go smooth lately on this side of the globe. I think it started with my mom’s broken hand, which stopped her from coming here to help me when I needed her the most. Last week she finally got here but her right hand will need at least couple of months to be able to do the simplest motions, so we are both trying to be patient. Then, during the Easter we had a sudden death in the family, and some unexpected hospitalizations, so the air became very heavy, and it was really hard to breath. My problems with finishing my paper on time were so unimportant and worrying about everything else didn’t make sense. Life just stopped for a moment and every time the phone rang I was scared to answer.

Finally, yesterday I said “enough”. People are coming and going and I cannot stop or change this. The only thing I can do is to change how I react, and what I do when life brings these uneasy to swallow lessons. So, against all the odds I decided to paint something happy and playful.

A few weeks ago I bought a painting board - I wanted to try a new medium. Then a few days ago I saw how my daughter painted and I couldn’t stop watching her. I was in awe, but I also felt a little jealous for her freedom and confidence, for the joy she emanated while mixing her colours and applying them on paper. She had so much fun Fi. Her behaviour blew me away, as well as her paintings. The one below is my favourite, and it has become an inspiration for today’s project.

The process of painting this piece was hilarious. Dear Fi, I know that I won’t be able to recreate it for you, but at least I will try to give you a sense of how it went.

After I applied a white background to my painting board I chose some “happy” colours and started to paint with my left hand. As soon as I started I could hear a part of me screaming: “NO!!!”, so I tried to tune in and I imagined that I was witnessing the right hand/left brain vs. left hand/right-brain conversation, which went like this:  

LH: ah! i love that pink, so sweet :)
RH: What is going on here? Who chose these colours!!!
LH: oh! look at this yellow, i love yellow, it is such a sunny coulour!
RH: We don’t use yellow!!! Never - ever! Tell her - we don’t use yellow!
LH: la, la, la, love the surface, so smooth, i don’t need a brush i will use my fingers :)
RH: Stop it!!! Give me back that brush!!! I am in charge. I am in charge here!!!!
LH: wow! so much fun :)
RH: Somebody do something. She ruined everything!!! We need to post today! This is so unprofessional!!! I cannot stand this!

Yes, something like that. At some point I noticed that my right hand was holding a brush, and believe me Fi, I didn’t know when it happen and how? So it was funny, because it really felt like a fight over the brush and coulours. My “playful side” wanted to have fun and enjoy the process while my “serious side” wanted to control and dictate every step because she was worried about the end effect. However, the longer I painted the easier it went. My right hand relaxed and she started to use her fingers instead of the brush. It really was a great process for me. I enjoyed it, the whole journey, and I finished my project with a smile.

At one point my mom came downstairs and said: “O! You are painting with your hands? I could do this too”. So I said, “I will buy more boards and the next time we will paint together”. Then my husband came home from work and when I showed him the painting he started to laugh and said: “What is this? I can paint like this too”. I don’t think he realized that it was a compliment for me. I wanted this painting to be playful and bright. I knew I’m not a child anymore, and that it is very hard for adults to paint a child-like art. What comes so natural to children takes a lot of effort for adults unless... they can tap into their playful source, their inner child - an expert of all playfulness, fun, and creativity.

You can say Dear Fi, that it is not a child’s painting but I hope you can also see that I had fun while “working” on today’s project.



After the disaster last week I promised myself to start doing my projects on Monday, to be sure that I can finish on time. It is not less crazy on Monday than it was on Tuesday though. However, the point for posting here every week was to keep going even if disasters happen, even if it’s crazy and busy and whatever. So, I expected that the time will come when I will ask myself “Why do you must post every Tuesday???” or “Do you really think it matters?” or “Is this really THAT important for you?”. Honestly, I thought I would ask these questions earlier but somehow I didn’t for the first eleven weeks ha, ha.

So, last week I had an idea but I couldn’t make it. Instead I posted a bunch of photos which were supposed to be postcards but I wasn’t able to finish what I had started. So I decided to post what I had instead of posting nothing. I though that you would forgive me, and nobody comes here anyway to judge so it wasn’t that bad after all ha, ha ;) I already read your post so I see that you are going through similar stuff, but at least you wrote your post!!! Mine was supposed to be incorporated to those postcards, and I really couldn’t do more than I did last Tuesday. However, I still think about finishing what I had started, so I decided that after I finish this semester (one more paper, and one more presentation) I will come back to these photos and I will show you what I meant by “postcards from nowhere”. I think I will just update my twelfth step under what is already posted, so it won’t be cheating, and at the same time I won’t make another post with the same pictures. I’m not sure if this is clear and when it will happen, but I promise you - it will. So, when you finally finish with your shelf you can update your post too with a picture of your accomplishment - I would love to see it :)

Step Thirteen - Unlucky for some! ;-)

Hi my darling Sylwi,

It's probably best if you don't read my post for this week! It's a complete disaster area! Ha! :-) I have nothing! 

I've spent the whole day being sorta creative, so I don't feel toooooo bad, but I do feel bad that it's not 'creative' in the way we envisioned! Sorry, honey! I know you understand, because I know you're in a similar spot right now. I also know that I've got less excuses than you do! ha ha! :-) I'm not going to list all of the reasons and excuses, time just ran out this week! Hopefully you'll forgive me?! 

So, here's my Step Thirteen! :-) I spent the day (amongst a pile of other stuff) framing artwork that's been sitting around unframed for yonks... and making a shelf out of an old coat rack! Exciting stuff, heh?! ;-)

Here is the magical (kidding!) coat rack to shelf transformation. Ha! :-) I just can't bear to throw stuff out that can be reused!

Coat rack...

Removing the hooks, filling with wood filler and sanding.

Painting with primer, then top coat. Ta dahh! ha ha ha ha! 

I can't stop laughing. I wanted to do a final shot of the shelf fixed on the wall with my newly framed pics sitting on it, but the shelf's still not dry and I think I have more paint on me, than on the shelf! ha ha! :-)

...{squeak} I can't stop laughing! 

... the later it gets, the funnier this all seems. :-)

So! There you have it! This is what I'm passing off as my creative challenge for the day! :-))) A wet shelf and a bunch of other artists' artwork framed in other peoples' frames! 

I seriously can't stop laughing and can't believe that I'm actually posting this as my Step Thirteen! Ahhh! 

Next week, I'll try to do better (although, things are going to be hectic here for another week). But the week after that... OH, the week after that, just you wait! My Step Fifteen is going to be stupendous! ha ha! Ahem! Oh dear. I promise I'll at least try to up my standards! 

Love you lots, sweetpea. Hope all's well there. Speak soon!

Lots of love