Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Step Thirty Two: Tiny Cabinet

Dear Fi,

I took a lot of pictures for today’s project, so now I will try to limit my words ha, ha.

Yesterday I started to panic because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to choose to do for my step. I realised that there are only! twenty more steps left and that I have much more ideas on my list. I did some sketches for my weekly and daily calendar, but the problem was that I didn’t feel like this is exactly what I want, so I decided to spend more time on clarifying my intentions and conceptualizing my project before starting it.

In the evening I started to felt anxious (over the unchosen choice he, he). So I decided it’s time to be quick and firm and I put on my table these few tiny cabinets. Then I called my children and said, “We will start to paint them today and finish tomorrow”. So, this is how I knew that now I cannot change my mind ;)

I bought these cute cabinets at Michaels more than two years ago. My plan was to collect about 30 of them and paint or decorate them in other way (e.g., decoupage), and then ask my husband to build a special shelf for displaying my collection. I thought they will look cute and interesting when put together. However, two years passed by and I haven’t even started.

So as you see Dear Fi it was time ha, ha ;)

The torture started yesterday after each of us chose the cabinet to paint. I couldn’t decide on colour, or pattern, or design, or paper to glue on. It was getting late and I knew that if I don’t start to paint I won’t have enough time to finish the project today. I wanted to go to bed and know that my tiny cabinet is covered in one colour. My children already painted half of their cabinets when I took a brush and frantically started to cover my cabinet in my favourite cobalt teal. I still didn’t know what I will do next, but I decided to not worry about it until morning.

But in the morning it all started again. Should I make a pattern? or maybe design a flower motif? or paint some abstract? or glue some pieces of exotic papers? I had so many different ideas that it was almost impossible to choose.

At last I decided to use an idea I had stored in my head for another project. About a year ago I bought a few things at a garage sale - the small drawers from Ikea - ($1 each - yay! garage sale!) among them. I wanted to paint them white and add the design I used today (only instead of white use cobalt teal). Who knows maybe I will be able to fit this project into one of my steps along the way.

The good thing is that once I figured out what I want to do I started to have fun. I really enjoyed my crafty-project today, and to be honest, I love the end effect. This tiny cabinet is too cute to stop staring at it ;)

Love :*


Step Thirty Four: Little Book of Lists

Dearest Sylwi,

Hello! I'm here. A little late, but I made it, finally! :-) I wasn't totally sure I would today! It's been a long day... but, I finished my post and I have created something that will definitely help me with future "long days" :-)

I've recently started writing 'to do' lists. I used to do this a few years ago, but in the last few months, rather than write them out, I've been carrying the lists around in my head.

Before, I often found important things carrying over to the next day. Now, I not only write them out, but also highlight the three most important things on the list. Remarkably, I find, they always get done. I think it's because three is a really achievable number and rather than becoming overwhelmed with a list of 15 things, I focus on what's important.

I also want to begin writing lists of other things... like, 'things I have changed recently', 'things I want to do', 'places I want to visit', 'new things I want to try', etc...

I find it's a real relief to get the lists out of my head and onto paper. It clears my mind and makes more space for creative thinking - everything seems much less stressful!

Till today, I've been jotting my lists down on scraps of paper in amongst random doodles and ideas, so I figured it was time they had their own dedicated book.

I 'carved' the "Little Book of Lists" title out of the cover of a moleskine journal. If you press the knife gently into the oilcloth cover, it only cuts the top layer, which you can then peel off, to reveal the cardboard underneath.

The decorative border, I found in a great little book on letterpress printing, called The Handy Book of Artistic Printing by Doug Clouse and Angela Voulangas.

I had meant to cut the border too, but it was so fiddly and I'd sort of run out of patience whilst cutting the font, so I decided to draw it on instead. ha! :-) I only had a white watercolour pencil, so no doubt it will rub off! I wish I had some kind of thin, white, paint pen... I don't even know if they exist, but it would have been the perfect tool for the job!

Being a complete and utter geek, I now can't wait for tomorrow to use it! What will number one on my first list in my new book be? ...

1. Make a list! ;-)
2. ...
3. ...


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Step Thirty One: Finally, I'm back...

My Dear Fi,

First of all thank you for your patience with me!!! As you know my computer died on me and I was caught up in my school work for the last few weeks. I’m glad that you carried on and that you survived all the e-mails with my whining. We should both get a medal ;) Actually, I seriously considered making a medal for myself for today’s project.

Instead I’m coming back after two weeks of disappearance with a ten minute painting!!! This isn’t what I had planned for my “great come back”, but this is all that I was able to do. Surprisingly, I don’t feel guilty. Maybe because it was really fun to finally paint something without any special expectations.

I had other plans for today. The mentioned medal was one, I also thought about choosing one of my old projects which I promised myself to complete before the year ends, the other idea was to try something new. However, I noticed that all those ideas made me nervous and believe me Dear Fi being stressed is not what I wanted to do today.

Today was actually the first "lazy" day since I finished my course. After submitting my final assignment on Friday I couldn’t find a place for myself. On Saturday I scheduled my nose to be pierced, so I was nervous about how it will go (ha, ha). On Sunday I attended a great half-day workshop with Stuart and Carol Heller "The 90% Non-Verbal Factor". On Monday once again I tried to figure out “who am I?” and “what I really want to do with the time I have before starting my practicum and the next class?” However, I was so tired that I couldn’t answer these questions...

I have no idea how to interpret today’s piece... However, I feel some air and messy freedom caught up in there and this is what makes me smile. I don’t know why I am always surprised by the ability of this short process of creative expression to uplift my spirit. Haven’t I learn yet? So now, Dear Fi, I am seriously contemplating to use it daily and see what happens.

Love :*


I feel like this post is one of my super ramblings. Please, forgive me! I couldn’t concentrate while writing this post... I think I need a really long break from writing ;)

Step Thirty Three: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail! :-)

Dearest Sylwi

Eep! Can it really be a week, already? It feels like I was here posting just a couple of days ago. Time is flying past so quickly at the moment. I'm actually so glad I have 52 Steps. It's really forcing me (in a good way) to sit down and create something every week - even if it's only small, or I don't think it's very good, at least I have evidence here that I am making progress on all of these things that I've been carrying around in my head for so long! :-)

I can't wait for tomorrow to see if you make it back safely to 52 Steps land! :-) I've missed you these past two weeks, but I totally understand. I like your idea of me taking my 2 week holiday in September and not posting... so that, come October, we're back on the same step together again. Then we can change the blog name to 50 steps, a hop and a skip. ;-)

This week I took on a project that I have desperately needed to do for over a year now, but never seem to have the enthusiasm, or find the time for it. I really need a training log for my running. Up until now, I've been using a blank book to journal every run and workout that I do. It's a cute little book that goes back all of the way to 2003! Each page documents the highs and lows of all of my runs since then and I love to flick back through them when I'm low on motivation.

I'm coming to the end of the book now and my runs are starting to spill out onto scraps of paper... it's all starting to get a little disorganised!

The only problem I've had with it is that it's blank, so I find myself repeatedly writing out the same things. What I need is a log with headings, where I just fill in the details.

I've had a look online for training logs to buy, but all of the running ones aren't what I'm looking for at all ... and some of them are downright, shockingly useless! ;-)

I want something to store my training schedule, document my runs (distance, time, pace, route, etc), my injuries and my nutrition and provide weekly overviews which will be valuable for motivation. There are a few online logs which look worth a try, but I'm trying to reduce the amount of time I spend online, not increase it! If I used online software, I'd spend day and night on the computer. So, I decided to make my own log by hand drawing it! :-) I'll then print copies of the templates and make them into a book.

I completely misjudged how long it would take me. First, I had to work out what I wanted to record. Then, decide on page layout and order. It took me ages. Basically, I ran out of time today, which makes my post title today even more apt! ;-)

I had intended to create the full log up until the end of December this year. Instead, I've created one for the next twelve weeks. I want to try it out and see if the layout suits me. The aim is to have a tailor-made, fully functional log book layout, for the beginning of next year.

I didn't have time to bind it today either, as the paper I was using was too thin. When I printed out a week's worth of daily logs, the print came through the back of the paper, meaning I couldn't use both sides! Fail! I will have to buy some thicker paper this week and then print out the rest.

So, I'm leaving the printing, binding and cover till next week... or maybe later this week, if I have time! I can't wait to put it all together and actually start using it!

Can't wait to *see* you tomorrow and hear what you've been up to. Speak soon.

Lots of love

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Step Thirty Two: Silver art clay alchemy

Dearest Sylwi

Sorry to hear you have so much on your plate at the moment! :-( Hope to see you back here next week... don't worry about the missed posts. Make them up another time, or skip them completely... in fact, maybe we could rename this blog, 'A few steps and a few skips' ;-)))

Don't worry, I'll be skipping a couple of posts too, later in September. I don't know if I'll skip them completely, or if I'll make them up later, but it's not something we should worry about! Life gets in the way of the internet sometimes... that's all there is to it! ;-)

This week, I decided to try out yet another project that has been sitting on my 'to do' list for ... well, about a year. :-)

In fact, it was just shortly after I first *met* you :-) that I ordered myself a book called Magical Metal Clay Jewellery, by Sue Heaser and some silver art clay from the Polymer and Silver Clay Pit.

Silver art clay is a clay made from finely ground pure silver mixed with non-toxic binders and water. You can mould and sculpt it, just like a clay and then fire it at home. The heat of firing burns away the binders and fuses the silver, to leave a solid piece of silver.

I bought a tiny piece of the clay to try it out and well, then life took over and it got put in a drawer... till today, when the courage I've gained from 52 steps made me take it out and finally open it!

Being a complete novice, I bought the slow dry clay, thinking it would give me extra time to create my pieces. I'm not sure if the clay goes off after a certain date, but I certainly don't think sitting in my drawer (although sealed) for a year did it any favours! :-) The clay began to dry within seconds of me opening the packet, so I had to work fast! You can moisten it with water to make it soft again, but I found that water really started to complicate matters and get messy, so I just moulded the clay as fast as I could into some basic shapes.

My plan for today was to create a little pendant to go on a bracelet with the Japanese kanji symbol "Isshin" engraved on it. Isshin generally translates to "one heart, one mind". I first learned about it when reading a French book about the history of tai chi and another on karate... about 15 years ago. I've since lost the books I had, which were the best references on the ideology behind it... and haven't been able to find any more information since. 

There appears to be a form of karate, called Isshinryu, based on the concept, so there are a lot of websites with basic explanations, but I still can't find a description of 'the one heart, one mind' idea that is whole... or at least, not one as thorough as in the books I had. It's kind of frustrating, because I remember reading about it and being really moved. I'd love to find out more about it! :-)

It wasn't long before I was getting very annoyed with the clay and my lack of skill! :-) It's my first time, so I'm not going to be too hard on myself, but I was really struggling! I created 3 different pendants to try different styles and techniques. Once I'd sanded down the clay to a sort of smooth surface, I began engraving the kanji symbol into the pieces. Things began to go from bad to worse! ;-) 

My favourite square piece developed a crack right through it... but I carried on anyway, curious to see what would happen when I fired it.

That was when the real fun began! Firing can be done in various ways at home. The easiest for me was on wire mesh, sat on top of a gas hob. 

It was a real adventure and my frustration at how rubbish the pendants were, was replaced by pure wonder at the process! :-) True alchemy!

A few minutes of firing and the silver is created. I quenched it in a cup of water and was then ready to start smoothing and polishing...

Using a wire brush and then some very fine grade sandpaper - starting with the roughest sandpaper first and then working down to the finest (superfine, ultrafine and then microfine) - I began to polish them up. 

Okay, so they're pretty horrendous, but I quite liked the one in the middle... apart from the fact, it has a huge crack running right through it! :-)

Next time, I would create a stamp of the kanji symbol first and use that to stamp onto the clay, rather than try to engrave it. I would also roll the clay slightly thicker to avoid breakage. :-)

I went on to try out some Liver of Sulphur gel on the engraved parts to make them darker. I made such a mess that I'm not even going to show you the results! ha ha ha! It did come up some lovely colours though. It was just rather messy. Luckily, I didn't touch my favourite square pendant, so that lives to fight another day... or at least until the crack down the middle gets worse and it breaks into two! ha! ;-)

Lots of love

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Step Thirty One: {K}not so plain sailing...

Dearest Sylwi

This week I decided to tackle another project that I've had in my head for years, but have never got around to doing! :-)

A few years ago, I became interested in knot craft as used by sailors for both functional and aesthetic purposes. Considerable skills and creativity with rope have been passed down through the centuries and I find all of the different techniques fascinating.

I began this week by making some idiot cord from household string, using this fantastic tutorial from The Purl Bee. (So much eye candy on that site, all so beautifully photographed, I could get lost for hours!)

I really like how the string worked in this cord. It became very supple and soft, not like string at all. So, I began experimenting with knots...

Then I remembered that earlier this week I had been very inspired by Etsy's "How Tuesday" post on Sailor's Knot Bracelets and thought maybe I could use the cord for a bracelet. The technique is genius, using an old can to weave the rope around into a bracelet.

When I tried with my length of i-cord though, it didn't look nearly as good as the ones in their photos! :-( ha ha! So, I tried with some rope that I have.

The rope I have is a very soft, white, large rope... I thought it might make quite a cute, large bangle!

But, no! Admittedly, I did feel a bit like a fender on a boat when I put it on! heee! Maybe it's a bit too large! ha ha! ;-)

So, I played around using other materials. Here I used an old scarf that I ripped up and plaited...

... but I didn't really like that either! :-)

Determined to finish today having created something I liked, I tried making a keyring out of the i-cord. The instructions for this came from a book called "Knot Craft" by Des Pawson. The basic knot used here is a boatswain's whistle lanyard knot...

It turned out almost like the picture in the book (my cord wasn't quite long enough to finish it properly), so I was still feeling dissatisfied. ha! These knots aren't as easy as they look! There's a fair amount of skill involved in getting the tension right and it took me quite a bit of time. I'm not entirely sure the result warranted the effort! ha ha! :-)

Whilst, flicking through that book, I came across a project that I've been wanting to try for ages and is the reason I have so much rope in my cupboard! A few years ago, I noticed that it became a bit of an interiors trend to use rope "monkey's fist" doorstops. They were so darn expensive in the shops though, I knew I could make one cheaper. (Uh-oh!)  :-) I bought the rope at a local marine store, but then never got around to the project! ... ahem! So, today 52 Steps came to the rescue again! ;-)

Unfortunately, I didn't have enough of the large, soft, white rope for the knot, so had to use a coarser type of rope (I'm not sure what it is made from - hemp, or hessian maybe)... it goes quite well with some old floats that I found in a junk yard last year!

I'm exhausted now. I feel like I've knotted everything I own in the house! ;-) At least I finally got around to all of these projects that I've had stacked up in my head!

Promise I'll write soon, I've been so busy last week and this week. Hopefully, next week will be easier again. Speak soon. Can't wait to see your step 31! Can you believe it? Only 21 left to go! Eep! :-)

Lots of love

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Step Thirty: Five hats and other news...

Dear Fi,

First of all I will start by saying that I’ve made an update to my last post and added the finished piece of poppies for my mom at the end of that post. This was the longest it has taken me to complete a piece, of course lack of time was the biggest issue. The good news is that I finished it on Saturday and was able to give it to my family early morning on Sunday before they left, so hopefully my mom will receive her present soon!

Second, I was very mad at myself today because I decided to use and expand on something I accidentally made earlier. The only problem was that it got lost! It took me a lot of time before I gave up searching and decided to recreate the piece from my memory. The funniest part is that it wasn’t something amazing, or even beautiful, but it was something that inspired me to create today’s post, so naturally I wanted to have it ;)

It was a hat, created accidentally while working on the cloud for my grandmother altered photo. I made a shape, which reminded me of a hat. I even tried to attach it to my grandma’s head, but I wasn’t convinced, so I decided against it. However, this is how I got the idea of creating a series of different hats arranged together.

So this is what I’ve tried to do today. The possibilities are endless, but I didn’t want to spend much time on this project. The last week was kind of crazy even though it was really lovely to have my family over. So, right now I’m trying to catch up with my studies and everything else (however, it didn’t stop me from thinking about doing a 52 Hats Project ha, ha).

As I was looking at these cute hats I realised that they remind me of Andy Warhol’s work. Don’t laugh at me Dear Fi - I’m not comparing myself to his genius!!! I just connected the dots in my head. Many years ago, in Poland I was lucky to see Warhol’s retrospective exhibition. I remember exactly the moment I encountered his watercolours and drawings of shoes because I immediately fell in love with them. Of course he is most known for his pop art paintings of Marilyn Monroe and the ideology of consumerism behind his famous Campbell’s Soup Cans but for me the shoes (and the cats!) were the most sincere part of his work and the highlight of the entire exhibition. So, as I’ve said earlier I’m not comparing my hats to his shoes, I just thought that the idea of creating many one-of-a-kind of “something” is similar ;) 

I’ve decided to start a blog.
No, I’m not crazy! Starting a blog was on my 2010 list ;)
I’m not happy with the design especially because I had something completely different in my mind. However, since I decided to join Susannah for her August Break, there was no time to design my banner from scratch, so I used what I already had. For now ;)

+ I hope to return to yoga pretty soon!

The illustration I made for Patti got into her book again and it will be published in November 2010 :) Yay!!!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Step Thirty: Freshly laundered {origami} money!

Dearest Sylwi,

Only a quick post today, as I've just got back from a few days away in London and have a pile of things to do.

It was my husband's birthday this weekend, so I took him to London clothes shopping. I was fairly reluctant to come back, I could have stayed in the City for much longer! I found so many cool new places to shop, eat and drink... yet, I still had a list of about 2 pages long that I didn't get around to visiting. I can't wait to go back again!

I squeezed in many old favourites, like Liberty's (where I could quite happily buy one of everything!) and found new favourites, like the exquisite oasis that is Postcard Teas and the fabulous Saf.

After two solid days of walking the streets and shopping (my husband struggled to find clothes that he liked), I have menswear indelibly stamped on my brain. :-) I think next time, I'll just give him the money for the clothes in a birthday card and tell him to go on his own! hee hee! (not really, but it is tempting!) ;-)

It set me to thinking how I could add money to a card creatively (if it was a present for a nephew or niece, for example), rather than just slipping the money inside... and this is what I came up with.

The shirt is folded using this shirt origami technique using a one dollar bill. If I was giving this as a birthday present, I'd obviously fold something a little larger than a dollar! heh heh! I'm not that miserly! ;-)

I added the coat hanger (twisted from bead wire) and stuck the washing line (made from fishing line) onto the inside of the card. The card is one of those 3 panel ones, with an oval shape cut out of the centre panel. 

I guess, you could alternatively make a cute, little origami dress, if it was for a girl. :-)

Hope you had a fantastic weekend. Looking forward to catching up soon.

Lots of love